It won’t always be perfect….



Its hard to stay ahead in life. The last two weeks have been a crazy, financial fiasco for my family.  I thought this blog post would be appreciated here on Southern Cali Saver because it isn’t just about coupons and deals. Its about stretching your budget and being smart about your hard-earned money.


Home buying journey — why do they make it look so great on HGTV?

We have dove head first into the housing market recently.. I swear, HGTV is hazardous to your health– because it isn’t as great as they make it seem on TV.  ๐Ÿ˜‰ house hunting has proven to make me a  crazy, almost psycho wife and mother– and is probably not good for my sanity either. Any tips?? I’d love to hear yours. ๐Ÿ™‚ 

Over the last couple of years we have been saving every penny that we could for a down payment. We’ve successfully paid down our student loan debt to less than $25,000 (see just how broke we were ) and I can thank it all to coupons and just being smarter about our money.

Great story, right? Just when you are at the point where life is good and you think you’ve caught up… life takes you in another direction. 

Our Volkswagon. Apparently, Volkswagons’ are very expensive to fix. (how come no one told my 22 year-old self that this car was expensive to fix?!) Our Jetta– 2006 with only 90,000 miles took a turn for the worse. I couldn’t tell you exactly what happen with it but it needed to be fixed ASAP.


Took it to the dealership… and BAM. 6 days later there goes part of our emergency fund.

All this time, I was feeling like I had achieved a “calm” period in our finances. We got to “that” point where everything seems to feel like its going your way……

To top it off.. we find out the same day that our taxes can not be filed electronically because someone filed taxes under my husbands social security number. um……… shoot me now.  Fraud? an error? No clue. another set back that we need to watch closely.. especially since we are trying to purchase a home.

Besides all the financial drama… I’m thinking to myself: We are healthy. We are happy. While its frustrating to get over the financial issues– you have to realize that it won’t always be perfect.  You won’t always be in that “comfortable” situation. I also realize how lucky I am to have discovered the power behind couponing and saving money in general. I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today in life if it weren’t for me willingness to grasp the whole couponing concept.

Why am I sharing all of this information about myself? Maybe because I felt the stress and realized that someone else may be going through the same situation as me.. or someone may have reached that point where they just don’t feel like they will ever get ahead… or maybe I just needed to vent?! ๐Ÿ™‚

Whatever it is.. keep your head high.. it will pass. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Julie says:

    Awe. I feel like crying for you.
    A good house hunting tip is to pack snacks or a lunch. Try not to take the boys. And be very honest with you real estate person. There where a few times when we pulled up to a house and I told him to get back in the car because I was not going to live in that neighborhood.
    You and your family will be in my prayers.
    You are awesome and will get through this.

  • Vicky says:

    I hear ya Josie! Yesterday I found out we over $3200 in taxes. Today I tried to complete my application for Covered California, and long story short, I cannot get a subsidy for my insurance, got locked into the Silver Plan, and will have to shell out $475/mo for a plan that only covers 70%. I just had to cry a little while. Then be grateful we had the money to pay the taxes. And we’ll manage the insurance cost. It’ll just take longer to buy a house again….

  • Janei says:

    Josie…i totally know you’re frustration in the home buying process. We just went into escrow today after a very long, stressful search for that perfect first home. It’s a very cut throat market right now because prices are slowly climbing back up again and everyone is trying to find “the one” before they end up paying more than they originally wanted. The process will test your patience. With everything else going on in life as well, it’s all part of the rat race we all seem to be in. We save and do all we can to pinch those pennies, and then BAM some snafu cones along at the worst possible moment. Hang in there, Josie. There will be sun after the rain!

