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Monday, September 27, 2021

Column: Mother-son time

Financially fit

Most guys grew up with poignant, pleasant memories of fishing trips on placid lakes or hunting expeditions in the bucolic countryside with ol’ Pop. During such trips, they would nurture and build the innate skills that all men require: bloodlust, chest hair growing, bravado and sportsmanship. But best of all, they would create an everlasting bond that they could share with their father.

“Remember back when you took me fishing Dad? Those sure were some really memorable memories!”

Alas, such was not the case for this young lad, oh no.

My dad never had any real hobbies so to speak. Well, he liked to tend to the backyard. So there were, of course, days spent watering the lawn or digging up soil mindlessly whilst my dad actually tilled and cultivated the earth. But these weren’t the activities a budding buck yearned for, nor were they enough to sate my craving for paternal bonding.

That’s where my mom comes in. I’m not entirely sure how the tradition started, but it was one that lasted for a good four to five years. Beginning at the age of eight or nine, my dearest mother began to take me out with her on her coupon trips every Sunday of every week.

Yes, coupon trips. It was aptly dubbed “Mother and son time.”

What, you may ask, is a coupon trip? Simply put, it was a circuit of establishments my mom would visit in which she would solely go to in order to rummage through the Sunday edition of the newspaper. No, she didn’t want to read the Business section or the Sports section.

She wasn’t interested in the news at all, in fact. What she did want was that “50 cents off your sixth 2-liter bottle of Coke after you purchase five for full price” coupon tucked away in the many folds of the papers. Back in the heyday of double coupons, that 50 cent discount would become a dollar!

And I, blessed simpleton that I was, would follow her obediently around as she would pick through newspaper rack after newspaper rack. It paints a slightly sad scene, I know. But in retrospect, I appreciate the things that my mom chose to do and the sacrifices she chose to make to save whatever money our household could manage.

She also found it both therapeutic and enjoyable, so it was never really a chore or an embarrassment to her.

Throughout the early years, the trips didn’t quite faze me either. But as the years wore on, I grew less and less interested in them, and by the time I was on the precipice of becoming an angsty teenager, I would just sit in the car and play Gameboy while she tended to the task alone and unaccompanied. By the age of 13, I stopped going with her entirely.

Only now does the significance of those trips really hit home with me.

For many of us, this is undoubtedly our first time living alone —a glimpse of what the rest of life will be like from here on out. Once you’re weaned off of dorm food you will inevitably have to use your own money (or I guess your parents’ in some cases) to purchase food.

I’m sure most of us know what coupons are and what they do, but honestly, how many of us utilize them on a regular basis? There’s most likely a stigma against coupons in which the frequent use of them comes off as miserly and stingy. After all, no one really wants to go on a date in which the guy pays for a portion of the check with a coupon, do they?

With that aside, there really isn’t much of a reason to not use coupons. I mean, I’m not suggesting you go out every Sunday and dig through piles of newspapers like my mom did, but if you happen upon some, why not use them? They’re especially easy to access in today’s world since a lot of shops will end up accepting coupons displayed on a smartphone screen.

It doesn’t hurt at all to save a couple bucks here and there. And trust me, it’ll really add up. My mom’s coupons used to be able to knock off a solid $50 to $75 during some of our bigger grocery excursions. I kid you not.

My only disclaimer is that you don’t get something you don’t really need just because you’re saving a couple of nickels and dimes with a coupon. You can do without that power Tropical Sunburst Tsunami from Jamba Juice.

ANDREW POH would like to hear some stories of things that people did to bond with their parents, so if you have an interesting one, please share it with apoh@ucdavis.edu.

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