Monday, March 2, 2009
When I was raising my children I had to be frugal, and when Becca was born and our fall into nothingness, I had no choice but become a veteran on recycling, couponing, and even resorted to episodes of curb checking despite my children's pleadings of embarrassment. I used to play the game of turning our poverty into a challenge of trying to stretch my few dollars we had into groceries and used my creativity into turning rags and others castoffs into clothing and toys for my six children instead of feeling sorry for ourselves. When my husband lost his job due to our baby's catastrophic medical bills we took on paper routes. The routes were not only our income source but provided me a way to provide for our family. The coupons became the money we did not have. I had to coupon out of necessity. Amazingly, our family of 8 made it through two years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school on delivering newspapers and using coupons, planning the menu off the sale ads. We survived our Depression by doing without many conveniences, we bought only what we needed. Our prayers were answered when I scored a deal for toilet paper or shampoo just as the bottle was empty.
As we were moving towards residency, we were called to adopt. We hadn't planned on adopting until after residency, but God had other ideas. Some thought we were crazy to take in 5 siblings who had been separated in foster care, but I knew he would provide. With ll children l8 and under, I had little time to coupon, but bought everything on sale or in bulk. Feeding thirteen at once requires army rations and I had to do it on a poor residents paycheck much less keeping growing children clothed and clean, much less the mountains of laundry. I had become an well seasoned expert out of necessity and we would always have just what we needed.
When Jim started practicing medicine, we started paying back student loans and the kids were on their own or moving towards college and their own apartments, we were always replacing something that someone needed or our belongings were long worn out from years of wear and tear and use from this tribe of mine. We still needed to save money as I always research the best deals, bought ahead, and know how to spot a bargain.
Two years ago we left the rat race of the city to find the simple serenity of country. The blue skies, the quietness, the friendliness of farm country. Who would have believed that after a life in the city I would find myself living as a doctors wife in the country? I love the peace and living under the soaring eagles, watching deer sauntering across my lawn, watching the brilliant sunsets out my window over the rolling hills of our corner of the state.
But their was one thing I couldn't get used to was shopping without the incredible deals I could garner with living so close to the stores. Jim remarked that living far away from stores, mean't I couldn't spend money, but also that meant I couldn't save money. I didn't think that in rural Wisconsin away from the Big City I could save money like I did when we were living in Michigan. I missed my deals, the thrill of finding something for nothing. I had too much time on my hands especially during the long winters.
God knew my longing, with most of the kids now grown, and just the two girls at home I was bored. Bored was something that in 30 years of parenting I had never had to face, especially in the last decade with my adopted children and Becca's special needs. There was always some crisis or catastrophe that needed tending, or just life with this large unique family of mine. I needed to find something to do and find my creativity again I had spent almost two years writing, publishing, and marketing our story, "Tiny Titan" was done and I had too much time on my hands. I found another way to write when my daughter in law Stacey helped me begin to learn the art of "blogging" right before Christmas. I found the deal posting blogs, the Coupon Mom and A Full Cup websites, and when Walgreens opened only 14 miles away I would try a few of their posted scenarios.
A few deals, turned a challenge for me to return to my roots. I used coupons to save money, but as I entered the blogging world and discovered all the new frugal shoppers, they helped light a new spark into the world of couponing to a whole new level.
Now I no longer struggle, but frugalness is just a part of my being. With the influence of the others in blog world, a little research and knowing where to look, I now save hours of time pouring over the ads and matching up the coupons that years ago would take me my entire Sunday afternoon.
Today I am challenged by spending as little as possible and turning it into usable products for my family, families that I help, and for charity. When Kmart and our tiny town Pamida started doubling I was in heaven. I love Walgreens Rapid Rewards and rolling them over and over to see how little I can spend on each weeks gatherings. In less than three months of saving, I have stocked our pantry, my storage shelves and my children's apartments, helped my friends and stretch my parents social security with using my gift of spotting deals and turning coupons into savings.
It is amazing how much I have been able to get for little to nothing. I love to see the reactions of the store cashiers or customers as they gather as they wait for the final total. My coupons are organized for the first time ever. I always had trouble finding time to file them, whatever child needed a consequence was the one who had the privilege of cutting Mom's coupons. Today I have returned to my stack cutting days and promptly file them into the plastic sleeves in my binders. With my binders organized, the internet, today it is so much easier to find the deals and I have never been able to get so much for FREE.
Tonight as I write, I am reflecting on those days of when we had so little and finally understand why I love frugalness and couponing; its familiarity, the memories and most of all, it is the reminder of our struggles and how far we have come and Gods promise of providing.
(Photo: The Sunset from my sunporch overlooking the rolling hills of Southwest Wisconsin).