    • Josie says:

      Janei, we are slowly realizing that we are pretty much a year too late! We are still hoping to find the “almost perfect” house– and maybe in the coming years can make it our perfect house. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nichole says:

    The best advice I can give you is to be patient. I went through the same thing two years ago while we were house hunting. I got to the point where I didnt even want to try anymore I was crying over offers not getting accepted, convinced that was “our” home. Then one day we were driving around and saw a beautiful house that was foreclosed but did not have a for sale sign yet. We called out agent gave him the address and put in an offer that day. The bank countered with $3000 more than we offered and we decided to take it and make the bank happy. 30 days later we were moving into our first home. It will happen, your home you are waiting for will find you when its right. And as far as the money goes we are all there with you, we couldn’t survive if I didn’t coupon. Just be thankful you have that emergency fund, thats why its there ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mo says:

    Hang in there Josie. Things will fall into place when the time is right… you never know why things happen when they do, so might as well assume it’s for the best. In the meantime, enjoy the many blessings you already have in your life as they’re more precious than anything you could possibly buy.

    • Josie says:

      Thanks Mo! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Mary D. says:

      If you are currently a homeowner look into Keep Your Home California. They will pay your home mortgage for a whole year, if need be, if you lose your job. Catch is it takes about 2 months to qualify. You do not need to repay the $ as long as you don’t refinance or sell your home for 3 (I think) years. Good luck to you. We just are coming out of a laid off situation. God is good. He took care of us.

  • A says:

    Aww, Josie, tell me about it. Both my hubby and I lost our job the same day. One month after buying a new car. Things have been ok financially with unemployment but it’s scary to wonder if we will be able to find employment to fully cover all of our bills. We feel you. But we work hard and are hopeful things will get better. Though we are not religious, our family always reminds us that God will provide and never lets us go. Plus, we are all fortunate to live in the US, where there are safety nets to help us back on our feet. Good luck to you and yours, and hopefully you have no identity fraud issues.

    • Josie says:

      A, I’m scared about that.. I pray that we don’t have to worry about his credit. We’ve taken extra steps to protect out credit but boy, it sure is scary!

  • missy says:

    Thank you for sharing Josie, I needed this today. We owed $3,000 in state taxes and I’ve been down in the dumps all day about it. Taking a trip to Texas this weekend for my stepsons wedding and we don’t have a dime of money. Feeling sorry for myself and it’s just comforting to know we’re all struggling to get along sometimes. We’ll all be ok, it just hurts bad today!

  • Crystal says:

    Josie I also understand how u feel I am a mother and wife with single income I work full time and struggle every day and my adult life has been 1 step forward 2 steps back with your help I can breathe again even if its just till the next step comes along. You are an inspiration and a blessing for my family thank you for everything you do!

  • soneath says:

    Hope everything will get better for you soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jane says:

    When we were buying we went thru a real estate agent. They kept approving us for more but we knew what we could afford. They pushed for interest only loans/80/20, etc. we knew we didn’t want any surprises or fluctuations with our mortgage and thats why we wanted a 30 year fixed. We started looking on our own. Left the agent. Did online tours before we called the selling agent. We used google maps/satellite etc to see the area. If it was to be put on our list we visited the house at night to see if it was a safe neighborhood for the kids. Because we all know the gresks come out at night as well as the hood rats. checked out the shopping centers as well then we would call the selling agent for a tour. 9 yrs later after the housing bubble bursted we are still good, fixed rate and all.

  • Laura says:

    Just remember when it rains it pours, but… There are always beautiful flowers that grow from it!

  • candace says:

    Keep up head up!!! Tomorrow is a new day!!!

  • Candice says:

    I feel you on the home buying. We looked for well over a year and were outbid 9 times! I was pregnant while we were searching and I’m surprised my husband still wanted me around lol. We did finally get our home last month:-) Make sure your realtor is on top of everything and remember to be patient (easier said than done). I’m happy we didn’t just settle and kept focused on our goal. And stay away from hgtv! My husband banned it from our house while we were searching. Southern California is a way tougher market than any of those on House Hunters! Best of luck to you. Wishing you a brighter day tomorrow:-)

  • Anna says:

    Look up Dave Ramsey, the Total Money Makeover. Couponing was just the beginning for us and I hope this helps you in the future like . It has helped us. I hope things turn around super fast and I love your site! ๐Ÿ™‚ just keep swimming….

