Since I was little, I was taught to ‘look for sales’ by my mother, however, over the past three years, she has become an avid coupon shopper. I won’t call her extreme, because her stockpile contains only items that we use as a family or new items she knows we would like. My brothers and I definitely think twice before picking something up off the shelf and buying it.

I have seen first-hand how much money can be saved on a weekly grocery bill using coupons. I don’t think that my family has paid for a tube of toothpaste, a bottle or ketchup or a roll of toilet paper in about two years. It takes time each week to prepare and plan out a course of action, but we are a family of five, who all work or go to school and with couponing, we have reduced a $750 monthly bill for groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies and beverages into a $400!

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As a family, we would always purchase the least expensive items, usually store-brand merchandise in the grocery store, and for the most part this was fine for us. A lot of products are the same inside the box or bottle and sometimes even manufactured in the same plant as a brand-named item. Today, our pantry is all brand-named. Manufacturers use coupons to advertise their products. When a new product comes out, there are high-value coupons in the newspaper or ready to be printed. Match these coupons to a sale in the grocery store, and you often pay almost nothing for your item. The planning comes in by knowing just when to use the coupon in the store.

I do not yet do much of the grocery shopping, as I live home with my parents while going to school, but I know that my mother will hold off buying that box of Frosted Flakes for $3.00 for a day because at home she has a store coupon for $1.00 and a manufacturer’s coupon for $0.75 that will double to $1.50, making that box of cereal only $0.50! “Do that deal” three or four times and your stockpile begins to grow.

While I may not do the grocery shopping at the moment, coupons definitely influence my online purchases. I will often find something that I want or need in the brick-and-mortar store, but will not purchase. I will wait until I can get to my laptop and order it online from the same store. I do this because I know that there is ALWAYS some kind of coupon code that I can use for my online purchase. It may be a percentage off the item or a free item when you purchase another. I also make some quick decisions to make purchases. For instance, my family is heading on vacation in a few weeks. (Note, we waited until the last minute to pick our destination so that we could take advantage of the last minute deals.) I knew that I would need to head out to the mall for a few clothing items I would need for our trip. While browsing my email, I came across a sale at a favorite store. After looking at the advertisement, I could take it or leave it, however, I went out and searched the internet for a coupon code for that store. I found one for 30% my purchase, and free shipping! Guess who bought a $300 summer wardrobe for $75 shipped after the sale and the coupon??

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Consumers are always complaining about prices rising. In our home, it seems that we get much more for our money by using coupons. Grabbing that 20 ounce soda at the gas station for $1.50 is a difficult choice, when I know I have a handful of 50 cent coupons off a 2-liter bottle in my glove box. That coupon will double to a dollar off. Match that to the 5 for $5 sale at Price Chopper and I can have a couple of weeks’ worth of soda for what my family calls the ‘good F word’…FREE! We also have a ‘bad F word’ in our house, and I am sure it is not what you are thinking. Our ‘bad F word’ is FULL-PRICE!