Recently a friend and I were spending the afternoon bargain hunting, like we have for many years. She confided in me that they were having to charge groceries for their family of three. In addition, she told me that she couldn't even think about how she was going to pay her oil bill this winter. What was even scarier to me was that because she could not bring herself to deal with the situation, she had passed the deadline of most companies to lock in her fuel price for the winter. She then proceeded to tell me that she has never in her life of 50 years felt so poor. Jolting me further into the reality of her situation, that afternoon we took a run into a big box store for some groceries and her credit card was denied. I felt beyond horrible and embarrassed for her.
My friend is a frugal person, but because of the increase in the cost of gas, home heating fuel, health care and groceries, she is no longer able to make ends meet. Both my friend and her husband deal with chronic health issues that make it difficult for them to work full time, yet they both do because they have no choice. Taking on second jobs is not an option for either of them.
I went home that day thinking angrily, "This is just wrong." And then I started thinking about all the people around me. I wondered how many of them were suffering silently, like the neighbor at the end of the road whose wife has breast cancer or the elderly couple at the other end of our little dead end street, one of whom is wheelchair bound.
I am quite sure my friend is not announcing her difficult situation to everyone who knows her. Would I? What should I be doing to help someone who is struggling like my friend?
Thoughts roared through my mind that day. I realized that we were not in a position to help much, but surely I had to do something. Ideas that ran through my mind included inviting my friend and her family for dinner and making an anonymous payment on her eventual heat bill or maybe electric bill (I once did this many years ago for a friend).
I could be saving coupons for friends, watching for deals to pass on to friends and buying items with rebates for friends. I sometimes go to big box stores an hour away for better prices than I can get locally. I could call to ask someone if they want to come with or if they want me to grab anything for them. I have a friend that regularly calls me for this very reason.
I could go through my cupboards and purge them of things that we won't use up and offer them to someone in need. I could and do share produce from our gardens with people we know. After all, one seed can grow so much. Maybe I could just simply stay in touch with someone who is struggling via phone or by inviting them over to watch a movie or just have coffee. It is just too easy to avoid an uncomfortable situation, so I was determined I wouldn't.
I am sure there are unlimited ways in which we all could help people we know that are in need. This experience with my friend taught me that sometimes the people we wouldn't even think need help in fact do. It also taught me that when times are tough, I need to realize that I am not the only one struggling. Perhaps by doing the right thing, I will encourage others to do the right thing, and I am quite sure that if I do, that famous saying "What goes around eventually comes around" will be proven correct.
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