  • Chelsee says:

    Keep your head up home buying is difficult but you’ll find the one. My husband and I are starting all over again because of job relocation… We are putting our home in SoCal on the market in a few weeks ;).

  • dawn says:

    I am a single mom & I never had ANY savings until I was a single mom. Unfortunately I’ve depleted my savings twice (in the last 4 years) because of emergencies (necessities like cars & housing) BUT I always start saving again & Thank God those emergencies never sent me into to debt. DON’T be discouraged. If you have developed the habit of saving $, you will soon replenish your nest egg.

  • Ro in San Diego says:

    Thanks for sharing, Josie. We all have our setbacks. Try to remember that all of your cautious spending has you and your family in the position that you can afford to manage these bumps in the road. Give yourself some credit. You’ve not only been able to manage your family’s money superbly; you’ve been able to help THOUSANDS of people in So Cal manage to save THEIR money to buy the things they need and survive in a very expensive part of the country! This is a HUGE deal and this makes you a miracle worker of sorts.

    • Tiffany says:

      I share Ro’s sentiments! Your blog is one of the best out there and through your effort, you’ve saved me personally so much time and money. For that, I am extremely grateful. Please take pride in all that you’ve done.

  • Amani says:

    Thanks for sharing Josie. I sometimes look at coupon bloggers and think (you) have it all figured out. I feel blessed to have the help of bloggers like you being honest with us. I’m sure everything will work out for you. God Bless.

  • Jackie says:

    I went through a similar situation with the whole tax issue/identity theft. A few years back I filled my taxes and checked on my refund status on the date i was scheduled to recieve my refund. Every time I called to see why it wasn’t deposited in my bank they told me it had already been deposit. I went back and forward for days with the irs until one irs agent asked my occupation and employer. It was totally diffrent then what had been filled user my social and name. Someone had used my social to file taxes. It took over a year to clear things up. It is very stressful situation. Just be sure you place an alert on all 3 credit bureaus and and keep track of every call and letter you mail to the it’s.

  • Emily says:

    Agree with everyone else’s inspiring and sweet comments. I’ll keep you in my prayers. And thanks for all you do.

  • Sherill says:

    I just entered into escrow on our perfect home. I read your post and at first felt guilty and told hubby about it and how lucky we are that things seem to be going so smoothly for us. He reminded me that we are three years behind our goal date and how one year ago I was feeling just as you are today. Two years ago I thought it was impossible and would never happen. In other words, don’t lose hope despite the set backs. Keep at it and it will happen. Two years ago, one year ago, this perfect home wasn’t for sale. It all comes together exactly when it should. Keep calm and coupon on!

  • julie says:

    Hang in there, Josie and family. In the future, try not to go to the dealer to get your car fixed or serviced. Ask around to see if you can find an honest and reputable car mechanic in your area (a bit harder to find these days), and the next time your car breaks down, use them. The dealer is usually about 30%-50% more expensive. Also, don’t rush on the house hunting. Being a home owner is not necessary that great. There are hidden expenses sometimes. For example, as a renter you might not have to pay for plumbing issues. Not so much as a home owner. Also, as a homeowner you will have property taxes, home insurance, mortgage insurance (if you don’t have 20% down payment), HOA dues (depending on the area you live in). Make sure you know all your numbers on what it cost to own a house before you buy. It’s not just about what it cost for your monthly mortgage payments. Add up the cost of mortgage, property taxes, home insurance (everyone pays these), and other extras that you might have to pay (mortgage insurance, HOA dues, etc.) before you decide to buy. Also, being debt free might give you a better rate when you get your loan. The good thing about buying is that when you pay your mortgage, some of that goes to paying for your property and not somebody’s property. But buying is only good if you are not over stretched on your budget. Otherwise, it would be more stressful. Good luck.

