4:47 P.M. I step out of my car after a long day at school. It is my job to check the mail, so I collect it from out mailbox and walk inside to sift through it. I throw out the continued ads for new credit cards and colleges I will not be applying to. I sort the relevant mail into piles, one for me and one for my father. The coupons always end up in my pile. As a teenager with no income, other than the occasional street busking, coupons are one of my favorite pieces of paper I find in the mail. I always look through them carefully to find the best deals in (and sometimes not in) my area. In this way coupons affect how not only i shop, but how I live.

When I go clothes shopping, it almost always at Kohl’s, because they have really low prices. I also get a massive amount of coupons from them in the mail and online. Being a closeted demigirl means I cannot ask my dad for cash when I want some new feminine clothes. Coupons make it a smidgen easier on my wallet when I do go out on my own for a new dress. If I got coupons to shop at Wal-Mart however I would quickly swing my car in U-Turn and go there instead. Saving every penny I can for college is a must at this point, but I still want to be able to express myself out of the house. It is a tradeoff to dress in what I can get with a coupon, then going off to some high price designer store, but they all look the same anyways.

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Other times when I scan the coupons I receive in the mail, there are free items. I have received free doughnuts, free ice cream, fee massages, free candy, free clothes, free sets of business cards, etc. Coupons do not always dictate where I shop; they always dictate where I shop. If I can pick up a ware for slightly cheaper down the road at a Mom and Pop shop, then I will make the effort. If I want to eat out, I always look at what coupons I have on hand. I would rather eat western food when I am not in the mood for it, then Italian if I have a coupn for western food. Money off of goods or sometimes even free goods is one of the best feelings there is to a poor senior in high school with no income.

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

Coupons have led me on some interesting adventures as well. One time I received a coupon for some hole in the wall Asian restaurant somewhere 30 min north of my house. When I went there with a friend, since it was a “dinner for two” coupon, we ended up in the middle of some Asian holiday and we were swept up in the festivities. Not only did I get to speak some Japanese to the patrons there (I have been taking Japanese for seven years now) and got to have a wild night with my friend, for some holiday I will never be able to pronounce, but we got our meal for half off.

Coupons are a small joy in my life that comes in the mail once a week. I cherish every time I receive the “Val-Pak” blue envelope and cannot wait to open it and see what goodies I got this week. Maybe I will get ten dollars of the new sweater I had my eyes on. Maybe I will be able to go pick up that new hammer for a fraction of the cost. Maybe I will get sent on another epic adventure to some restraint of event I did not even know was happening. The point of the matter is that coupons are a way of life, and the most certainly decide where I shop.