You’ve worked hard enough to better your education, and along with that comes plenty of stress and concern. Being able to afford the basic necessities shouldn’t be one of these stress factors. Clipping coupons is a new trend that is appealing to consumers of all different lifestyles. On top of that, there are tons of other ways to save when you run your weekly errands. Did you know that CVS and Walgreens have reward programs that allow you to walk away with FREE items every week? Or that using your student I.D. can save you 5%-10% at Starbucks, movie theaters, cell phone companies, and even some clothing stores on certain days? There are also great websites like Restaurants.com that offer between $2 and $25 off at local restaurants. With the right resources and a little creativity, college students can have the assignment “Save money” checked off of their to-do list.
“My light bulb moment was being unemployed and grocery money being really tight some weeks. I started saving slowly, just a dollar or two ‘off’ here or there for about 6 months,” says Pamela LaFleur Horgen, 46 of Pinellas Park.
Horgen explains that the main tools are the various coupon websites which allow you to compare prices, print more coupons, and learn about the good deals. If you had the opportunity to buy toothpaste for $0.29, or get allergy medications for free, would you pass it up?
“I’ve come to loathe paying full price for anything. We struggle for money, and I don’t have a 9-5 income, so it’s almost like another income for me. I have not only cut my expenses by about half, but I really enjoy the challenge and thrill of getting cheap and free stuff.”
Obviously, there are benefits of using coupons. The first benefit to point out is that you are guaranteed to save money, even if it is only a few dollars. While looking through coupons, you may run across a deal that might interest you, like a buy one get one free offer. If you put in enough time and effort, you can possibly get free items. If you happen to get free items and don’t have any use for them, you can donate them to a local church or community assistance program.
With this in mind, there is no reason college students shouldn’t give coupons a shot. “My mother-in-law invited me to a couponing workshop in St. Pete (Truecouponing.com). Then, I really started looking for coupons and applying them in my daily life.”
Truecouponing.com is a free site that offers a workshop, as mentioned earlier. It is Christian based, and they ask you to not hoard, but to share the wealth. Truecouponing.com provides you with:
a) Store sales
b) Info about the coupons that applies specifically to sale items at those stores
c) Sometimes links to print the coupons
d) Step-by-step instructions on how to get the best price/free
“How do I feel when I score? VICTORIOUS! Winner, winner Sheen Dinner!!! It’s like I ‘got away’ with something, legally! It makes me feel like I am contributing to my family income directly. I’ve never been a big gambler, but this has to be that same kind of rush.”
What to do:
- Limit yourself to a couple of “big stores”. Pam prefers to shop at CVS, Walgreens and Winn Dixie
- Get a couple of Sunday newspapers, both Tampa Tribune and St. Pete Times
- Look through the sales flyers for your select “big stores”
- Make a shopping list based mostly on sales and items you truly need, and check for coupons for those items.
- Try to shop Sunday night or Monday afternoon because the really good FREE stuff goes fast
Some stores might crack down or even eliminate coupons due to the popularity of shows on TV like Extreme Couponing. On the other hand, store owners may turn what some might consider a negative trend into a positive.
“Apparently, so ‘they’ say, Florida is one of the states that are NOT coupon friendly. Most stores do not double coupons, but a few chains have really jumped on the coupon shopper bandwagon. Publix has opened specific lanes for them, and Walgreens gives a 15% discount card if you do your coupon purchases at the cosmetics counter (to eliminate line stoppage in the regular lines). But if people abuse them (rude to staff, try to cheat) or take all of the items away from other people causing shortages (hoarders!), then there may be a need for some type of store regulation.”
Advice from Pam:
- If you apply for coupons online, set up a different email account to avoid spam in your main account
- Don’t let coupons pile up. They can be very overwhelming!
- Start buying when items are on sale, not when you need them. For example, if you can get Q-Tips at half price, buy them even if you have a box at home because you know you will use them. As Pam says, “Half price rocks!”
- Items you can ALWAYS find almost free are toothpaste, shampoo, dish soap, laundry detergent, hair color and deodorant.
- Be really nice with the coupon thing and make friends with the cashiers. You’ll see them very often, and they may let things slide if they “know” you.
- Stick to your shopping list because the impulse items kill your profit.
- If you have kids, don’t bring them because they want everything
“Once you sign up for Truecouponing.com, they also send you a daily email of all the coupons available, sales AND freebies from different sources. Almost EVERY SINGLE DAY, I get something cool in the mail. I freaking LOVE that. At this point, I’m putting it all in a bag to take to Pinellas Hope shelter the next time I go cook there with my church. I include lotions to laundry sheets and everything in between.
Contributed by Kat Talley. This professional surfer enjoys a nice relaxing day with a tall glass of lemonade. When she’s not riding zebras on the weekend, Kat is busy tending to her coupon book finding the lowest prices in the universe. She would love to hear your feedback; please posts comments below.
Originally published on Nov. 16, 2011.