  • Rosann says:

    Hey Josie, I am more concerned about your husbands SS# more than anything. That can be a nightmare for sure. Hopefully it is not fraud but maybe someone entered the wrong numbers when filing. You know human error can happen at any time to any one. Please stay on top of that! As for finding a house, just remember it doesn’t have to be the perfect house for your first time. You guys are young and have lots of time for the perfect house. Get what you can afford, don’t live above your means and grow when the time is right. I am blessed to have found your site to help in the coupon wars and you have helped many times. I have turned my friends on to Southern Cali Saver and we all follow you on FB. You are a blessing to others and know you will come through this with flying colors. LIFE IS GOOD! May all your dreams come true and continue to Bless you and yours.

  • marky says:

    Josie, i sure do appreciate you and it seems like lots of other folks on here do too. I will say a prayer for you and your family. We all go through the dumps some worse than others, thats why alot of us are couponing today. My family bought our home when the market was at its highest then all went down now we owe about $80,000 more than what the house is worth market value. Just my luck. Just pray girl, something out there trying to stop you from doing good.

  • Shannon says:

    The best thing I ever did for my budget was downgrading my car. After I graduated and the student loan payments hit (~700 a month!) I realized something had to give. The easiest thing to give up was the car payment. I was driving a new car and it just no longer became practical with the car payment and steep insurance. I was able to sell it back to the dealer for what was left on the loan. Then I went out and bought a 1993 Chevy Cavalier for $1,000 from an estate sale. The car had 30,000 miles on it despite being over 15 years old at the time (Yay old lady drivers!). I no longer had a car payment and my insurance cost went down nearly to nearly a third of the previous cost. Not to mention I can do most of the work on it myself and I am by no means an auto mechanic. I bought the repair manual from O’Reily and over the past few years have switched out the alternator and ignition switch as well as other minor repairs. Where there is a will there is a way!

    • julie says:

      I totally agree on the downgrading of the car if you have a car payment. There are lots of very reliable cars out there. My car is currently 22 years old and I don’t recall really having to fix it. I remember doing a tune-up ($300-$400) on it over five years ago and I think one other thing I had to fix (approx. $350) two years prior to the tune-up. Other than that, it’s just been the smog check test only every other year for the car registration and regular oil changes for the maintenance of the car… Actually come to think of it, I haven’t even been doing my oil changes as regularly as I use to, because I’ve decided to finally purchase (without a loan) a new car this year. Regardless, my 22 year old car still runs very very well. It’s not pretty. The paint on the top of the car started chipping several years ago, but I’m proud to say I’m debt-free (except for the mortgage payments) since one and a half years after I’ve graduated college (over a decade ago). I’ve made lots of sacrifices early and my life now is better for it. So keep up what you’re doing for you and your family and hang in there. It’s not for nothing. You’ll get there. Once you become debt-free , keep on saving and you’ll have a good retirement. I’m debt-free and I’m proud to say I still coupon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Daisy says:

      Good for you, Shannon! Knowing how to do repairs on your paid for car is a great way to save money! We do the same and wouldn’t have it any other way. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • raquel says:

    My house hunting tip is to have a plan before you go. Know what u want in the house that aren’t budge items and know what are. Also have the number you just won’t go over for the price of the home. We were approved for a ton more then we wanted to spend but stuck to our guns on our max price. We didn’t want to struggle should anything happen. Thank god for that since I am now unemployed. My hubby makes enough to take care of everything. Had we listen to them on the amount we could afford we’d be screwed. I here on the just when you think you’re getting ahead wham something happens. Same here. One year we replaced the windows in our house, the next year the a/c unit broke and needed replacement. Paid that off and this year we find out we have a leak in our foundation so we had the whole house re piped. ouch! I do believe for some paying cash and no credit is the way to go however we are the people that pay everything we can on credit for money earned back at the end of the year and that’s how we shop for Christmas. No money out of pocket that time of year. Good luck!

