When it makes sense to cheat on the envelope system

So I’m only a week into the family budget and I’ve already cheated on it. Look inside the envelope containing my lunch money, and you’ll find $8, a few loose coins, and an I.O.U. for $30.

I can explain. Really.For the last couple of years, lunch has usually been a Healthy Choice frozen meal. They’re easy to find on sale, they heat up quickly, they have a pretty wide selection, and there’s practically no work ahead of time involved with them. Unfortunately, I found a lot of them have hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup in them. The only thing healthy about those is the calorie count.

Not wanting to slowly poison myself, my wife went looking for an alternative. She found one: Kahiki, a line of Asian-inspired frozen meals. They’re made with natural ingredients and usually weigh in at a reasonable 300-400 calories. There’s just one problem: They’re a lot more expensive than Healthy Choice.

This weekend my wife and son were away, so I had to fend for myself. I wandered into the nearest grocery store Saturday night looking for something to eat when I spotted a display of Kahiki on sale at two for $6. I bought four.

Later that night I told my wife, and she reminded me that each of those packages has a 55-cent coupon in it. That drops the price to $2.45, a very appealing price point for a Scottish miser like me. So I cut out the coupons, went to the store, and bought four more. I then proceeded to walk out to the car, cut out those four coupons, walk back into the store, and use the fresh coupons to buy four more. Then I did it all again. Pretty soon I could cut the coupon out of the package without even opening it by following landmarks on the outside.

If anything, I felt guilty only buying $30 worth. At $2.45 a pop, I can come in $11 under budget for next month. And if Costco gets another shipment of the Thai noodles I like any time soon, I can eat those a couple of times a week at $1.09 a pop and save even more.

Maybe I’ll buy another four late in the week. I already have the coupons cut out.

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