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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Caroline T.

I belong to a family of six. Therefore, my mother, who does most of the grocery shopping, has never had time to clip coupons. She has always been busy running her four kids around to soccer or football practice, dance, or various other extracurricular activities.

However, about eight months ago I began to work as a cashier at my local grocery store. I really enjoy the job, not only because I get to talk to all the customers that come through my register and make friends with the coworkers, but because I can observe various eating patterns of families. I can see the single girl in her mid-twenties buying the odd combination of a gallon of ice cream and salad fixings or watch the elderly couple purchase just the essentials- bread, eggs, milk. But most often, I see young mothers and fathers, their kids sitting in the basket of the grocery cart with hands covered in jelly from the donut they were bought to keep them quiet, approach me with a tired and semi-haphazard look in their eyes. As I watch the total bill escalate up and up in order to fill their young children’s mouths with nutritious food, I imagine my mother paying for her groceries- sometimes even having enough to take up two carts and marvel at the price of all these essential ingredients. But the key difference between my mother and the young couples standing at my register is that the young couples hand me fistfuls of small coupons. These flimsy bits of paper that come from all walks of life- clipped from magazines or printed from online- have taken up to twenty dollars off the purchase. This may not seem like much, but when used over and over again, end up saving the family hundreds of dollars a year.

I explained to my mother this phenomenon that I was witnessing at work. She was reluctant to try it at first, but eventually, after some coaxing from me, tried this method of shopping. Now, she is a borderline coupon addict. It heavily influences the foods she buys at the grocery store, and she constantly expresses to me how she wished that she had begun couponing long ago.

I, too, have been changed as a result of the young couples who hand me their coupons. I love shopping and buying clothes, but don’t love spending all my hard-earned money in one place. Coupons that I find online or in magazines or newspapers allow me to stretch my dollar and increase my purchasing power as a consumer.

A note from us at I’m In: We can help you save a bunch with grocery coupons!

Coupons allow me, and my entire family, to be a smart shopper. We may have consistently bought one brand of yogurt for years, but if a coupon displays that a similar brand can be purchased for less, then we save money. In the growing consumer culture of America, it seems that everyone is trying to scam you. False advertisements online, phony TV commercials, telephone marketers are all out to steal your money. Coupons provide the refreshing change of wanting to save you money. Instead of working against the consumer and for the invisible big businessman, coupons work for the consumer, especially for the small middle-class families whose voices often go unheard.

I do not think I’m exaggerating when I say that coupons are close to magic. Think about it: you hand your cashier a bit of paper and the credit card or wad of cash in your wallet smiles because it knows it is staying there just a little bit longer. In increasingly difficult economic times, coupons are a smart option, especially for my family. We are so thankful that I took up a job as a cashier and got to witness first-hand how something as seemingly simple and trivial as a coupon can actually save our family a significant amount of money, and now this new information influences our purchases daily.


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