  • jessica says:

    Josie, we’ve been there with the identity theft. Luckily as a preparer I knew different tricks to find info that I wouldn’t otherwise. One day we got a letter from irs saying my husband didn’t claim all his income and we owed over $2000. Come to find out someone was illegally using his social to work. Order w2 transcripts and return transcripts. Transcripts are the key word for free. The w2 transcripts will show you all the activity associated with the social (we were able to see where this guy worked and the address he used to file a police report). Put a fraud alert with irs on your account, this will have them send you a “pin” every year around December that you put on your return that will let the irs know it’s you that’s filing. It may be a long process to fix but it can get fixed, not all hope is lost. We had to fight it for a couple of years and when it seemed like irs wasn’t doing anything we had to call the irs taxpayer advocate. It’s there for you after you’ve tried to do everything yourself and they’ll help as well. Any help you need I am more than willing to help. Without you my family wouldn’t be in the better situation it is right now.

  • I don't shop @ Walmart says:

    Fixing car at dealership is not always a good idea. Just like we shop around for best deals, we can get estimates for repairs from independent car shops and decide from there. Also, having friends- mechanic helps too. My husband does all repairs himself, and internet is a great place to compare prices on car parts or services. Also, there is a lot of material on how to replace/ fix things yourself.

    Currently, we are debt free, just mortgage at great interest rate. I believe that having perfect credit score helps to lower unexpected expenses. I haven’t paid interest on my credit cards for past 3 or 4 years. My interest rates been 0%. After 1 year promotional rate expired, I would transfer balance to another 0%. If course, not having credit card is the best, but instead of getting student loans, I used my CC for tuition, and paid for it as I go. I graduated with BA in Accounting from WSU 5 years ago. I took me 2 years to find the job, and now I still work only part time. My husband was laid off for 9 month last year. He is a union sheet metal worker, so its a good pay when he works, but it’s a seasonal work. Still, 2 month ago we paid off everything, but mortgage.

    Paying bills ON TIME and more then minimum payment, keeping 2-3 credit cards but only one in use and paying all charges next month, paying off ASAP a car loan that was used to purchase a good car (not brand new!!, that is the biggest mistake people do) – are my recommendations as an Accountant.

    • CATHY says:

      It will get better we just bought our first home two months ago and trust me its so stressing, but it will get better and also never never never go to a dealer to get your car fix it’s a rip off trust me my husband sells the car parts to big dealer company and he tells me it’s the worst mistake people do.

  • I don't shop @ Walmart says:

    Thank you Josie for your blog. First one I check for couponing.

    Regarding the post, I see on Blue Book that your car (not knowing exact details) (http://www.kbb.com/volkswagen/jetta/2006-volkswagen-jetta/25-value-edition-sedan-4d/?mileage=90000&vehicleid=1693#survey) priced around $7K-8K. The repairs were over $3k (not sure what exactly was repaired) . Considering the age of the car, I would of thinking about if its worth of repairing at just about the half of cost.

    Home buying… If you are first time home buyer, look if you qualify for Down Payment Assistance Program. Nor sure if your state has it, in WA it is. Good luck!

  • Cecilia says:

    Have a little faith and keep on the positive notes as to not let it bring you down ๐Ÿ™‚ I am 25 and have seen much struggle in my short years as a “grown up”. After getting hurt at my job and losing same job, I have been going through alot to stay sane. If it weren’t for couponing and honestly just this site, I would be months behind on rent instead of half a month behind. All I can say to myself is that God will provide. Keep your heads up y’all!!

  • newbie says:

    It took my husband and I 5 years to buy a house. 5 years! It became overwhelming to bid and lose. Then once you do get your foot in the door, all the paperwork gets overwhelming. Just know the Lord works in mysterious ways. All the searching and lost bids, the feeling of desperation, and dealing with a growing family took its toll. I was 8 months preggers with our second child, not working because of the pregnancy, when a house we bid on accepted! I had no idea how we did it, but we scrambled the money together and made it. Moved in the house, cleaned and painted (with my huge belly), and a few days after we moved in had the baby. BAM! All at once! Youโ€™re not the only one to feel the madness of buying a house, but know because of what you have taught us and what you believe is a way of life. Couponing, maintaining a budget, is a way of life. And because of it, we have what we have. There are times Iโ€™m broke after paying bills and the mortgage. BUT, why fridge is ALWAYS stocked! And thatโ€™s a blessing!

