What A Bargain
It’s January 2. My husband, Nick, is standing in our driveway, taking down the last string of lights woven through our bushes. He’s carefully wrapping them around a cardboard holder, one strand at a time. His goal is to prevent the lights from being tangled when he gets them out next winter. Fat chance.
Me, I’m inside the garage, packing up the last of the stockings, ornaments and candles and squeezing them into one of the eight boxes of Christmas decorations we’ve accumulated over the years. Nick’s secretly hoping that I haven’t added any boxes to the tally this year. Of course I have and I’m hoping he won’t notice. I’m also hoping that come December 2016, I will remember where I put the Christmas cards I just bought. My bargain cards, purchased at a 75 percent discount, will save me a ton — if only I remember that they’re in box six of eight. I make a mental note to write that down somewhere. I never do.
That’s part of my problem with saving money. I need to be more organized. I fare about as well as most in keeping track of things. I make lists, buy in bulk, read the sale ads. I come from a long line of super savers. I’m used to counting pennies. My mother, Florence, instilled her thrift gene in me, along with her favorite mantra: Save, save, save. So I recycle bubble wrap, wash out plastic zipper bags and I buy next year’s cards at Target’s after-of-the-holiday sale. It’s a good thing, as long as I remember where I put them when the next Christmas season rolls around.
Even though I no longer have to scrimp for extra dollars to add to three college funds (blessedly our sons Shawn, Jake and Seth are graduated), I still shop smart. Heck, a gallon of gas tops what I made per hour as a 17-year-old part-time shoe clerk, and recently I saw a grocery store sign offering easy financing for a dozen eggs.
That’s why I relish the start of a new year. January gives me a clean slate, a fresh beginning, a chance to improve on a few things like: spending more time with my family, losing weight, reading more, praying more and saving money.
Over the years, I’ve had mixed results with two of the five: losing weight and increasing quality family time. I’ve done better with deepening my faith and my reading output has increased. But it’s that being thrifty resolution that eludes my efforts every year, because it’s hard to tell whether I’m really saving or not.
For example, at a recent potluck brunch with four of my girlfriends, I bought a 12-pack of giant muffins at a warehouse store. At less than 50 cents each, I thought I’d found a deal. But did I? After the brunch, there were seven muffins left over. None of my friends (also struggling with weight-loss resolutions) wanted to take them home. My sons — more the donut-eating type – weren’t interested either, so my bargain muffins sat untouched in the refrigerator, until I finally tossed them out.
“I don’t think we can afford
for you to save that much.”
Shopping at the local 99-cent store is another great way to save a couple bucks. There are deals galore, but when I’ve spent $47 on 47 knick knacks, novelties and party supplies, I’m hard pressed to explain to Nick exactly what I’ve saved. “The price is great, but are you buying stuff we really need?” he says shaking his head, while flipping through the channels in search of a John Wayne movie. “I don’t think we can afford for you to save that much.”
Still I soldier on, proudly toting my coupon caddy along with my grocery list, seeking low prices, bargains and discounts. As the family budget-balancer, I can’t give up. Clipping coupons, mailing rebates and pursuing two-for-one sales are just part of my strategy to be frugal. That’s how I keep potato chips in the pantry, ice cream in the freezer and toothpaste in the medicine cabinet.
Saving money is more than just dollars and cents written in my checkbook. To me it’s a quest, a challenge, a mission to complete. Organized or not, I can’t concede defeat. Because I know that in just 11 months’ time, Nick and I will once again be preparing our home and hearth for the Christmas. He’ll be standing in the driveway, strings of red, green, blue and yellow lights forming a spaghetti-like pile at his feet. As he works to free the bulbs loose from each other, he’ll be muttering about the flaws in his new tangle-free storage method
Me, I’ll be back inside the garage surrounded by eight or ten brown cartons, having a conversation with myself. Now what box did I put those cards in? Did I even buy Christmas cards last year?
Maybe there should be an addition to my 2016 New Year’s resolutions – improve memory. Hope I remember to write that down somewhere.