I found this essay topic to be very timely and appropriate for me.  I can answer the question asked, “Do coupons influence your purchasing decisions” with an unequivocal YES.  With the assistance of a friend’s Mother over this summer, I have learned what I believe is an art and methodology for couponing.

I admire this friend’s Mother, “Sandra” for her commitment to couponing.  She has 2 children in their late teens, a husband, two dogs, and owns her own hair salon.  Her husband has always been a contract employee, and has been unemployed for significant stretches over the years.  Their financial situation has fostered her hobby and discipline for weekly couponing.  Sandra has been kind enough to take the time to not only sit down and show me how couponing works, but even took me on a shopping outing to gain firsthand experience.

Entering my junior year at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, I will be transitioning this August from a dormitory and campus meal plan to an off campus apartment and providing meals for myself.  I am heavily involved in both the Marching Southerners and a sorority.  Coupled with a full academic load, this will leave little time to shop often.  I also have a fixed budget for food this coming semester, so allocation of resources and time is incredibly important.  By learning how to scan and collect coupons from the local newspapers, the internet, and store circulars, it most certainly affects my purchasing decisions.

So far, I have been on several outings to obtain toiletries, health and beauty aids, and some limited staple goods.  The feeling of satisfaction to have maximized my purchasing power by using coupons has definitely turned into an enjoyable little hobby this summer.  I am also learning what I feel could be a couponing failure; and that is to purchase items I did not need to begin with.  This causes hoarding, and unnecessary spending.  I feel this is disrespectful and wasteful, and abuses the couponing process for everyone.  As I get closer to returning to campus in August, I will begin to use more food coupons.  I now have a crockpot, and plan on making freezer crockpot meals to save time and money.

I have learned how to “stack” coupons, which is the most enjoyable way to save in my opinion.  For instance, a store may have a “Buy One, Get One Free (BOGO)” sale.  Then I may have a manufacturer’s coupon.  And oftentimes, certain retailers have coupons that deduct, say for instance, $10 off with a $50 purchase.  By stacking, a customer can obtain items for literally pennies on the dollar.  I was able to purchase a significant amount of laundry detergent, toothpaste, and toilet paper for the upcoming school year this way.  I bought what I think is enough to last this upcoming semester, and did not over-purchase.  I will have limited room in my apartment, and as previously stated, I do not want to abuse the system.  I felt a sense of pride after this particular shopping outing with Sandra, as I saved myself and my parents a good deal of money on that trip.  I am working and apply for scholarships to help my parents pay for my education, and we are a family who do not have the disposable income to make needless purchases.

In learning how to effectively coupon, I have also learned what not to purchase.  I am far more aware now of what is a better buy to begin with, whether or not a coupon exists for that product.  I am definitely a visual learner-with a colored hard copy coupon in my hand, it is so much easier for me to make purchasing decisions on what to or not to purchase.  That element right there influences my overall buying decisions through coupons.  I no longer blindly throw an item into a shopping cart without even looking at the price.   I believe that this process is also helping me to mature, as I am taking responsibility for my own finances and purchasing.  Sandra has taught me how to invest time and thought into purchases, using her love of couponing to help teach me financial responsibility.  I won’t lie- I still have to fight the temptation to buy things I “want” and don’t really “need”.  I haven’t totally eliminated that, but I am far more discerning about where and how I spend my money than I was when I came home for the summer.  Writing this essay has made me realize what important life lesson I’m learning here, and I feel that what couponing is teaching me is just another small step into hopefully becoming a responsible, self-sufficient adult.

A special comment from the Scholarship Committee at imin.com: Alexandra refers to sales that she has seen at her favorite retailers… at imin.com, we feature sales, too!