From a young age, coupons became a saving grace for my family and I. As a woman who understood “the struggle”, my mother would always insist that if it was not on sale, we just could not buy it. Regardless of the purchase, my mother maintained we either wait until it went on sale or use some other form of discount; coupons being the preferred method of purchase. This means of shopping continued to transform the way I viewed shopping and in many cases, contradicted that of my friends.

At the age of eighteen I left my home to pursue my bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Lacking the resources to make extravagant purchases, I succeeded in providing myself with items that were comparable to those of my colleagues by simply being conscious of my spending. Shopping during my early college years consisted of using my student discount card and picking up newspapers in front of grocery stores to forecast sales in hopes of saving money for traveling expenses.

Oh yes, I forget to mention, I’m a professional gypsy. Not only do I firmly believe in discounts, I know that without them, my one guilty pleasure, travel, would not be possible. Many friends are somewhat surprised that my modest means have allowed me to travel to exotic places around the world, but I insist it is my outlook on spending. Not only do coupons provide a means to saving money on quality items, they also help shape the way a person thinks in terms of overall spending. I no longer place value on things but rather on experiences. As a result, if I am able to achieve these experiences through methods that are viewed as a bit obscure, I do so without any qualms.

Of course, that is not to say that I do not apply these ideals while travelling. In fact, I am forced to act in a more conscious manner in order to achieve everything on my desired checklist. The most noted cultural difference in terms of spending is the perception coupons have in the United States and other countries. In the United States, most individuals, such as my mother, pride themselves in obtaining an item at a discount price. Interestingly enough, regardless of economic prowess, most other countries have either not been exposed to this type of buying culture or are less enthusiastic about using discounts to make purchases.

I am currently studying at Alliant University at their international campus in Mexico City. During my internship at a PR consulting firm here in Mexico, I was required to devise incentives that would drive individuals to lose weight as a preventative health measure meant to garnish public and private support.  My first response was to use coupons via corporate sponsorship as a means to promoting healthy food products and provide average citizens with the opportunity to purchase such products in affordable supermarkets. To my dismay, I found that many average Mexicans, the majority being from a more modest socio-economic background, were not aware of the power of coupons.

Living in Mexico has obviously limited the number of coupons I have access to, but it has not limited my ability to find discounts, many of which are packaged in coupon form. The grocery store for example promotes coupons every week in a newsletter, similar to that of major supermarkets across the U.S. Not only have I remained a conscious spender, but I have also remained a conscious buyer. My colleagues and many friends refer to me as the discount “queen” and have asked for tips to assist them with their spending habits.

For me, coupons are not just a means to receiving a discount but have molded the way in which I think and view the world. I understand that by saving in one area of my life, I am contributing and enriching another part. When demonstrating this idea to others, I find that most are receptive and cannot believe I am able to extend my savings in such a way. At the end of the day, coupons are not just something that I tend to when convenient, but have now incorporated them as a way of life. Without such an outlet, my entire childhood and educational experience would be completely different.

I now boast a new opportunity to study in Europe for a semester abroad. My means of garnishing enough spending money to enjoy my travels and make the most of the educational experience is essentially coupons, whether they are promoted online or in a newsletter. Whether you love them or hate them, you cannot negate the tremendous power coupons provide. As a product of a coupon family and a coupon thinker myself, I know that I will continue to promote their usage wherever life may take me.

Here’s a tip from the Scholarship Committee at  Jelena doesn’t have the chance to use many coupon in store – but she can always save online with our internet coupons!