A special note from the Scholarship Committee at I’m In: Rory talks about savings found at favorite brands and we’ want you to save at some of ours.  Click for coupons at Macy’s, JCPenney, Gap, Kohl’s, and more!

Coupons to the undiscerning eye are fickle things.  They either sulk on glossy paper, hovering under a dollar amount, or they explode in bright colors online and off, doing their best to serve as cheerleaders for a brand name team.  Coupons are the friends that take some time to truly appreciate; once they have a chance to prove themselves, you know that you are in for the long haul together.

As a student seeking a graduate degree, I have quite the history of using coupons.  In the academic atmosphere, life is not low-cost; between tuition prices and supporting a healthy lifestyle, it is often difficult to make ends meet.  Needs are sliced down to a minimum in this environment, meaning any purchase made is a result of much deliberation.  This is where coupons enter the scene.  When faced with the choice of two products, I will always pick the product for which I have a coupon.  Though the other product might have qualities that I appreciate more, the product with a coupon will both suffice and save money.  It is often difficult to let go of a product that I want more, but wants are often laid to the side in order to stay afloat financially.

It is a hard lesson to learn that any small amount saved is worth something.  Though it is much easier to make a purchase without doing research to find coupons and it can be discouraging to only find a coupon for a modest amount, these pieces saved make for a worthwhile reward in the end.  As I was honing my budgeting skills, I often wondered if coupons truly made a difference.  Once I began to actively compile the savings, however, my mind was quickly changed.  Ten dollar-amount coupons meant a dinner out with a friend, an English-Italian dictionary for a class, a trip to the movies, or a significant step toward paying interest on a loan.  Why pass up a chance to add some fun into a weekend or some peace of mind?  With a little large-picture thinking, it became clear how important it is to save whenever possible.

Coupons also open up opportunities within the monotony of a strict budget.  Without coupons, I would never be able to buy from some of my favorite brands.  I am comfortable making purchases from these companies with a coupon because it levels the price field.  I am much more likely to buy from one of these brands when they are discounted because I know that the quality is higher than something within the price range I can normally afford.  In this line of thinking, the purchase becomes an investment for me, thus reassuring my nagging budget.

In a similar vein, coupons allow me to have the odd indulgence without threatening my finances.  If I decide to treat myself to a piece of clothing or an event of some sort, my first instinct is to search for any possible deal.  I am a member of several coupon sites and services, so I will often find something that suits whatever that particular indulgence is on one of them.  In this way, I get both the excitement of being able to spend money on something that I want and the comfort of knowing that it was not as expensive as it normally would have been.

Coupons clearly have a large impact on my spending habits, as I make a point of using them whenever possible.  It seems natural to me now to find the best deal possible whenever I consider making a purchase because it is well worth the time and effort to do so.  Whatever money I save by using coupons gives me the joy of knowing that I can afford something else that I might need (or want) later.  Without their help, I would have significantly less to look forward to, which, as a student, is what I hold dearest.