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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Nancy K.

Coupons absolutely influence my purchasing decisions.  In 2008, my ex-husband was a victim of the downfall of our economy and lost his job.  It took him three years to find another job and start paying child support.  During that time, I had no idea how I was going to pay my bills let alone feed my two children.
One day during lunch, I was venting to my best friend and co-worker about my financial troubles.  She told me about a coupon blogger who focuses on the Chicagoland area.  My friend came over that night and we went on-line to check it out.  At first, I was very hesitant to give this coupon thing a try.  I knew I had to do something to lower my grocery bill, but I am brand loyal and was unsure if I would like other products.  I decided to give it a try with the mindset I could stop if it wasn’t for me.

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

I started slow as I had to build my coupon stash.  I printed on-line coupons and subscribed to three copies of the Sunday paper.  My thought was if I found a good deal, I could purchase one item for each off us.  I bought a three ring binder, plastic baseball card holders, and dividers for different categories and started organizing my coupons.  After a few weeks, I let the test begin.

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Each week I thoroughly read our local grocery store sales flyers looking for deals to match with my coupons, but never found items I wanted to purchase.  Frustrated and ready to give up, I decided to go back to the couponing blog to find out what I was missing.  I quickly learned I was allowing my brand loyalty to prevent me from finding good deals.  Tentatively, I let the blogger tell me what to buy.  I was surprised by the amount of money I saved, but still was not convinced I would be happy with the items I purchased.

A note from us at I’m In:  We can help you save at your favorite stores at I’m In!

As it turns out, the laundry detergent I purchased worked just as good as the expensive brand I have used for years and the butter I purchased tasted identical to the brand I normally buy.  At this point, I decided to let the blogger tell me what to buy for the next several months.
The more money I saved, the more addicted I became to couponing.  I subscribed to several blogging newsletters to learn as much as I can about in-store and on-line deals.  I downloaded several shopping applications to my cell phone, such as Ibotta and Checkout 51, as a way of saving even more money.
On average, I save 40 percent on each stopping trip using coupons.  Occasionally my savings are greater if I stop at Target, as Target allows you to use one manufacturer and store coupon, a mobile coupon, and Target Cartwheel on the same item.  If you have the Target red card, you save even more money.  My most memorable shopping trip totaled $65.00, but after coupons, Target Cartwheel, and my red card, I paid $12.65.  Once I got home, I scanned my receipts into Ibotta and Checkout 51 and saved an additional $3.50, bringing the total spent down to $9.15 for $65.00 worth of groceries and household items.  My daughter was with me on this shopping trip and could not believe how much I saved.  She now goes through my coupon binder before she heads off to the store.
Over the past six years, I have saved enough money on my grocery bill to significantly pay down my credit card debt.  My goal is to pay off the credit cards then take the money I save couponing and put it in my savings account.  With any luck, I will be in a position to help my children pay off their student loans when they graduate from college.

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