Today we’re going to hear from my buddy Tiffany over at Zeal for a Deal. She has a very touching story that I think is really appropriate to this time of year – it can get really easy to get caught up in ‘holiday fever’ and spend all our time thinking about the deals we can get for ourselves, but Tiffany’s story reminds us that we should always recognize and be thankful for what we have and do what we can to help others!
I’ve had a very blessed life…A loving husband, a wonderful son, and an exciting career. I remember looking at friends going through tough times and thinking “I’m so lucky nothing bad has ever happened in our family”. All that changed with a phone call. I can’t remember if it was the hospital, the police department, a man or a woman…it’s all really just a blur. I just remember the person on the other end telling me my husband had been in an accident. I remember asking over and over “Is he OK? Is he OK?”, and finally hearing “No.” He had been very badly injured and I rushed with my 8 week old son to the hospital. He died before we got there.
When you’re grieving plenty goes through your mind. One day I remember being so thankful for my career because I wouldn’t be a single mom worrying how I’d pay the bills. My income has provided everything we’ve needed over the years.
I also remember the amazing friends and family that refused to let me be lonely. Every day for many months someone called to check on me. I wanted to repay them for all their kindness, but how? Nothing would ever be enough to repay them for helping me when I was down.
I came to the realization that I may not be able to repay my friends and family for all they’d done for me, but I could pay it forward! I’ve always been someone who believes in giving back and I’ve tried to raise my son the same way. We’ve volunteered at an assisted living home teaching arts and crafts, filled Christmas boxes for needy children, sponsored a child in Chile, donated to school can drives, and made cookies for neighbors and firemen.
When my son was in 3rd grade I decided that while I had no choice but to work, it was increasingly more important to me to be home when he got off the bus to help with homework, cook dinner, and just be a mom. I organized my finances and made a plan to find a job with flexible hours, knowing that it would come with a large decrease in pay. I was so lucky to find that job with great coworkers who understand my priorities. I’ve enjoyed being home in the afternoons with my son and the ability to help out with some school activities. Less income meant I really had to get creative to find fun things for us to do. It became my mission to find free events to attend and I have to tell you…we’ve been busy!! There are way more free things out there to do than we have time for!
Less money also meant cutting back on my grocery bill. I only bought when things were on sale, and sometimes used a coupon. I was pretty proud of my plan. That is until January of this year when a friend told me about IHeartPublix. Once I found Michelle’s site, I couldn’t believe how much money I could save. The first month I spent my normal grocery budget, but ended up with 3 times the food. And so my stockpiling began! My son thought I was crazy until things like fruit roll-ups and toaster strudels started coming home in my grocery bags (things I’d rarely bought because the price was too prohibitive)!
There were plenty of coupons I wasn’t using, so I decided to spend $3 each week buying a few things for my local food bank. I still remember that feeling of thankfulness that I wasn’t a single mom struggling to provide for my child. I can’t imagine how helpless a mom in that situation feels. So here’s how I can help, even on my limited budget! For $3, matching coupons and sales, I can get $18-25 worth of groceries for families in need.
As the economy dipped, friends started looking to me for news on free activities and great grocery sales. Emailing each new find to people started to get pretty time consuming. So in June I started a blog…a one-stop spot for all my friends to learn of my finds. I included my $3 grocery deals for the food bank. The word spread, and the positive response from so many people has been overwhelming. My conservative estimate is that since June we’ve collectively donated over $100,000 worth of groceries to food banks!! Giving feels so good!
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Tiffany!
Just a note: we will not have a Reader’s Spotlight next Thursday since I’m sure you will all be busy enjoying your holiday! The Reader’s Spotlight will resume on Thursday, December 2. Please let me know if you have a story, tips, or anything else that you’d like to share in your own Reader Spotlight – email me at [email protected] with your idea or your completed post.