Ask a room full of people to describe a college student in one word. What’s the adjective that will come up most frequently? Broke. So how do you fix that, one might ask? “Start buying Natural Light instead of Bud Light,” one frat superstar might conclude. “Rent my textbooks from Chegg,” says the studious penny pincher. “Dump my girlfriend,” says every college boyfriend. But hardly anyone ever thinks about using coupons. I remember as a child sitting across the long kitchen table while my mom spent hours on her Saturday afternoons with her handy dandy pair of blue scissors, carefully cutting the dotted lines of coupons. Couponing has recently resurged as a way to save some major bucks. So much so that TLC even made a reality TV show called “Extreme Couponing”. Watch an episode and you’ll be amazed at the mothers of four spending only .86 cents on 16 tubes of toothpaste, a decades supply of mac and cheese, and enough Gatorades to send an NFL team to the Superbowl. Sounds great right? As a college student, I could use the money, and I sure do love a great deal. So why don’t I, or any of my peers for that matter, have our coupon books stacked high with deals?
I do not typically collect coupons before I go on shopping trips. If I’m running out of something, I usually buy as needed. Yes that requires more shopping trips, but it stretches my paychecks a little longer instead of using up my minimum wage pay all in one trip. If I’m lucky enough to see an in store coupon for something I happen to need (that isn’t expired), I’ll snatch it up. But this only realistically happens every 1 out of 15 trips to the grocery store. Sure accessibility is a lot easier with an app that has a list of all the coupons available, but I’d much rather be using my data for social media. So why not streamline it? Create a twitter account that post tweets on college student follower’s timeline when a coupon of their interest/needs is available, and let them be able to save it to their phone. Coupons would be used way more with this type of accessibility and personalization.
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Another reason I stop myself from using coupons is because usually the coupons have a catch or a barrier to my purchase. “Buy one, get one 50% off”. Sure, this is great for non-perishable items such as deodorant or razors. But say for instance it’s on a gallon of milk. I’m only one person in my single bed apartment. The expiration date on the milk usually comes first before I can enjoy the last fourth of my milk. Coupons that require you to make an additional purchase so that the coupon can be redeemed should stick to non-perishable items that can sit in a cabinet for 2+ months and not go bad. But I will admit, if I see a good coupon for shampoo, I’ll use it, even if I’m stocked up for a few months.
Speaking of perishable items, I hardly ever buy non-perishable food items because of all of the preservatives they have in them. I’m a health nut. I care about what goes into my body. With the raise in awareness of obesity and health concerns, a lot of people are starting to care as well. It’s a popular trend to “eat clean” now. Coupons hardly ever have healthy options, so I hardly ever get to use them. Healthy food isn’t cheap, and I’ve noticed that it’s the cheaper generic brands with all of the coupons. Even if there is a coupon for some sugary cereal, “buy 2 for $5”, I’m still going to lean towards the organic cereal, despite the price. But even though I care about what goes into my body, I still have a hard time passing over the debit card to the cashier knowing that I could have gotten two unhealthy cereals for the price of one healthy cereal. If coupons had healthier options, not only would that help America’s fight against obesity, it would also mean that massive amount of people that are health junkies like me would use more coupons.
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So in conclusion, coupons do affect my purchasing decisions. They either convince me to buy something, or they lead me away from it. I tend to not use them unless I see some real cost benefits that are worth the time it takes to collect the coupons and do the math to see what I’m saving. I mostly spend my money on food going to places such as Walmart for groceries. As a college student I don’t have the luxuries of spending my money out of this category, besides gas (and we all know that expensive financial category doesn’t have any coupons). Although coupons strictly affect my purchasing of groceries, my views of couponing for retail and services are similar to my views of couponing for groceries. As a struggling college student, I do have certain lifestyle choices for my health that lead me away from giving into coupons. If there was better accessibility, personalization, and a wider variety of coupons, you could probably see me on the next episode of Extreme Couponing.