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My dad makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like a shiftless spendthrift. He’s always been that way (unlike the many people currently hopping the frugality bandwagon whether by choice or necessity). Maybe it has something to do with being one of the six children born to my grandparents within a nine-year span.

He remembers his mother digging through the couch looking for change to buy groceries, and when he met my mother, he told her that they’d been too poor to have lights on their Christmas tree – which was a fib, but she believed him because they’d really been that poor.

Anyhow, my dad is the one in charge of the grocery shopping at their house, and I’ve christened him the Coupon King. I have often stood in amazement as he reviewed his receipts and tallied up all that he’d saved (this was before the receipt did that for you).

We did have to explain a few things to him, though. For example, only Oreo cookies are, in fact, Oreos – anything else that merely resembles an Oreo cookie, but is not in fact an Oreo is just a cookie. Same thing for Ritz crackers. Everything else is just a cracker. Not that we didn’t eat the generic cookies and crackers, but we had to explain to him that, really, no they are not quite the same thing.

I inherited some of that frugality from my father, and I’ve done my share of coupon clipping and sale shopping. In the course of many shopping trips, I discovered which generic things were just peachy, and were not equivalent to the name brands.

One of the most recent episodes involved the Dollar Store and the purchase of toothbrushes. I bought a pack of four toothbrushes there, which came to twenty-five cents a brush. Great deal, right? Um…not so much, actually.

I could have used these toothbrushes to scrub the rust off of car parts. No matter how gently I brushed my teeth, I ended up with a bleeding mouth. I even started to wonder if there was something wrong with my teeth. The frayed branches our ancestors used to scrub their teeth were gentler.

When the first two wore out, I announced that I was trashing the two unused brushes. I was outvoted, and encouraged to just use them “because they’re already here and paid for.” (I should have just shut my mouth and threw them out without saying anything. Lesson learned.) I plopped the two new dollar store toothbrushes in the holder with a sinking feeling of dread. (I usually enjoy the whole new toothbrush thing – it’s one of those small pleasures in life, like when you sleep on just-changed sheets or have the first glass of milk in the carton. I’m odd.)

Well, I couldn’t hack it. I marched out and bought new toothbrushes. I’d have paid ten dollars a brush at this point just to use something that didn’t abuse my mouth. I tossed the offensive cheapo brushes in the trash with glee and perched the new, soft bristled brushes in the holder reverently.

That night, as I brushed my teeth, I was in transports of delight. Mmmm.

I learned something from this – to temper frugality with common sense. It doesn’t help if you save a little upfront, only to end up paying through the nose (or in this case, mouth) later on. I’m only glad I came to my senses while there was still some enamel left on my chompers.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)