Sunday, February 24, 2008

This column is 75% off. Stock up now!

Published February 24, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

It often goes that I am driving down the road and am suddenly struck by an overwhelming and nearly uncontrollable urge to smack myself square across the forehead. I had such an urge today as I passed a very large sign advertising Valentine cards available for 75% off the original price. I have a lovely bruise to prove it, too.

There are two things you should know about me. I'm cheap and I like to plan. If I believed in tattooing my body, the words "generic," "second-hand," and "clearance" would be permanently emblazoned across my forehead along with a to do list for Monday...ten years from now. If a tattoo artist wants to offer me a deal and would let me organize her budget in advance for the next 5 years, I might do it anyway.

The (non-tattoed) forehead smacking ensued when I realized that buying Valentines a year in advance for a mere 25% of the original price is something I should have been doing since my oldest child started preschool. Here I am, a mother with 4 school-aged children, and I've never taken the stores up on this crazy cheap deal.

Of course, this kind of thing isn't reserved for the post-Valentine's Day celebration (yes, I refrained from the much abused "sale-a-bration"). There are sales like this after every holiday that induces gift giving or decoration of any kind. It gets better. There are also post-season sales on clothes. I could pick up brand new shirts and pants for my children for a few bucks apiece. I'd be planning ahead and saving a bundle. (Excuse me while I make this bruise a little bigger.)

My self harm notwithstanding, I've actually known about these sales for years now. Every budgeting article suggests finance conscious shoppers should plan ahead and save. I have a very good reason (actually several good reasons) I've never shopped them. They're called Ray, Miriam, Cate, Evelyn, and Michael.

What I've learned in 11 years as a mom is that my best laid plans are no match for a curious three year old wielding a magic marker. They're also no match for a popular kindergartner with more friends than she can please on one day of card giving. And, of course, they're no match for an impatient eight year old who doesn't care if it doesn't fit yet. If I buy it, they want to use it, and there is nowhere short of Fort Knox where I can keep this stuff safe for a year at a time.

I've thought about buying plastic storage bins store this stuff, but they don't look nearly important enough for my kids to understand that they're meant to stay away. I once considered purchasing biohazard stickers for the bins, but it seems silly to do that. I mean, if I'm not labeling the dirty diapers that go out to the dumpster, how are they supposed to believe I'd label anything in the house?

My new plan of attack is to come up with some color code to alert my children to the relative severity of snooping in any given bin. I've decided to pattern it after our country's terror alert system, because you know I get terrified every time we get bumped up a color. I don't really know which color signified which level. Maybe Valentines will go in the yellow bins and egg dye will be found in the orange ones. I do know the red bins will be the "Do not touch unless you want to meet God" bins.

I'm reserving those for fireworks, a turkey fryer, and stale Halloween candy.