Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Override Me

It's true. There was a time when I couldn't say the word "budget" without flinching. It wasn't so long ago. Obviously, it's also true that people can change. Dramatically.

Now there is a sloppy chart on a dry erase board in my kitchen that is updated multiple times per week. I've winced at its placement often as I see our guests studying it. "Does the color indicate anything?" My sister-in-law asked one day, gesturing to a board full of red.

"No," I laughed, "Though often that would be accurate." We track gas, personal expenditures (allowances, if you will), dry cleaning and, most notably, groceries.

I subscribe to the Baltimore Sun so that every weekend I can sit at our dining room table and clip coupons, then sort them in my check file. I look up Safeway's weekly specials and build my meal plan and list around them. I put the list and the coupons in an envelope and head to the store. Every week. Our friendly neighborhood Safeway is celebrating their "Re-Grand Opening," as one of the employees kept stating over the PA. In anticipation, they sent out coupon books and new club cards pre-loaded with 10% off May purchases. As Mirabella and I made our way out the door, I said, "I think this is going to be a good trip."

About an hour later I worked to maneuver my cart around turns in the floral department, but it was heavy. I had three pounds of chicken, four pounds of sirloin, four pounds of pork loin chops, four 12-packs of Coke products, 5 boxes of Quaker Oatmeal Squares, and lots of produce and weekly staples. I even got flowers for our upcoming company. Throughout my shopping trip, someone would announce over the PA, "We have an iPod winner on register 9!" or wherever. When selecting a checkout line, I tried to find one that hadn't given an iPod away yet. I watched the screen while the cashier deducted my coupons.

And then he said, "I'm sorry ma'am, but I'm going to have to get a manager to do an override. You saved too much money." Sweeter words I've rarely heard! Needless to say, I did not win an iPod. But I felt like confetti and balloons should have dropped on me anyway. I saved more than $115, and I ended up paying only $183. When I got home I pinned the receipt to the bulletin board in the kitchen and wrote my savings on the board under the heading, "A New State Record." And then I called my mom.

See? People can change.
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