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

Coupons have become a vital resource for thrifty shoppers when it comes to groceries. Couponing itself is now a fashionable activity, with entire reality shows devoted to those who take clipping coupons to the extreme. Using a coupon is no longer the leisurely activity that it once was. Coupons are now frequently sold on Ebay, allowing especially frugal buyers to ‘stack’ coupons on top of each other, lending to even more savings. Couponing is now a lifestyle.

While using coupons certainly do have their merits, there are limits to them. For instance, rarely do manufacturers supply coupons for fresh items such as dairy, produce, or meats. Many coupons are for processed foods, which contain high amounts of sugars, carbohydrates, and sodium. As a mother to a three year old girl, it is important to me that I purchase groceries that are not only going to save my family money, but that will provide them with the best possible nutrients. I do not purchase items such as potato chips, snack cakes, fruit snacks, soda, or candy. It is for this reason that I do not typically use coupons that often. Occasionally I will find a coupon for an item that I already had the intention of buying, in which case I would absolutely use said coupon. However, I would not base my decision to purchase goods solely on the existence (or lack thereof) of a coupon. On the contrary, I also do not purchase items because I have found a coupon for it, unless it is something that I feel will benefit my family in some way.

A note from us at I’m In: We’ve made it easier for you to find coupons to use for items you’re already buying – browse our coupon categories first before you shop!

Another reason for my lack of use of coupons would be that some of the coupons that are not for food are typically for items that I do not purchase on a regular basis. Every Sunday there are hundreds of dollars in savings in the coupon section of the newspaper, but a large portion of them are for beauty products. Many are for hair dyes and hair sprays, makeup, face creams, and lotions. As a college student, I do not have enough expendable income to spend on such items.

When I was about 20 years old, my sister and I decided to become ‘extreme couponers’. We purchased three-ring binders, dividers, and special scissors just for our couponing efforts. We bought five newspapers each, and spent an entire day cutting out the coupons. Then, once we were finished, we spent another few hours tracking the sales at each of our local grocery stores, in attempt to find the best deals. We went to multiple grocery stores the next day, with the intention of saving mass amounts of money. When the newspapers came out the following weekend, we did the entire routine over again. After two weekends of nothing but coupons, we realized that clipping coupons, tracking sales, and shopping in the right stores that the right time is a full-time job! Neither of us had realized that couponing was such a commitment. While we had each saved a few dollars, and gotten a few items free, we recognized that neither of us had the time or energy to devote to such a time-consuming undertaking.

There have been occasions in which I have the intention of making use of coupons, especially those that come inside a package of something I have bought. Because I have never really been able to get into the couponing spirit, I usually remember that I have these coupons while I am inside the grocery store, and the coupons are left at home. What good do the coupons do if they are not being used?

Coupons can be a great way to save money on your shopping bill, but require more dedication than this full-time mom and college student can provide. I might be more inclined to make an effort to become an avid coupon clipper, if the coupons currently offered were more diverse. I would also like to be able to use them all at the same grocery store, without having to track down sales in order to save the most money.

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