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Friday, July 18, 2008

Frugal Friday: Riding Life's Ups and Downs

If you haven't checked out MoneySavingMom's other blog, take a look over at her Frugal Friday post today. She talks about taking a break from bargain hunting; there's LOTS of great frugal faithful linkys, too.

Who knows, you may feel inspired to add your two cents! I know I did. :)


Forgive Yourself for Your Less-Than-Frugal Past

I've always couponed in one form or another, all the way back to the years when my dear hubs was an Officer in the Navy and we didn't have children yet. When I discovered that our Commissary's already low prices on brand name items could be slashed even further with coupons, I clipped my inserts every week and brought all of them with me so I could match them up with the best deals.

Fast forward to the our post-Navy years (my husband served his required five year commitment, then resigned his commission). We lived in a small town in Illinois where my shopping choices were few - namely Wal-Mart, a local grocery chain (whose prices were through the ROOF), Save-A-Lot (their produce was outstanding as they only bought from local farms), and Aldi's.

I spent the majority of our grocery $$ at Save-A-Lot and Aldi. Both offered great quality items, but few opportunities to use coupons as they both carry most of their items as store brands. I did learn how to "make" some extra spending money each month by playing the Walgreens game. At that time, I took my monthly ESR $$ as a check rather than a gift card and would keep those extra $$ handy for walking around town with my little ones. I always had a few dollars for a cheeseburger at the local Rally's or an ice cream treat at McD's as we walked to and from the park each day.

(Don't mind me...sniff, sniff. I'm just getting nostalgic about those bygone double-stroller days!)

When we made our move back to Ohio, I was overjoyed. Not only would we finally be able to raise our children near family (we are a tight-knit Mouthy Irish Bunch ), I would finally be able to shop at that most glorious of grocery stores: Kroger! My dear Knute has many happy memories of Krogering with his mom and siblings while growing up and my mother-in-law used to save all her coupons for those heady days of old: TRIPLE coupon days at Kroger. Can you even imagine those now? I think Kroger should bring those back just once a year, at the holiday season (hint, hint, should any Kroger Corporate folks be reading this post).

I started couponing again once we made the transition back to Ohio in the fall of 2004. I wasn't nearly as organized as I am now, but I still managed to do well overall on our budget.

Then, 2005 arrived, and with it arrived the dawning knowledge that the job that had brought us back to Ohio was not going to work out for the long term. At least, not in Ohio. My husband faced the very real prospect of transfer to Phoenix within a year if he stayed with his current company. And that, dear frugal faithful, was not something we were willing to do after living away from family for the better part of ten years.

So I began, between bouts of morning sickness (I was pregnant with our third) and all the usual mommying to a preschooler and a toddler, to scour Monster and Career Builder for my dear hubs. After eight months, he landed his current job which is coincidentally just where he wanted to be when he left the Navy in 2000. All things in God's time, right?

But, during those eight months, and for the next ten (while we waited for our house to sell in one part of Ohio and my hubs commuted 14o miles each day to work in another part of our fine state), couponing took a back seat.

I wish I could tell you that I was a frugal mom during 2006

I wasn't.

At least, not as frugal as I could have been.

I was instead a mom to three small children (four and a half, two and a half, and a newborn). A mom who slept very little and prayed whenever I was awake. I prayed for my baby to stop screaming (he was by far the longest and loudest screamer of my three - his nickname: Sir Screamsalot).

I prayed for one of the many looky-lous who called at six or seven in the evening requesting a bright and early nine in the morning showing of my home to buy it, rather than drop in for ten minutes then leave, disappointed that it really was just a three-bedroom home.

I prayed that my children would have their mother back full time, not just here and there between endless cleaning and polishing of the house that needed to be kept perfect all the time.

I prayed for my dear Knute's safety (and sanity) as he spent so many hours driving to and from work on busy Interstates.

I prayed.

A lot.

And I don't think I used a single coupon during those months other than the usual new baby high dollar coupons that I received in the mail. I was simply too overwhelmed by the business of keeping us altogether, of keeping us healthy, of creating the facade of a perfect show-home (when in reality three children and two large dogs lived there) to worry about coupons and deals.

We finally sold our home in January of 2007 and made the transition to our new home and town in February of 2007, our sixth move in eleven years. In the fall of 2007, I started my personal blog, encouraged by my friend Em's blog.

Not long into blogging, I discovered MoneySavingMom and realized that I could seriously slash our grocery budget by becoming better organized and more focused on my couponing efforts.

Now, as we work hard at eliminating what consumer debt we have, I look back on those eighteen months and have moments when I feel disappointed in myself - could I have done better on our budgeting during that time?


But, as my dear hubs Knute reminds me, no one is perfect. And you have to forgive yourself for not being perfect through the tough times.

I write this post for you, frugal faithful, because I know many of you are new to living on less (something we've always done as we've had a financial plan in place since our mid-twenties). Many of you carry a load of debt you're trying hard to eliminate (we have our debts, too, and we're eliminating them as quickly as we can).

I know many of you may feel like you can't speak about living frugally simply because you haven't lived frugally in the past.

So - here's where you take a deep breath...and give yourself a healthy dose of self-forgiveness.

None of us are perfect.

But each of us has the power within ourselves to decide to wake up each day and try to do better than we did yesterday.

So, for Frugal Friday, I encourage you to read some of the fine ideas over at MoneySavingMom's other blog.

And I encourage you to embrace frugality a little bit more each day, no matter what your personal finance past may be.

Happy Savings!


Brooke said...

congrats on your continued success! i tried introducing my sister to the CVS way of life but with a 4 year old, a 6 week old, and a full time job she just doesn't seem to have time. so instead i'll give her my freebie surplus and continue to enjoy the freedom to spend my time playing the Drug store game. hopefully i'll be stocked up by the time i have kids.

BarbaraLee said...

We have all been there at on time other. If we were perfect we wouldn't need God. It is just how we handle them.

Babsi said...

Thanks for this post... I really loved it. It goes to show that at different times in our lives we can handle only so much and do the best we can. You have come back around and are now back on track. You should be thankful that you had the background and experience and know how to stack savings. Some people only realize these deals much later in life or never at all.
I too considered myself frugal in the early years of our marriage but wasn't careful when the economy was good and we were doing well. I cannot think of the money I could have saved instead of squandered.
I can't beat myself up... and won't because I know I'll never go back to "the good old days" again!
God Bless!

April said...

Thank you for the great post.
You have been tagged, check out my blog.

Andrea said...

OK, so I didn't realize you were posting on here again! But, I love this post. Thanks for sharing this - we can't beat ourselves up but we can try to work with what we got today!!!