My Story: What's in a Name?

contributed by Catherine

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I have to admit that I was a coupon "junky" for quite a few years. There were brands that I just had to have or the universe would be off center. I would scour the newspapers and magazines, often finding other products on coupons that I thought would keep my life balanced and whole. I had devised a neat system for organization, and my head would whirl with expiration dates and 2-for-1's.

Well, I lost a long-time job and the universe was definitely "off center" then. I was barely able to cope with the stress, much less think about giving up any of the brands that kept me, heretofore, balanced. An older, wiser friend stepped in and surprised me with her life's strategies.

This friend said she never bought brand names for anything, as they were too expensive. Now this was a woman who, by all appearances, was "well off." She invited me to go shopping with her one day, and I was shocked. She went to stores that I had never considered before because I thought them to be "out of balance." Oh, how wrong I was! There were name brand items in these stores that were marked down to half price or less than in the markets I had chosen. And, there were brands I had never heard of which she opted to use. There was a huge price difference. She told me about a new store that had opened as a sort of clearinghouse for a large supermarket chain in town. We went there and I was amazed again because I walked out with two bags of groceries which cost a whole $12! I didn't need coupons because the store didn't accept them and I saved more money than I would have with the coupons.

In short, I realized that sometimes in life things are not as they appear. Sometimes we have to veer off the beaten path. Sometimes "less is more." I no longer depend on just what I'm told. I investigate motives, options, and contents. Now don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with coupons and occasionally I still use them. But I know now that life offers many options for me to consider, and what glitters "ain't always gold."

A friend told me he earned his way through college by working in a cannery during the summer. He said that he was given labels for major brands and was told to use them for a certain number of cans. When they were complete, he had to use another label for the remaining cans. These were for a brand that both he and his mom had not heard of. Same product, same cannery, different labels. It was a good lesson for me to hear.

I have "come home" to frugal living, simple living. It sure feels good.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money please send it to

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