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I'm in Coupons Scholarship 2014. Entry-Nicole W.

Couponing is truly an art form. At the same time a very time consuming hobby. There is a point where value and time meet and where saving a dollar or two by going through and spending 30 minutes for coupons is outweighed by the amount of effort you have to put in. It is the definition of the life long dilemma of value and worth in relation to effort expensed. If I’m paid $20/hr to work and I spend 30 minutes looking for coupons on my free time, it has to equate to at least $10 savings or close there to for it to be worth the time. The less time it takes to find something the less value I feel it needs to have. At the same time, saving less than $5 on a larger purchase is relatively negligible. Therefore, I sort of break it down to three types of purchasing and the use of coupons effect those decisions in different ways.

First, there’s the everyday shopping of tooth paste, shampoo, toilet paper, etc which couponers stash coupons for the next shopping trip – however, this is where I don’t really pay attention. Most of the time they don’t cover what I need or I’d have to change brands from what I really was looking for. Others, you’d need to buy more than just the one bottle in order to make it worth while stashing the coupons for the next trip. If I happen to see coupons for something by the item itself, of course I’ll pick it & use the $.50 off or my favorite, buy one get one free type of sale. In the majority of this type of purchasing habit, which is probably the most common, I’m too lazy and unconcerned with the coupons even though at the store I’m typically searching for the lowest price available. This is more in relation to that time vs. value statement and balancing them. If I want to buy item A and I don’t have a coupon for it, it won’t stop me from buying it. Yet, if there is a coupon for item B which is the same as item A then there is a higher probability that I would purchase item B.

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Second, is the bigger purchase – a TV, new furniture, appliances, etc. This is where coupons and discounts are valuable for me. I search all over to find even $10s off. I want to feel like what I save on a big purchase truly makes a difference and when I’m done with my purchase I can say “I saved!” I love saving, but when it is a few cents it doesn’t really make me feel the same way. At the same time as the value is higher, it is worth spending some time searching for that coupon needed. In a way, you can say the coupon or discount helps settle a potential cognitive dissonance in spending more than I probably should for an item. Especially being someone who is on a tight budget, those discounts are what keep me going. Saving 10% on an order of $300 at a hardware store makes me feel accomplished.

The third way people shop is totally spontaneously – again, this is one where you try to save money, but you’re just picking something up because you see it as you walk by. Why would someone just happen to have a coupon for that one item? Every now and then you might get lucky if you constantly keep all coupons on hand at all times, but I feel like this falls somewhere between the first and second when it comes to coupon influence.

Overall, it really isn’t the coupons themselves that influence my spending and purchasing habits but the savings and the either settling of guilt over how much I spend or the pure endorphin rush that I get when I get something for half price that truly influence me. Coupons are sometimes a big part of that, but I wouldn’t say they’d be the defining moment.

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