A special comment from the imin.com Scholarship Committee:  Abigail has seen the stereotype that many typically see when using coupons.   We think that when you save with coupons you can be smart and shop smart!  Set a deal alert so that you never miss a chance to feel smarter about your purchases.

Growing up in my household, I had to like what I received. There were no such questions as “Do you like it?” or “Which one do you want?” I didn’t realize it then but now as a college student trying to survive through the expenses, it is a real struggle. Couponing helps keep the little money that I earn in my pocket a little longer.

I am the oldest of six children. My parents being immigrants had a hard time providing us with our basic needs. There was definitely no room for luxury. My mother always based her decision making on sales and or coupons. She always carried the store ads and her organizer pocket book with her. She guarded that book like she did her wallet. I knew when it was time to go grocery shopping, we were going to be making different trips to different stores and most likely take an hour at each. She had to make sure she was getting the best of deals and if her coupons didn’t go through, she would always have to speak to a manager. Yes, my mother was one of those costumers.

There was a time in my life when my parents fought often. They would always send us away to our room but we could always overhear their arguments. Most of them involved money, bills, and expenses. Our family was struggling financially. My mother had to apply for food stamps. I remember coming home from school and opening the fridge. I thought I was in food heaven. For the first time ever we had ice cream in our freezer without asking. Not just regular vanilla ice cream we would usually get but a big tub of oreo cookie ice cream! After that, my mom would pack us a bag of chips and a juice box in addition to the lunch we would get at school. I have had never felt so spoiled. Food stamps were a blessing to our family. Regardless to the additional help, my mom made sure her coupons were put into good use.

Coupons were not only used for food but also for shampoo, detergent, school supplies, and clothing. During the time to get our school supplies, my parents wouldn’t get everything on the list. My sisters and I never got the illustrated notebooks or folders like the other kids. Whenever I asked for such things my mother would respond, “it’s going to end up in the trash like all the other folders, Abigail”. Compared to the other students, our backpacks were never fully packed. It wasn’t until supplies went clearance that my mother would get us the rest of the list. That is, if we really needed it. My mom was thankful that our school required uniforms. She would buy five white tops and three navy bottoms and that was the end of that. My sisters and I hated it. For shoes my mom made sure they were completely worn out before making any purchases. Again, she would wait after the school year started to get the better sales. One time, I got caught making a hole on the sole of my shoe. She was not happy. Basically, my sisters and I had our school stuff three months into the school year.

When I got my first job, my mother made sure I made good use of the money I was earning. She taught me about what days were best to shop, what stores had the best sales, and which coupons could be combined. I went shopping with one of my friends and she saw me use my coupons. “Aren’t coupons for poor people?” she laughed. I didn’t answer her. After that incident I was very reluctant to use any coupons.
It influences me today, because I’ve seen how much coupons have helped my mother feed our family both directly or indirectly. Looking back to that incident, I don’t categorize couponing for poor people. In fact, I believe coupons are for smart people. Why pay regular price on a purchase when you can pay less for the same exact thing? I thank my mom for teaching me the savings of couponing. Her tactics alike many other families have successfully helped them save money. When I go shopping I tend to have a budget without including any coupons. At the end of the day if I have money left over, I either save it for another day or treat myself to something I really like. It not only satisfies my needs, it makes me feel less guilty about my unnecessary purchases. Unnecessary purchases being: make-up, purses, jewelry, etc. I think couponing is a good way to strategize spending. I’m not an extreme couponer. I do not obsess over an item just because I have a coupon for it. Instead, I like to do rational thinking and ask myself “Do I need this?” “Will I be in need of it in the near future?” “How will this affect my budget?” If I don’t need it, I give it to another shopper nearby. When I do use coupons, I prefer to shop alone or with my sister. I feel more comfortable not only in using them but doing the math at my own pace and handling my own debates privately. I definitely recommend coupons for college students; it is cheaper than fast food restaurants.