Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Feeding the Poor and Helping the Marginalized


by M. J. Joachim
While working on some handmade Christmas presents these past few days, I decided to play a show called Extreme Couponing in the background. Extreme couponing is not a new concept for me; a girlfriend showed me how to do it quite some time ago. There are a number of reasons I didn’t stick with it, some of which will be explained in this blog post. You may wonder what this has to do with being Catholic, so let me explain.

The Catholic Church has numerous organizations designed to support the poor. They run food banks, soup kitchens, hospitals and schools; this list is by no means exhaustive when it comes to Catholic outreach and their efforts to help those less fortunate and/or marginalized in societies throughout the world.  St. Vincent de Paul and St. Anthony’s Foundation (Soup Kitchen) are two of their more recognized outreach centers.

As I observed the obsessive compulsive behaviors of these couponers, the obvious questions came to mind.

Who in their right mind would give up half or more space in their home to store that many products?

Why would anyone need a 10 year supply of toilet paper?

Do people really give up that much closet and bedroom space to stored canned goods and toothpaste?

Getting free stuff is one thing, but purchasing items you’re never going to use, just because you’re paying pennies on the dollar for them, and then storing them in a dedicated room in your house lends itself to lunacy, in my humble opinion. I mean, there was a 20+ year old woman with a wall of her basement dedicated to her diaper collection. She wasn’t married, didn’t have kids and only spent a few hundred dollars on the cases of diapers (worth thousands of dollars, btw) she saved so much money on…a proud investment worth bragging rights indeed!

All I could think about was the family struggling to pay for diapers and seeking assistance from St. Vincent de Paul to purchase them!

Then there was the guy who remodeled his house to store his 5 year supply of toothpaste neatly. Say what?!!! And the couple who have 6 (count 'em) 6 freezers – 4 of which are attached to refrigerators!!! All jammed to overflowing – they were contemplating investing in more, and were debating where to put new units in their garage…

Finally on about episode 7 or 8 (I was watching an entire season on Netflix), there was the couple who saw what I saw. Extreme couponing is a way to help other people. This couple filled a designated room in their basement with supplies – then donated them. As the need arose in the community, they used extreme couponing as a way to address it. The best part of the entire season was watching U-hauls empty this room and take everything in it (collected for approximately 3 months – thousands of dollars-worth of groceries, beauty supplies, baby items, paper goods, even denim jeans etc.) and take it to the organizations prepared to distribute it. The couple embraced lovingly and spoke about how good it felt to make a difference this way.

Back to why I never really embraced extreme couponing. I’m not the least bit obsessive/compulsive about anything. Nor did I enjoy storing that many products in my home…quite a few that ended up being donated, because we don’t eat that stuff anyway…and toothpaste is almost always free if you have a coupon and find a sale. 

Eat, sleep and breathe couponing – c’mon! I have a life and I don’t eat, sleep and breathe any “one” thing, let alone something that will take that much time away from my family and things that truly matter to me!

Extreme couponing is beyond time consuming. The people who do it call it a way of life. I call it slavery…

However, I do enjoy finding good bargains, and with two kids in college, it’s always nice to be able to stretch my dollars. I found myself clipping and organizing a few coupons after watching the show.

I’m trying to create a system that will work for me – one that will allow me to cash in on free stuff, save as much money as possible, donate to charity and avoid turning my home into a grocery store.

Until next time, kind followers, I wish you well!
 M. J.

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Photo Credits: Wikicommons, Creative Commons Attribution