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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Bethany C.

Although I cannot say that all the purchase decisions I make are based solely on whether or not I have a coupon for the item in question, much like a good sale, coupons often draw me in and sell me on items I would not have initially considered whether for reasons of price or apparent frivolity. Though it may seem trite to note, saving money is as much about what you choose not to buy as it is about how you save money on the items you do choose to purchase, and as a family of nine, we often scour the webs for coupons to plan a family outing, figure out what groceries to buy for lunches, or save money on the items we really need.

While having seven kids in the house does not mean that we never go out, it does sometimes make it financially ill-advised to take that trip to the zoo or spend the day at Six Flags. However, when my mom finds a great Groupon that gets us into a movie at Studio Movie Grill for $5 apiece, we often take the big black van down to the theater and even splurge on cheese fries or pizza to split between us. If we are so inclined, we even search online together to decide how to spend a family weekend. A few of the girls might take a coupon down to Main Event and work on an abysmal bowling game over laughter and the sound of 4 gutter balls in a row, or my dad might cart my two brothers down to Speedway to try and teach them how not to crash their go karts. Either way, the coupons we find help us to spend wisely both our time and money as a family.

Similarly, it sometimes gets expensive to buy the giant boxes of goldfish and crackers we need to pack school lunches. Having coupons for an off-brand snack can sometimes encourage us to purchase that over the brand name product. In some cases, having a coupon can influence us to pick a different snack all together, prompting us to try new foods and enjoy the benefits of a little extra cash to spend on family time. When buying chips is cheaper than spending a little more to get Ritz snack packs, it makes more sense to buy the chips. If they can find big enough discounts through coupons, even the younger girls get in on buying spendthrift snacks. They sometimes go out and spend their own money to buy chocolates or candies and soda for a family game or movie night that everyone can enjoy together. Though spending money does not necessarily incur spending time together, many of our coupon-spawned adventures revolve around sharing the time and cookies we have with each other.

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Even the choices we make on what milk or bread to buy can be influenced by the coupons we receive. When Costco sends out a package of coupons to its members, for example, we eagerly tear open the plastic wrap to access the smorgasbord of savings inside, and find ourselves snipping out coupons for brands of bread and milk we are unused to buying. The difference in brand between the new brand and the one we typically purchase does not faze us as much as the potential savings offered by smart shopping and a decent dose of couponing. Where buying Borden might cost a dollar more, a coupon can make it 50 cents less than the brand we ordinarily buy. While such a measly amount may not initially seem like much, little savings like this can add up quickly to buy gas for the car or light bulbs when the house gets a little too dark.

While the influence of coupons on our purchase patterns may not be initially obvious, upon closer observation, it is clear that the way we shop is defined by the savings we perceive, and when we pick up on savings from coupons, the savings we see can even convince us to purchase items we would not have looked at without the coupons. New brands, different snacks, or exciting experiences as a family, can all revolve around the opportunities presented through the coupons we come across.

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