The Change In The Couch

I don’t even remember what brought it up. But somehow at dinner the other night, we started talked about the cost of things, budgeting, and money in general. Part of me wants to laugh even thinking about this – because financial wizards we are NOT. However, we have worked hard, have gotten lucky, and have a nice life.

Trust me, I know this.

We are not rich, but we go out to eat a lot. We don’t drive fancy cars, but we go on nice vacations. We live in a nice house, have nice jobs, and certainly spend far too much money on gadgets.

Other than telling Declan about all the times I had to walk uphill to school in the snow, both ways, how do I make him understand how lucky *he* is?

I have read books, we remind him to say thank you, we tell him about Haiti, we do public service. Nothing has really sunk in.

And I am not sure if dinner the other night made a difference either, but I could tell he was listening. Because as we were talking about nickels and quarters, I snuck in the Couch Story.

When Bryan and I first moved to Denver, 16 years ago, we didn’t have jobs. We had some money saved up, we had our college degrees, and we had the ambition to live a mile high. We had a small apartment that cost a buck nothing a month – but at the time, that seemed like the whole wide world. We got jobs waiting tables and screenprinting t-shirts and doing whatever needed to.

Because that is what you do.

I said those words to Declan last night for the first time. It never had occurred to me he might not know this. Silly me. He’s seven. But if you think about it – there are LOTS of people who don’t know this. Sad, but true.

So I told my son.

I told him how we struggled. How hard it was – how fun it was, too. How cool it felt to be taking care of ourselves for the first time, ever. Like, really really really doing it.

And about the time when we had no money. None, nada, zip. And had to go searching in the couch cushions for change to buy milk.

That we didn’t even have $3.00 in our bank account, on a credit card, ANYWHERE, and if we wanted milk, we had to find the cash to buy it.

In the couch.

It was like I was telling the Great American Story.

“Did… you find it?”


And that glass of milk was – by far – the best I have ever had in my life.

This article has 13 comments

  1. Mixtape Jones

    I am pretty sure I spent my entire childhood in the state Declan was in before he heard that story.

    My parents probably have a “Couch Story”, but if they do, I’ve never heard it. I wish that I had heard it when I was Declan’s age.

    I have a “Couch Story” now, though. I’ve got a bunch of them. And I’ll tell them to my kids, because it will make their “Couch Stories” easier when they get to them.

  2. Sizzle

    I like this. It’s a good story to share- not just for D. 🙂

  3. zipper

    awesome, AImee.

  4. Aimee e

    Oh Melissa and I have a lot of those stories after we moved to Chicago. Using change to buy a pizza. She paid the delivery guy because I was too embarrased. Writing a hot check for Chinese food cause we didn’t get paid til the next day. Eating doritos and mint chip ice cream for dinner! They were tough and fun and I wouldn’t change them for anything. Owen and Oliver will grow up hearing those stories.

  5. zenrain

    Love this 🙂

  6. Jennifer

    We struggle with the same thing. When we first got married, we didn’t have much- not quite digging in couch cushions for milk money, but most of our income was going to our student loans and two car payments, then rent. Then The Husband went to grad school so that was another chunk of change. After 8 years, we’re finally in a great position financially (I mean, there’s no Money Tree in the backyard, but we’re comfy and have good jobs in secure fields- at least for the near future!)

    I grew up in a trailer park and going to my college dorm room was like moving into a PALACE. So I know what it was like to grow up with not much. I don’t really WANT my kids to grow up that way, but I do wonder how to explain that not everyone is as lucky as we are now. The value of money, etc.

    Good for you for explaining to Declan, even just a little bit! So many parents ignore that part of parenting and I think it’s so important. Saves them from being spoiled and irresponsible later 😉


    I cannot decide if my 6 year old would listen my “out on my own” story. It does not involve Alien superheroes or Jedis.

  8. Anonymous

    What a fantastic lesson. – m

  9. zeghsy

    i’ve been telling monkey “couch stories” as long as i can remember. it’s just been the two of us for pretty much that long. she’s seen me raid her piggy bank so we can have clean underwear in the morning. heck, she’s handed over her piggy bank so we can have milk. i’m not happy we’ve had the struggle, but i’m proud to say monkey knows how to make the best of a not great situation.

  10. Nat

    Hard times but maybe simpler one eh?

    Good story.

  11. Crystal D

    What a perfect story to share with him about money and where you were compared to how he lives now. I bet he always remembers it.

  12. chloebear

    what a great story, my used to tell us how she would buy whole milk and water it down to make ends meet…something I hope I never have to do.

  13. janice

    Nice story.thanks for sharing it!;)

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