Growing up my family and I would be considered poor but not in poverty. We didn’t have to ask money on the street or beg for the leasing agency to kick us out of our apartment. My father would go to work and would work all day for what I now assume was minimum wage. My mother also worked but she worked two jobs because my dad worked all day and took care of three young children at night.
At an early age I was considered the man in charge when my parents were working, I would get out of school in elementary grades and go pick my sister up from her classroom in the second grade hallway. After that, we would go to my little brother kindergarten classroom and we would walk about a mile to our apartment complex. My sister would hold my hand and my brother would hold on to her backpack strings and stay close like we were taught.
When we would get home we had a job to do which was grab the newspapers we picked up off the street on our way home from school and clip the coupons from each store we visited. Everything counted and as the children we would have to tear each individual coupon out and stuff them into little sandwich bags labeled “Kroger” or “The Drug Emporium” because they were the lowest price on groceries.
As we grew older the money my parents made got a little better but not to the point we were off the hook collecting coupons. We lived into a bigger apartment but not much bigger because the apartment complex that we were staying at before had to close down, so we had to move into a bigger but more expensive apartment and my parents still had to work the long shifts and I still had to feed and clean around the house. Every newspaper we found we picked up because for the hour that my mother took us grocery shopping was the most time I could spend with her without watching her cry or stress over the money. Nobody wants to see their mother cry, and for that reason alone I would spend hours cutting up these coupons. Eventually looking forward to that weekly grocery trip to the Kroger or The Drug Emporium because that was the closet thing to family time we had.
Today, now that I’m grown and in college the habit still stays with me. I have a job, which pays for bills, but I am not overly savvy about saving up every dime I have. Which is why I still collect and clip coupons. Being in college its almost a given that you’re going to be broke and you’re going to have to cut costs and learn to live on your own. Having to be smarter and more responsible because unlike some people who have their parents pay for everything, I have to work for the things I have which includes getting the store brand items rather than the General Mills cereal that don’t taste much different. However I have had the experience since I was young to save money and look for deals. Most young people today aren’t very smart about saving money or looking for deals, because at the end of the day we’re both eating and bread is bread.
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I look back of the way I was raised because not only am I more responsible but I also had to struggle to be a down to Earth young individual with my head screwed on straight. In retrospect I see the struggle I endured as a privilege because of the logical and realistic fear I have of going through that kind of hardship again. Mark Cuban said it best when regarding working hard: “I’d rather be tired than broke” which is why I clip my coupons and sacrifice some of the early pleasures for the necessities later.