From: Small Change, presented by St. Martin's Press, March 31, 2010
Take a trip to the charming little town of Heart Lake, and meet three best friends who you'll never forget . . .
Rachel, Jessica and Tiffany have money problems - major money problems. Tiffany's whipped out the plastic one too many times, and now a mountain of debt is about to come crashing down on her. Jessica's husband lost his job - thrusting this longtime stay-athome mom out into the cold, cruel workforce. And Rachel's divorce has transformed her from an upper-middle-class mom to a strapped-for-cash divorcee. What are three best friends to do?
Get financially fit, that's what! Together, they start a financial support group called The Small Change Club - challenging each other to bring balance back to their checkbooks, and their lives. Even though frugality is a lot harder than they ever imagined, these women are about to learn some very important lessons: that making a series of small changes in their spending habits can make a world of difference . . . and some things in life, like good friends, are truly priceless.
With money tips, recipes, and a great story, Sheila Roberts walks the average woman through today's rocky financial landscape.
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There it sat, a Cloud Nine queen-sized luxury gold comforter with red ribbon applique and metallic embroidery. Forty percent off. It was the last one left. Tiffany Turner had seen it, and so had the other woman.
The woman caught Tiffany looking at it and her eyes narrowed. Tiffany narrowed hers right back. Her competitor was somewhere in her fifties, dressed for comfort in jeans and a sweater, her feet shod in tennis shoes for quick movement - obviously a sale veteran, but Tiffany wasn't intimidated. She was younger. She had the drive, the determination.
It took only one second to start the race. The other woman strode toward the comforter with the confidence that comes with age, her hand stretched toward the prize.
Tiffany chose that moment to look over her competitor's shoulder. Her eyes went wide and she gasped. "Oh, my gosh." Her hands flew to her face in horror.
The other woman turned to see the calamity happening in back of her.
And that was her undoing. In a superhuman leap, Tiffany bagged the comforter
just as her competitor turned back. Score.
Boy, if looks could kill.
It would be rude to gloat. Tiffany gave an apologetic shrug and murmured, "Sorry."
The woman paid her homage with a reluctant nod. "You're good."
Yes, I am. "Thanks," Tiffany murmured, and left the field of battle for the customer service counter.
As she walked away, she heard the other woman mutter, "Little beast."
Okay, now she'd gloat.
She was still gloating as she drove home from the mall an hour later. She'd not only scored on the comforter, she'd gotten two sets of towels (buy one, get one free), a great top for work, a cute little jacket, a new shirt for Brian, and a pair of patent metallic purple shoes with 3 1/2 inch heels that were so hot she'd burn the pavement when she walked. With the new dress she'd snagged at thirty percent off (plus another ten percent off for using her department store card), she'd be a walking inferno. Brian would melt when he saw her.
Her husband would also melt if he saw how much she'd spent today, so she had to beat him home. And since he would be back from the office in half an hour, she was now in another race, one that she didn't dare lose. That was the downside of hitting the mall after work. She always had to hurry home to hide her treasures before Brian walked in the door. But she could do it.
Tiffany followed the Abracadabra shopping method: get the bargain and then make it disappear for a while so you could later insist that said bargain had been sitting around the house for ages. She'd learned that one from her mother. Two years before, she had successfully used the Guessing Game method: bring home the bargains and lull husband into acceptance by having him guess how incredible little you'd paid for each one.
She'd pull a catch of the day from its bag and say, "Guess how much I paid for this sweater."
He'd say, "Twenty dollars."
"Too high," she'd reply with a smirk.
"Nope. Eight ninety-nine. I'm good."
And she was. As far as Tiffany was concerned the three sexiest words in the English language were fifty percent off. She was a world-class bargain hunter (not surprising since she'd sat at the feet of an expert - her mom), and she could smell a sale a mile away.
Great as she was at ferreting out a bargain, she wasn't good with credit cards. It hadn't taken Tiffany long to snarl her finances to the point where she and Brian had to use their small, start-a-family savings and Brian's car fund to bail her out.
