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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Maria D.

I’m a college student. Not just any college student, either- I am an art student. I live with a roommate and three cats, spend my school year covered in spray paint and hot glue gun burns, and eat whatever is cheap and readily available. I drink coffee more often than I eat real food, and have slurped down paint water that I mistook for tea.

Coupons are a godsend. Sticking buy-one-get-ones to the fridge are sometimes the only reason I am compelled to grab a similarly malnourished friend and hit the streets for something that didn’t come from the gnarliest part of my freezer. Sinking our teeth into actual burgers and getting anything remotely green is often thanks to coupons we find in our mailbox or clip out of the back of newspapers. Just yesterday, my entire lunch consisted of nuts, seeds, and granola that I got free through an online promotion with a snack supplier.

A note from us at I’m In:  We can help you save on food and restaurants at I’m In!

I’m not exactly the soccer-mom type that goes out of her way to keep binders of coupons, and unless they’re stuck to the fridge or tucked into my wallet, I lose them quite easily.When I do find them, however, it’s a godsend, and for a moment, I’m rich. I’ve gotten most of my school supplies discounted as well- craft stores offering promotional materials or 60% coupons have been crutches on which I get through my classes.

Going through college is tough, especially when your schedule keeps you from having a steady job. I know people who have jobs, and some people with multiple jobs while staying in school. It’s hard, it’s draining, and it’s stressful. College kids still need to pay bills, especially when your school doesn’t offer dormitories. I live in an apartment with a roommate, and have previously lived with three other people in a two-bedroom-one-bath place. It’s tight, and not only is it tiresome, but it’s difficult. Feeding that many people is just as stressful as keeping the electricity and gas running.

Going through the supermarket is almost a safari. We snatch up whatever is on sale that day, and buy the bare essentials. We have coupons and savings cards that let us collect points toward gas and other savings. We buy bread and eggs and milk and whatever is tagged with a yellow sticker and a percentage sign somewhere on it. “You save $0.40″ is a miracle sometimes, and is pretty much the only reason we have reserves of corn, baked beans, and a massive tub of mayonnaise. I don’t even like mayonnaise. Any meat we have is the cheapest cut, eaten within days, or nicer meat, frozen forever until we think of a recipe worth using it on.

I think coupons as a concept are great! They allow people to try new things without that feeling of playing Russian roulette with their wallet, and bring in more customers to businesses that might otherwise not see them. I’ve found great places due to opening events and coupons,as well as through word-of-mouth that starts with “So I had a coupon to this place…”. Giving people who can’t afford to eat out all the time an excuse to do so without feeling guilty is an excellent way to avoid cabin fever.

Trust me, I love my school and my situation in life at the moment. I do, however, find myself seriously strapped for funds at times, especially when bills unexpectedly skyrocket and that extra $30 I was excited about having at the end of the month suddenly becomes a bank account that has distressing negatives. In times like this, I’ve got to take odd jobs and dig through quarter caches, and going out to eat is literally the last thing on my mind.

Anytime I can boast that I got the good toilet paper for half-price to my friends, I feel awesome about myself. Even if it is a weird sort of thing to boast about, I’m secretly very thankful that coupons give that to me.

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