Flashback: Confessions of a Clearance Shopper

Author’s Note: Thought some lighter fare was in order since this blog isn’t going to be all-autism all the time. I chose to repost one of my favorites from the past. Back then I was writing under a different blogger identity. This was also written before that crazy couponing craze started, so think of it in that context. It was a simpler time.

After all that waiting and buildup, hard to believe it has come and gone already. The day we anticipated for so long, lay awake at night dreaming about, jumped out of bed eager to experience…  the glorious post-holiday clearance sale.

Let me begin by explaining to you that over the past few years I have become very compulsive about saving money. Clipping coupons is now one of my hobbies, and I have started developing some hoarding habits when items are on sale. I actually get worked up about it and even tremble a little bit when I debate how many to buy. I need enough to get me through until the next sale because God forbid I pay full price!!! And you would not believe the annoyance I feel when my $2.99 box of cereal goes on sale right after I bought it (even if I did use a coupon). So just take my word for it that I take my clearance shopping VERY SERIOUSLY. And there are some very good deals to be had after major holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Picture this… The morning after Easter I rush my two kids, age 3 and almost 2, through breakfast so that we could be the FIRST into Target when it opened at 8:00. Hurry, hurry! When we get there I am upset at myself that it is 7:59 and OH NO!!! Two people got in before me!!!! In my haste to get in the store I make the snap decision to use my stroller and let my three-year-old walk because it is quicker than carrying my youngest into the store and then getting a cart. This decision will quickly come back to haunt me. As we are running walking very quickly to the “Seasonal” section I can hear my oldest panting because he can’t keep up. Determined not to let him slow me down I pick him up (HEAVY!) in one arm and push the stroller with the other. Some employees, who have obviously seen my type before, chuckle at me and say “Don’t worry, there are only two people back there.” Aaaugh! TWO people! ALREADY!?! Over my shoulder I breathlessly respond to them, “But I am looking for something SPECIFIC!”

Finally we reach our destination and hurry, hurry through the aisles. It feels as frenzied as an egg hunt, people trying to find the best deals and snatch them up first. Of course everyone is being very polite, but the competitive undercurrent is still there. My heart is still pounding and my brain is racing because somehow it seems very very important that I get eggs at 1/2 off so I can save 50 CENTS for next year’s Easter baskets. Plus what I really want is the Thomas the Tank Engine Take-Along Easter set and I am getting increasingly agitated that I can’t find it. I rush through all the aisles repeatedly, like a hungry shark circling a boat. Thomas where ARE you??? All I can find is the very last Bob the Builder set and I grab it. Who cares if my boys are not crazy about Bob because it is a GOOD DEAL. In the meantime my toddler who is strapped into an umbrella stroller has discovered that his feet can touch the floor and he can scoot himself around, and in my “on a mission” distracted state I don’t notice that he has headed into the center aisle. My three-year-old decides to help and in an effort to rescue his baby brother accidentally knocks the stroller over and dumps him flat on his face. My kids are screaming, people are staring, and I am a terrible mother. But hey, I am saving money.

Taking a moment to pause with a deep, shaky breath, I rifle through a pile of random junk toys and “I FOUND IT!” escapes from my lips. Big mistake. That’s like blood in the water. Three shopper sharks show up right next to me and they look hungry. They see the prized Thomas the Tank Engine Take-Along Easter Set in my hand and I know I had better hold on tight. “Are there any more?” one mother asks, eyes full of longing. “That is what we were looking for,” she pleads. “I’m sorry”, I reply, “But this is the only one, and I kinda need two anyway.” I look down and she is pushing two boys about the same age as mine in a stroller. I sigh and reach out my hand, offering “Do you want Bob the Builder?” She gets SO excited and cries, “Oooh! We like Bob even better!” I have made a new best friend.

My best friend and I spend the next few minutes helping each other out. You see, when we are not fighting each other over the last chocolate bunny, women totally BOND over savings. Me- “Hey, I grabbed the last four light-up ducks. Want two?” Her– “I have two Thomas Easter pull-back toys. Want one?” OOOH, Thomas! It is REALLY nice of her to share, because she has two boys. But I DID give her the last Bob, after all.

After a LONG while I realize I just have to walk away. It is hard to do because I can’t shake the feeling that if I just browse the aisles one more time I will find one more thing that I might need and it will be on sale. And I would hate to pay full price next Easter. I didn’t find any good eggs, but I am pleased because I found Thomas (QUITE the victory since he was upside down AND backwards and buried. Go me!) and I got the light-up ducks and a few other cute things. Plus I resisted the urge to buy fattening Easter candy even though it was half-off.

At the checkout counter I get a bit worked up again because several items ring up incorrectly. Are they trying to cheat me out of my coveted half-off status!?! As I intently study my receipt for infractions I hear, “Ma’am? Is this your child out here?” I look up and my youngest has scooted, still strapped into the stroller, through both sets of sliding glass doors headed outside. I am HORRIFIED. “I had my daughter stop him at the sidewalk” she reassures me. Once again it is revealed to the world that I am a terrible mother. So I give him the Thomas pull-back to soothe my guilt. But then I realize I have just ruined next-year’s Easter basket. Hmmm, I guess I could fix that problem by going to another Tar… but I stop myself with a stern inward -No!-. I try NOT to think about the fact that there are a LOT more stores full of half-off goodies calling my name. I start to shake a little from withdrawal, thinking about all those unexplored aisles, all those missed opportunities…

After checkout I see my new best-friend and we even exchange numbers. “I’ll call you! We’ll go to the park.” I know this will not actually happen, but it is nice to pretend. And besides, maybe I will see her at the post-Christmas clearance sale…

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