  • BarstowMom says:

    House buying is a long stressful process but worth it. My advice is to pay extra principal every month on your mortgage and never pull out equity unless it’s an absolute emergency.

    It always seems to happen that when we’re ahead or doing good some unexpected expense comes up. We got our income tax and were planning on some things but instead our air conditioner went out and some truck issues came up that had to be fixed. We own only one credit card but never use it and have it for emergency uses only.

    Good luck, everything will work out.

  • SS says:

    Couldn’t agree more that HGTV warps our home-buying perception. I’m currently in escrow on my hope-to-be first home, and it’s daunting. Paperwork and after paperworkโ€ฆand then the loan approval process! It’s not easy being a single girl with a single-person income, so at least take comfort that you can lean on your husband that you’re not alone in the process! I had been looking for two years (at that time, for my budget, most were short sales or foreclosures) but decided it was now or never since rent skyrocketed and tried to time it with the end of my lease (it didn’t pan out, but that’s another story). Unfortunately, my timing couldn’t be worse. Investors flooded the market the same time as me. I had to compete with all-cash offers and short closes!

    My best advice if you are looking to buy an upswing market? Get aggressive. Sounds scary, which is why you need an experienced real estate agent, but any property I thought was interested in, I put an offer in. As first-time home buyers we drag our feet, but in this market, that might mean heartbreak. You have a couple of days between when/if they accept your offer and when you have to turn over the earnest money. Also, explore loan options. Yes, it’s typical for a 30-year fixed rate, but if you’re pretty sure you’ll grow out of it in a few years’ time, you might consider an adjustable rate, which means lower monthly payments. Either way, lots and lots of research! Hope it goes smoothly for you.

  • Teresa Martinez says:

    I am sorry to hear all this! You do so much to contribute to people ( like begining couponers like myself). Good things are sure to happen in your future! God bless and strong prayers -from long beach ca

  • Susan says:

    I’m with you on the house buying. We started looking a year ago but there was nothing on the market. Now it’s hard to pay so much for a fixer when we won’t have any money to fix it up! CA is so expensive. Our plan if it ever happens is to do a 15 year loan with Wells Fargo. They had the cheapest rate we could find and the 15 year makes our PMI much much less than a 30 year loan if you don’t have 20% down. The lower interest rate makes it worth it, maybe? I figure we’ll eat Mac and Cheese for the next few years but it will be paid off in time to help the kiddos pay for college and weddings. Well that is if we ever find something we can afford… Good luck to you. You both really deserve it. So helpful to all of us and such a beautiful family!

  • SoCal Couponer says:

    My husband and I started searching for our home when we were engaged. We were lucky enough to find the perfect home for us 2 months after our wedding. Every penny we had went into buying our home, but not one regret comes from that. We both work very hard and still to this day live paycheck to paycheck. Our savings is smaller than ants, but I’ll let you in on our little secret….. PRAYER! Good luck with everything & have faith =)

  • Jenny says:

    Hi Josie,

    It’s great to see that you have such an optimistic outlook. We all need to take a step back when things don’t go as planned and realize that money and stuff are not the most important things in our lives. As far as your car troubles go, I would suggest going to an independent volkswagon certified shop for repairs. Dealerships charge excessively more for parts and labor, at least 30% more! You can try looking on yelp.com for places nearby with good reviews and call for quotes. I have a Mercedes Benz C350 and trust me when I say maintenance is not cheap (oil changes for a few hundreds of dollars!!) but you can definitely save and get great quality for less at other shops.

  • >