Anyone out there really like finding a good bargain? With most people in this country experiencing the recession in some way, I'm sure we all understand the importance of being frugal and "penny wise!"
Like many others, our family's income has suffered some major blows over the last year or so, and I find myself cutting corners in any way that I can when doing the household shopping. We have three sons, all of whom are still living at home: the eldest, age 24, received two Associates Degrees in computer science last month, works full-time and will be continuing his education and certifications this coming year; our middle child - age 21, has almost completed Culinary School and just landed a job as a full-time Chef for an organic and gourmet food chain; and the youngest - who will be 17 this December, is a swimmer and Junior in high school. My husband and I are very blessed - all three of them continue to pitch in with household chores and responsibilities (usually without too much complaint!) The two eldest, though not quite done with their schooling, contribute financially as much as their "in-college" incomes will allow!
I'm sure - even if you've never had a son - that you can appreciate just how much food this family can go through (not to mention all those "little" things like soap, laundry detergent, deodorant and shaving cream!) Let me tell you, I've had these boys around for some time, and it STILL amazes me! The youngest one - the swimmer - even amazes his older brothers in his ability for mass consumption. When all three are actually present at the dinner table (yes, we still manage to do that several evenings a week!) it's basically a "free-for-all" ....you snooze, you loose!
SO - with all the shopping I still have to accomplish each month, I've found myself frequenting some discount establishments that (years ago) I would never have thought would now be a regular stop on my bi-weekly excursions. I've given up the need for the "expensive" shampoos, body washes and facial care products, have opted for off-brand cleaning and paper products, and continue to select "store-brands" whenever possible. Usually shopping at our local grocery store for most everything (with coupons in hand) I recently discovered that I can save even more money on some of my monthly necessities at a small discount store. I stop at this store before making the trip to the grocery store, and I always manage to cut quite a bit off my shopping budget for the month.
Yesterday being the end of the month, today was most definitely the day to refill the pantry, so once again I stopped at that little discount center first. Because I had balanced the checkbook before leaving (and took a peek at the bills I would have to pay later in the day) I wasn't in the cheeriest of moods this morning as I wandered around gathering the usual specials. I finally got to the aisle where I always buy this store's brand of facial products...and felt myself giving in to an immediate self pity party. "Why do I have to scrimp on my beauty products - at this age (when I need them the most!)" After all, it wasn't like I was buying those expensive department-store brands ...now I'm buying copies of the COPIES!! (I wasn't raging mad, mind you - but the internal pouting I was doing would have shamed a two-year-old.)
I made my way over to the tiny check-out area, which is just crammed with all kinds of candy, lighters, trinkets and dollar-items...there's barely enough room there to lay out your purchases. They usually keep only one register open in this place, and I waited behind one other person as they placed their items on the counter one-at-a-time for the clerk to ring up. It was getting a little annoying as she methodically picked up one thing at a time out of her cart. However, she finally completed the process and paid her bill. Just as she was finishing, I turned to look behind me and standing there was the tinniest little old woman - I mean little! (I kept wondering later if she actually drove herself to the store, and "could she see over the steering-wheel?") She wasn't terribly old, but a good bit older than my mom. She was holding a bottle of Mr. Clean and a box of something (I couldn't see) in front of her, along with a handbag almost as big as she was.
You've done it, haven't you? You have a shopping cart full - and even though you're worn out, completely "over" the whole shopping, saving money, and comparing prices thing and want to get home - you've let someone holding only one or two items check out ahead of you. Thing is, today it made me feel better. That little old lady asked me twice if I was sure I didn't mind (probably because we'd both been waiting behind "Ms. Poky!") She couldn't believe it, and I reassured her it was absolutely fine...she only had 2 items!
My pity party was over. By doing a small, random act of kindness I felt better. Maybe it made her feel good too, I may never know. What I do know is this...even though some people might say the "random act of kindness" and "pay-it-forward" thing has been over-done, it ultimately does matter to us - on a personal level. It's not always about making another person feel good or making their day....it's also about reminding ourselves how it feels to be kind, while possibly healing a little something that might have been missing within ourselves for awhile.
I still had to complete the major portion of my grocery shopping after that, and I didn't relish the thought of spending even more money. Taking a moment to let the little favor I just granted to a stranger sink in, I walked to the car with a smile on my face - knowing that I had just put a smile on hers.
Pay it forward - spread a smile!
(photo courtesy of Google images.)