As a former cashier, I often saw the power people possessed while shopping with coupons. I can recall a conversation with one of my customers who brought a pretty hefty amount of coupons through my register. She told me that coupons were like the manufactures way of helping a customer buy their product. They also said that coupons were “basically free money.” At sixteen years old, I really had no interest in coupons, or saving. I was your regular teenager who had more important things to do than to worry about shopping or deals. My mindset of shopping was if you needed it, you went out and bought it. I didn’t even look at the price tag, I just put it in the basket.

Those were better days, when I first started working. These were the days when mommy and daddy were still buying everything for me.  Eventually I realized “Hey you are 17 years old, you have a job, and a car, you are old enough to  help your family out just a little bit.”  It was at this time I started paying everything for myself, and my savings were quickly depleting. Around this time I also understood that I was going off to college soon, and I was going to be out on my own in this big wide world, all by myself. A lot of questions arose, like “how am I going to pay for college?!” and “where am I going to live?!” just your standard grown up questions. Thankfully my school was offering a course in personal finance. This course went over standard financial points like debt, paying for school, and even saving money. I remember almost everything about this class, because I realized its importance. During the “Saving money” lesson, a topic came up that I found very interesting. The subject was coupons. Why they were important, where to find them and how to spend them. When I saw how much a family who frequently used coupons saved on average, I was blown away. Here I was going to work every day, watching people go through my line, using these pieces of paper, and paying no mind to them! It was this day that I learned the value of a coupon.

Knowing that a coupon was simply free money was an important realization in my life. I found myself actually sifting through newspapers, magazines and even looking online for coupons. I even went as far as to write letters to major manufactures because I found out that they’ll give you coupons just for saying you like their products! I would actually go grocery shopping for my family because my mom knew that I was becoming more and more fiscally responsible. I was using coupons left and right. In all honesty they did seem to dictate what I was buying. For example, if there was a dollar off coupon on chicken one week, then we were having chicken for dinner the next two weeks. Had there not been a coupon, then I probably wouldn’t have gotten it. These papers would change my shopping list. The list would say “lunch meat” but not what kind. So if I knew I needed lunch meat, then I would search high and low for the best coupon I could find that went with lunch meat. If I couldn’t find one, then I substitute it for something like hot dogs. It’s a really great system that I developed and on average I believed I was saving almost three to five hundred dollars a year, maybe more.

A note from the Scholarship Committee at I’m In: Alex had to search high and low to find coupons and we want to make it easier than that.  We have hundreds of grocery coupons available every day all in one place!

Coupons were and still continue to be a very big contributing factor to me and my list while shopping. If I can save a few cents, or maybe get something free for something I was going to buy anyways, then by all means of course I’m going to take it! It doesn’t determine what I need, but rather, what brand or size of what I need. If you search well enough you can almost definitely find a coupon for what you’re looking for, even if you’re looking at expensive salads, or meats. I’m not saying to base your list eventually on coupons you found, but rather search for the coupons and let them decide what particular item you need. Eventually working with coupons will help save you money in the long run.