The Answer to My Husband’s Question of “Why Do We Have 38 Bananas, 7 Liters of Milk and 12 Pounds of Baloney?”

Hello my name is Sarah and I’m a gambling addict. I wasn’t aware of this quality of mine until recently; my extreme inner cheapskate would never permit me to actually spend money on gambling, even quarter slot machines eat at my frugal soul. Sitting at the slots, I would agonize internally- “That was a quarter you just lost” I’d admonish myself, “That money could have purchased eight whole peanut M&Ms out of a candy machine!” So slots are out, as is poker and any other card game because I’m not one for games. The lottery is too unlikely as a winning venture and even scratch cards tend to get on my money saving nerves after a couple of losing tickets, but contests run by businesses? Count me in.

Once upon a time, before caffeine spelled my imminent demise, I loved coffee, and in the New Year, I LOVED Roll Up The Rim To Win, an annual event at the Canadian institution of Tim Horton’s. As a student, my once daily cuppa joe would become a jittery morning, afternoon and sleepless night, three-times-a-day habit during the contest. All in the name of rolling up the rim to discover a free doughnut or coffee. But then, tragically, I grew up and got myself a drip filter, thus my inner cheapskate killed this once beloved tradition in favor of saving money by brewing coffee at home.

Now enter the Prairie past time of “Fuel Up To Win”. The name is deceiving because if Tex and I were dependent on putting gas in our car to participate- we’d lose. Even if we were to drive all over town every single day- we’d fuel up once every two months, it’s just not a large place. As avid cyclists and staunch environmentalists, we use even less fuel. The contest began at the pump, but extended to the grocery stores, meaning that each time a person buys milk or kielbasa, you’re given a ticket to win. In other words, I’m in cheapskate gambling heaven.

Purchase $25 of groceries, you get one ticket, $50 of eggs and the like will get you two tickets but packing your cart with $100 worth of yogurt and such will earn you three tickets to win. Here’s the frugal catch – it’s $25 and UNDER. Meaning a person could buy $11 dollars of groceries and still get a chance to win- or even two dollars! This is why I’ve found myself visiting the grocery store every single day. Sometimes twice.

Occasionally I’ll get lucky and some distracted shopper will leave hard earned tickets behind at the cash. At which point I’ll ask whether I can have them. And God bless the underpaid youth- they always nod and push the tickets my way while scanning the rest of my order. It creates the kind of feeling that one only gets when they realize that they’ve accidentally placed a “Z” on a triple letter score in Scrabble. It’s brilliant, it’s wonderful, it’s beautiful; it makes you want to fall on your knees in appreciation of the youth’s ambivalence. As it is, I just shove the tickets into my pockets and speed away before the cashier changes their mind.

Then comes my favourite part- the actual ticket. Tim Horton’s coffee cups have nothing on this game. First of all, there are THREE tickets- they’re all placed on a game card. The playing card itself has separate sections so one filled section may earn a barbeque or another will earn $50 in grocery gift certificates. And then there is the piece de resistance- the section that if all the matching tickets are found, gets one person $100,000 dollars cash. All this just for buying chicken wings that I would have purchased anyway!  My inner frugal miser is doing joyful cartwheels in a bouncy house over this.

Yes, often there are duplicate tickets, but amass eight of those and you’ve got a chance to enter yet another contest! Oh my cheapskate self is crowing with pleasure. Then as if all of that wasn’t exciting enough, the three tickets are packaged within a larger ticket that could be a coupon, or another chance at a different contest or perhaps a free KitKat. Free chocolate? I’ll take eight!

So all of this excitement has led to frequent trips to the grocery store. What I’ve discovered is that, after visiting the grocery store every single day, sometimes twice for two weeks, is that one eventually runs out of groceries to buy. It’s gotten to the point where I’m avoiding purchasing such staples as toilet paper or dish soap because I could buy those any day whereas today we definitely need apples. The contest has also led to an overconsumption of kale on my part. It’s the one food item that I can justify eating in mass quantities in order to have something to put on the grocery list the next day. And while I could spend only a couple of dollars purchasing one item, I feel that’s a bit like gaming the system, especially during my second visit of the day after my son has enjoyed his second free cookie from the bakery. (Yes, I stuff my two year old full of baked goods so that he’ll willingly accompany me to the grocery store a couple of times a day. You can judge me after I’ve won a free lawn mower.)

A friend nicely pointed out that I may have a problem. Which is true. But it’s a short lived one- the contest closes in mid-April. In the meantime, I’ll just have to live with myself on days like yesterday, when it was too slippery to drive and too snowy for the stroller so I hauled my thirty pound toddler over two kilometers on a sled in the name of kale, frozen pizza and a “Fuel Up To Win Ticket”. Such is the life of an addict.

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