Monday, May 19, 2014

Unexpected Gifts

So, our family has gone through three different major simplifying life changes that cut our household income approximately in half.  Each one has been a little scary initially.  But we're frugal and we're savers.  And we've planned a lot before each one of these life changes.  So ultimately we didn't have any real serious concerns.  And we never had any regrets.  Quite the opposite.

But one of the things we've experienced each time was the prospect of cutting out (more!) luxuries from our family budget.  This last major life change was in some ways the most jarring.  It took our family to the lowest income level we've ever had.  Again, we'd planned a lot beforehand and knew it was possible.  But especially in the beginning we really had to tighten our belt.  We didn't go out to eat much previously, but we cut it out completely for a full year.

I'm not into Coach purses, my husband doesn't want a sports car.  Neither of us drinks or gambles.  But travel and eating out are our two weaknesses.  So this was a sacrifice.  But we knew it was not forever.  And frankly, some people never get to go out to restaurants.  We're blessed to have eaten out as many times as we have in our lives.  And we were confident that we would again at another point in our life.

But one thing that was really interesting was that once we began this year long restaurant fast, we began to receive gift cards to eat out. 

One friend gave me a Starbuck's card when I left my job.  I never buy fancy coffee for myself, so that was a real treat. 

Another friend completely out of the blue sent me a gift card for a national restaurant chain.  She was excited for and proud of our major life change.  She was also very thoughtful and realized we were having to cut back to do it, so she wanted to treat us to a night out.  We really enjoyed that a lot! 

Yet another friend recently gifted me a Starbuck's card--just as I had pretty much squeezed the last few cents out of the first one. 

And perhaps the most amazing instance of all this was a total stranger who came up to me and my kids at a grocery store.  He explained that someone had given him a gift card for a national restaurant chain but it was not his cup of tea.  He asked if I'd like to have the card.  Initially, I thought this a strange question, but he was an elderly man and didn't seem dangerous.  :)  It was a restaurant we'd frankly never been to, and our whole family had a terrific time.

Oh, and did I mention that we won a $25 gift card at our local grocery store?!  We never win anything.  We haven't used it yet, but have plans to treat ourselves to a fancy home cooked meal with it.  We're going to splurge on some ingredients we don't normally buy.

These serendipitous gifts to eat out (or eat in as in the last example) were such luxurious treats.  In our year of fasting from restaurants, we really appreciated them.  There is nothing like fasting from something to make you appreciate it more!

And as a person of faith, I see the hand of God in all this.  We never got restaurant gift cards in the past, this was unique and special.  And it came at a time when we most appreciated these treats.  Very special.

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