Every Penny Counts – A Story With a Moral

August 9, 2016

A few months ago I found a near-perfect birthday present for my nephew. It was a set of Lego gears with instructions on how to build little moveable things. He – even though he’s just 7 – could explain it much better than I. Anyhow, I bought it at Michael’s Arts and Crafts and paid something like $30 for it. When I got home I got to wondering what sorts of coupons Michael’s had available online and found one for 50% off most items. Wahoo! I am NOT a cheapskate but if I can get someone a gift valued at X for half the price of X that is what we in the business call a win-win. It’s a win for my budget and the recipient still gets the value of X.

So, I read the fine print and the next day went back to Michael’s prepared to return, then re-buy it paying only 50%. I was prepared to attempt this in one transaction to avoid the line and I felt a little sheepish about it in general, but not enough to NOT do it. We grew up with not a lot of extra and being thought of as poor has been a point of insecurity for a lot of my life. I don’t want to be thought of like Kristen Wiig’s character in Bridesmaids:)

So anyway, back to the story: I picked up a Snickers bar to put in a package I was assembling for my brother, waited in line and, when it was my turn, marched up to the sweet 20-something cashier. After I explained succinctly what needed to happen she got kind of flustered and let me know that the coupon didn’t apply to books. Already feeling a little defensive I responded that I’d read the fine print and there wasn’t anything about that limitation. Very sweetly and still flustered she scanned thru the fine print with me until she found where it clearly said “books” under the list of exceptions and which I had very clearly missed.

Deflated and embarrassed – a long line of customers in total earshot of this conversation didn’t help with that – I kind of huffily opted to still return the book. And buy the Snickers. At this point the very nice cashier let me know I could use the 50% coupon on the Snickers and when I declined became very earnest as she told me sympathetically that she knows “every penny counts.” I was reimbursed for the book, paid my $0.59 or whatever for my half-off Snickers and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I felt like the girl who’s card is declined at the register for insufficient funds. Thankfully that’s not happened for years but I think tons of people relate to that feeling. I know it’s not exactly the same but maybe gets you in the neighborhood of my embarrassment.

The moral of this riveting story (I know, you were hoping for one)is that it doesn’t matter what the store cashier or anybody else thinks of you. They don’t pay your bills or buy your groceries or lose the sleep you lose over your finances. You’re the one who does so be in charge and don’t care if others think you’re frugal or cheap or poor. In my 20’s I liked the feeling of walking into a store acting like I could afford the $150 clothing purchase that I really couldn’t. The irony is that, in the Birthday Present Incident above, I could’ve bought like 83 Lego books with the balance in my checking account and don’t need to pinch pennies like I super needed to in za 20’s. But I’m living now like I should’ve then. And it feels good almost all the time:) And even when you feel like I felt in the above story, just remember that it’s a small price to pay for the awesome feelings you’ll have soooo much of the time of being in control and making headway on your goals.

Oh and PS… if you ever need to return something and need moral support, I’m your girl.