Coupons definitely influence my shopping habits.  Since I started utilizing coupons in my shopping routine three years ago they influence things such as what brands I purchase of certain items, what stores I shop at, the amount of an item I buy at one time, and even when I will purchase at item (unless it is something I need right at that specific time).

A couple of years ago I had a rather large negative change in income.  I had to find a way (at first) to purchase all of the groceries for my family of four without having to make the choice between paying a grocery bill or my electric bill from month to month.  Previously I had though coupons were only things that older ladies or people who had nothing better to do used.  I happened to catch an episode of the show “Extreme Couponing” on TLC one night and started looking at coupons in a new light.  While I had no desire to fill my basement with a bunch of items I didn’t necessarily need there was some obvious benefits to using coupons that I saw on this show.

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A few weeks later I sat down one week and started looking at all of the coupons in our Sunday paper along with the sales ads.  I was very frustrated at first because I didn’t see a lot of coupons for specific brands of items my family was used to using (shampoo, razors, body wash, toilet paper, etc) however since I was in such a dire position financially I quickly realized that in order for this to help me I (as well as my family) needed to give a little.  That first week I clipped coupons for shampoo, body wash, toilet paper, and spaghetti sauce that weren’t brands we normally used but as they were items we needed that week and I didn’t have the normal amount of money I would have spent on “our brands” I sucked it up and used them.  To my complete surprise I purchased all of the items I needed and saved $25; the best part was my family didn’t seem to mind the different brands and I found the new different brands I had purchased worked just as well as what we had previously been using.  Ever since then I have been purchasing brands of items I need because there is a coupon for it, as well I have found that at times I can purchase 10 packages of a different brand of razors that I have a coupon for for less than 1 package of the brand we normally used.  I no longer purchase based on brand rather on the coupons available to me.  This has morphed into a reasonable stockpile of necessities and shelf stable items that I have paid virtually nothing for.  Having this stockpile has allowed me to be able to have the money on a weekly basis to purchase fresh fruit, vegetable, and dairy items without worry.  I now shopped based on coupon instead of based on brand – something I was never willing to do before.  I will now buy Pantene or Aussie shampoo when I used to only use John Frieda.  Ragu pasta sauce instead of Bertolli, Barilla pasta (there’s always coupons for it that make it almost free), BIC razors, Softsoap bodywash and many more things when those were never brands I had purchased previously.  Coupons saved my life for three years when it came to my household bills and I will be forever grateful for that.

After this grocery eye opener with the coupons I started paying attention to department store coupons that I get in the mail that I used to always throw out.  I used to leave school clothes and supply shopping until August and then I would have a huge bill that month.  Again for monetary reasons for three years I was unable to do this.  I started paying attention to our local store coupons such as Kohls, Macys, Staples, etc. that would come in the fliers.  Much to my surprise they would regularly contain percent or dollar off of your entire purchase coupons.  These weren’t necessarily stores I shopped at normally however I started keeping these coupons and would utilize them when new clothes, shoes, or school supplies were needed in the household.  Sometimes I will use them so that they wouldn’t expire if I knew a pair of shoes are going to need to be replaced soon or that school stationary supplies are going to be needed in a month or so time.  Coupons influenced how I shopped for these things by dictating what stores I shopped at instead of how I used to just go to my “usual” stores.  I even bought a refrigerator at Lowes (somewhere I never go) because I happened across a 20% off coupon online when my refrigerator broke.  Normally I would have gone to our local Olums for this item.  I can’t begin to tell you how much easier this has made things for me; not to mention the amount of money I have saved.

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My financial status has changed a little bit this year but I still have to watch what I spend very closely.  In light of what I went through I did find that coupons changed me in another way. The third way coupons have influenced my shopping habits is that now that I know I can get items for free or very cheap I don’t see any reason why I can’t give back to people who have no money for food (a position I myself was in that coupons saved me from years ago).  Four times a year for the last year I have made a point to plan a large shopping trip.  I look through the available coupons for a few weeks beforehand and start collecting coupons for pasta, canned vegetable, hygiene products, and other shelf stable items that I don’t even necessarily use or need but that matched up with sales I can get for free or no more than ₡25 per item.  I then usually enlist three of my friends to help me go on this huge shopping trip with me to get the list of items that usually totals over 1000 products.  We then make a trip to our local community church food bank and donate everything that was purchased.  Our local food bank keeps donations in our community and provides food to families in need.  I also this year did a trip to purchases pens, pencils, notebooks, and filler paper that I then donated to our local school district to be given to children whose families might not necessarily be able to send their children to school with the supplies they need to succeed.

I hope that this essay has shown you just how much coupons have influenced my shopping habits over the past few years and more importantly why.  I am also happy to use my coupons for good causes in my community and I hope that by reading this, if nothing else, it has made a few people think about how fortunate they might be and see what they could do with virtually no cost to them to help those less fortunate.