There are two distinct ways that the public can view couponing. The first way is the classic soccer-mom couponer, the woman who pulls to the checkout with a cart full of groceries and a coupon or two in hand, whose mannerisms reflect a “Oh,-I-found-these-in-this-morning’s-newspaper-as-I-was-looking-for-groceries-to-buy-for-my-family” mentality. The second way to see couponing is, as we should define it, the radical way. This couponer is the stay-at-home-mom whose likeness resembles the characters on TLC’s Extreme Couponers. She will pull up to the cashier bearing three shopping carts full of the same items, and she expresses an extremely palpable “I-have-scoured-the-internet,-the-bottoms-of-dumpsters-around-town,-the-jungles-of-the-Congo,-and-the-peaks-of-the-Himalayas-to-find-these-three-hundred-coupons-for-Coca-Cola-that-I-will-buy-for-only-$3.26” vibe. What we see in these two types of couponers are two mentalities: modesty through providing for the family, and crazy through deal-snatching. As for my personal couponing experience, I tend to take a middle road, and as I continue on, I want to explain how my path entertains the key benefits of both.

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I, like several million of my peers across the country, am a poor college student. Consequently, purchasing groceries and other necessary items for my continual collegiate survival has proven to create a huge dent in my bank account. Yet, this is not to say that I willingly shell out four dollars for a box of Cheez-Its at Wal-mart when I could buy the store brand for two dollars less, as I would consider myself a smart shopper, but shopping trips certainly take their toll. Consider your own shopping experiences. If you, as a shopper, share the same shopping habits as my parents and several of my friends, your average shopping trip rings up to be somewhere around $100 to $150 per trip. This doesn’t prove to be too costly for someone with a steady income, but if you could place yourself in my shoes and consider that my focus is more on academics than working for pay, this becomes a serious problem. This is where coupons come to the rescue. In my case, I would search online and in local newspapers for any deal that might benefit me, bringing my shopping total from, let’s say, $30 down to around $20 or $15 with coupons. It should easily go without saying that coupons are a blessing to the poor college students of our time.

To focus on my personal shopping habits, I coupon moderately. Yes, I will strive to find deals on the very items I am looking for, but I will not limit myself strictly to that. If I were simply shopping for Pop-Tarts and Ramen, and I happened to stumble upon a two-for-one coupon for Tostidos tortilla chips, it is very obvious that I would go to buy the chips as well. Now, conversely, if I were to stumble upon a two-for-one coupon for Purina Puppy Chow, I wouldn’t bend over backwards to buy it. The reasoning is simple: buy what you know you can use. This idealism is common place with the soccer mom, who knows what her family will want and goes to moderate coupon-hunting lengths to obtain a decent discount. But this isn’t to say that the extreme couponer is completely wrong. Her logic is sound in the case that it is reasonable to buy the most “bang for your buck”, but the lengths she will go to increase her stockpile of commodities is absurd. In my case, I have bought six boxes of cereal before with three buy-one-get-one-free coupons because I know that I will use the cereal in the future.

To conclude on a transparent note, my ability to obtain coupons for certain items influences what I buy because it means that I can save money that can be used for movie theater tickets, dinners out at restaurants, or even other shopping trips. To actively hunt for any and all coupons available and utilize them is madness, in my opinion, because purchasing great numbers of one commodity to save a substantial amount of money is a new kind of stealing: hoarding. I would rather use coupons to buy what I need at amounts that I need them because that, I reaffirm, is one of the many ways a consumer can become a smart shopper.