She'd felt awful about that, not only because she suspected they'd never need that family fund anyway (that suspicion was what led to her first shopping binge), but because Brian had suffered from the fallout of her mismanagement. He'd had his eye on some rusty old beater on the other side of the lake and had been talking about buying and restoring it. The car wound up rusting at someone else's house, thanks to her. Even the money they'd scraped together for her bailout wasn't enough. She'd had to call in the big guns: Daddy. That had probably been harder on Brian than waving good-bye to their savings.
"Tiffy, baby, you should have told me," he said the day the awful truth came out and they sat on the couch, her crying in his arms. She would have, except she kept thinking she could get control of her runaway credit card bills. It seemed like one minute she only had a couple and the next thing she knew they'd bred and taken over. "I thought I could handle it."
It was a reasonable assumption since they both worked. There was just one problem: their income had never quite managed to keep up with the demands of life. It still didn't.
She sighed. Brian so didn't understand. All he did was pay the mortgage, utilities, and the car payments. He had no idea how much it really cost to live. First of all, they had to eat. Did he have any idea how much wine cost? Or meat? Even toilet paper wasn't cheap. And they had to have clothes. She couldn't show up at Salon H to do nails in sweats, for heaven's sake. What woman wanted to go to a nail artist who looked like a slob? Food and clothes were the tip of the expense iceberg. Friends and family had birthdays; she couldn't give them IOU's. And she had to buy Christmas presents. And decorations. And hostess gifts. Now it was June and soon there would be picnics at the lake and neighborhood barbecues. A girl could hardly show up empty handed. Then there were the bridal showers to attend, and baby . . . No, no. She wasn't going there.
After the great credit card clean-up the Guessing Game method lost its effectiveness and she'd had to retire it. Hiding her purchases worked better anyway . . . .
She should take it all back. Brian probably wouldn't get that excited about the shoes or the dress anyway. Just show up naked. That was what her friends always joked. Even naked she couldn't explain about the new charge cards. Not these days.
Her best bet was to get home before Brian. She could make it. Her foot pressed down harder on the accelerator. She wouldn't buy anything more all month, and she'd take back the shoes. But the dress- fifty percent off, for heaven's sake.
Just get home and ditch the stuff. Then you can decide what to do. She roared off the exit ramp then turned right onto Cedar Springs Road. Ten more minutes and she'd be in Heart Lake Estates. The finish line was in sight.
Oh, no. What was this behind her? Her stomach fell at the sight of the flashing lights. Nooo. This was so unfair. Yes, she was going fifteen minutes over the speed limit, but she had an emergency brewing here. And thirty was too slow. What sicko had decided you could only go thirty on this road anyway? It was probably someone who had no life, nowhere to be, no husband to beat home.
A conversation started at the back of her brain.
Brian: Hey, I beat you home. Where were you?
Tiffany: Just out running some errands.
Brian: What's that piece of paper in your hand?
She could not, COULD NOT get a speeding ticket. They couldn't afford it.
Heart thudding, she watched as the policeman got out of his patrol car. He was big and burly. Big men loved sweet, little blondes with blue eyes. That had to work in her favor. She saw the wedding ring on his finger. Darn. It would have worked more in her favor if he'd been single.
She let down her window and showed him the most pitiful expression she could muster. "I was speeding, I know, but pleease don't give me a ticket. I haven't had a ticket since I was eighteen." Actually, twenty, but close enough. Parking tickets didn't count. Neither did citations for running stop signs. "I promise I won't speed again. Ever. If I come home with a speeding ticket . . . " And a trunk full of shopping bags. She couldn't even think about it. She might as well throw herself in the lake and be done with it.
The officer regarded her sadly. Good, she'd won his sympathy. She looked back at him with tears in her eyes.
"Lady, you were going twenty miles over the limit. I can't not give you a ticket."
What? What was this? "Oh, God, please." Now she opted to shed the tears. They were just wasted sitting around in her eyeballs. "My husband will kill me." How was she going to pay on her credit card if she had to use the money for a stupid speeding ticket?
"Don't worry," said the officer.
"Yes?" He'd had a change of heart. She was saved! Long live blonde.
"They take Mastercard at the courthouse. May I have your driver's license and registration please?"
Tiffany's jaw dropped. "What kind of sick thing is that to say?"
"License and registration," he prompted.
She fished them out of the glove compartment and handed them over. "I'm so not buying tickets to the policeman's ball," she sniffed.
"We're not doing one this year," he said, and walked back to his car.
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