This is a story about hospitality. Well, maybe it is a story about couponing. It is actually the story of how couponing has helped me to be more hospitable.
I have always enjoyed having people come to my home, sharing a meal with them, hearing their stories; “the more the merrier” is my motto. Many times I would worry about how I would stretch the food in order to feed everyone. When holidays approached, our limited income would often cause stress about being able to afford the special holiday food items I desired to serve. Sometimes I would not be able to get those items until the day before I needed them, which added to the stress I already felt.
Like a lot of people, I watch “Extreme Couponing” in amazement at what people can achieve through the use of coupons. I also watch it in disgust at the huge stockpiles some people have amassed. Ultimately, I was inspired to check into couponing because my husband’s income is cyclical, and we struggle through December, January, and February each year, having all the same bills but less income. I thought that perhaps I could learn to coupon and help us to get through the lean times more creatively.
I watched tutorials online about couponing (a favorite site is www.livingwellspendingless.com), learned about the specifics of couponing at various stores (because each has its own policy and parameters), and started off by buying two newspapers each week. I call what I do “semi-extreme couponing,” because I am not amassing a stockpile that needs its own bedroom, nor do I get hundreds of dollars worth of items for a pennies on the dollar.
In a short amount of time, I had six months’ worth of laundry detergent, body wash, toothpaste, razors, pantry items, and more, for a minimal investment of time and money.
As with many of “my” plans, I thought I was stocking up for one particular reason, but God showed me multiple reasons to do so. First of all, the Bible tells us to plan ahead for future needs. Many people do not plan ahead, and they must resort to the use of credit cards when an emergency happens, which can hurt an already-strained budget. The Proverbs 31 woman makes sure that the items her family will need are gathered and stocked before the need arises. She is not afraid of what the future holds and can minister to others.
Second, when we purchase items before we need them and at the most inexpensive price possible, we free up our money for other purposes: higher utility bills, charitable giving, paying down debts, investing, or saving for larger purchases. Though we live on a very limited income, since I started couponing, we have been able to pay some debts and get our finances on a more solid footing.
Third, the Bible also tells us in Matthew 5:42, “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.” If we are not careful with our resources, we will not have anything to give. When we have plenty, we are able to help meet the needs of people who are in need. Meeting a person’s physical needs shows them that we care about them, and they are then more receptive to hearing about the gospel. This past winter several families that we know were struggling and shared their needs with us. It was a blessing to be able to go into my “store” and send bags of groceries, toiletries, and pet food to help them through a tough time.
Fourth, when my pantry and cabinets are full, I am ready to receive visitors at any time. I can confidently say to my family members, “Sure, bring your friend to stay for the weekend.” If someone realizes that they have forgotten to bring a toothbrush or shampoo, I have extras on hand. We can enjoy each other’s company instead of running to a store to purchase the forgotten toiletry.
The results of couponing have greatly enhanced my opportunity and ability to be hospitable and generous. I am less reticent about inviting people to stay for a meal, a night, or a weekend—because I know that I am prepared. In seeking to be a better manager of the finances we have available, I have also become a better host to my guests. I have been blessed beyond any expectations I had at the beginning of my coupon “experiment” back in the summer of 2011. I encourage you to try semi-extreme couponing and see what effect it has on your hospitality.
Holly Williams Urbach has homeschooled her children since 1993. She has been married to her husband Joe since 1985 and is also a mother of five and grandmother of two. Holly currently works as an on-site director for a home school academy and in property management while completing homeschooling with her youngest two sons, both of whom will be graduating by May 2013. In her spare time Holly enjoys writing, gardening, physical fitness activities, and interior decorating.