The Unexpected Benefits of Couponing

by Emily from Frugal Living NW on February 2, 2012

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Guest Post by Kerri Cunningham

Like most couponers, I began couponing in an effort to save money.  As my children would say (when they think I’m not listening), duh!  I think most of us begin couponing because we want to save or stretch our family’s resources.

A year and a half later, I’m still couponing.  To ever-so-slightly paraphrase John Mellencamp:  “Oh yeah, life goes on.  Long after the thrill of (couponing) is gone.”  While I may not get as excited about free toothpaste as I did eighteen months ago, I still actively coupon. 

Why?  Well, I need to stick to an extremely lean budget, and couponing helps me do that.  Even more importantly, I love the unexpected benefits that couponing has brought into my life.

:: Couponing Makes Me Less Wasteful

You may be wondering how couponing can make someone less wasteful. I have found that when I work hard at saving, I am far less likely to waste the products I buy.

In the past, I probably would have thrown away a half-used can of refried beans.  Now I remember the work it took to double the coupon to get those beans for $0.25 and I find a way to use them in tomorrow’s lunch. The extra oatmeal gets turned into oatmeal pancakes instead of being tossed out when I remember the extra stop I made to hit that great Quaker sale.

Couponing has lowered my price points on so many items – not just groceries – that I now often pass on purchases I once would have made. Less consumerism equals less waste.  And that’s not just a good thing for my family’s budget; it’s a good thing for the world.

:: Couponing Helps Me Practice Hospitality

Practicing hospitality has become something of a lost art in our culture, I’m afraid.  I grew up with a mom that entertained guests weekly, but until recently I ended up almost completely neglecting hospitality myself.  Honestly, before couponing there were many months I could barely make our grocery budget stretch to feed our own large family, let alone feed guests.  

Now, I have extra food in my pantry and extra money in my grocery budget.  I can invite others over to share that surplus, or I can splurge on something special for my guests with the extra savings.  Practicing hospitality has been a wonderful thing for my family and has helped us connect with many people in our neighborhood and church – and I owe that to couponing.

:: Couponing.  A hobby… with benefits.

At the end of the day, I just plain like to coupon.  It’s fun for me. A hobby. I look forward to the weekly grocery ads arriving in my mailbox like other women enjoy a good pedicure.  Weird, I know.

However, unlike my other hobbies, couponing allows me to bless others.  Whether it’s sending care packages full of Rite Aid goodies to my college-age nieces or bringing bags of groceries to an unemployed family, it happens because of couponing. A new world of generosity has opened up since I’ve started couponing. 

Raising five kids and financing two adoptions on one income means there isn’t always a lot to spare.  Couponing enables me to still give and provides a concrete way to teach my children the art of generosity.

Will I Continue Couponing? For now, yes.  That may change down the road if I go back to work or, say, come into unexpected riches.  But since neither of those seem likely in the near future, I’ll keep checking the ads and cutting the coupons.  I love the savings, but even more I love these unexpected benefits.

Leave a comment! What are some unexpected benefits you’ve experienced from couponing?

Kerri lives on beautiful Camano Island, Washington, where she stays busy raising her five kids and lamenting the fact that the nearest Albertsons is forty-five minutes away.  She blogs for fun at cunningcouponer.com.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Dianne February 4, 2012 at 8:24 am

I equate couponing to gambling but winning EVERY time!

I met my best friend EVER at the very first couponing class I taught. She is the BEST thing that has come from my couponing experience, a blessing every day for the past two years.

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Tracy February 3, 2012 at 5:08 am

We have a small business and have found that I am saving over 2,000.00 a year on office supplies. We have always been careful but I never thought about free pens. ( We go through about 30 pens a week as customers forget to put them back). Free printer paper, 75% off files and envelopes, sharpies 5 for 1.00.

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Brenda February 3, 2012 at 12:04 am

While I agree with everyone about being able to donate generously to charities (which I often find more exciting then shopping for my stockpile!) my unexpected benefit of couponing is more of a personal one.
I have had issues with anxiety and agoraphobia for over 5 years. Couponing has been a bridge for me to get back out into the world again. I have found success by making my lists, organizing my coupons and shopping with a plan. I don’t totally understand why, but I have been able to shop at stores that I haven’t been able to in years. Now when I go shopping, I have a task that needs to be accomplished. People that have not had these issues might not understand what a big deal simply shopping can be. Additionally, it feels really good to be a contributing member of the family again. Learning how to shop with coupons is hard at first, but as I learned I developed confidence in myself again. It’s really an amazing feeling…all thanks to a few coupons!

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Debb February 2, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Great reasons for coupons! I, too live 45minutes away from the nearest Albertsons! I thought I was the only one!

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Tana February 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I agree with the others…Since I began couponing in earnest a few months back, I have been able to bring a few others along, teachng them what I know. It is a blessing to be able to share what I know, as well as literally share what I have with others, who need the extra groceries. My friend and I shop together often, giving each other the coupons we need to complete a deal. We feel good, and have a lot of fun at the same time.

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Noelle Linden February 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm

One of the rewards I have experienced thanks to couponing is I feel more generous. Especially when I know I have scored some really good deals, I feel like passing the good along. I find a variety of ways to do it, but it makes me feel good.

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charolyn February 2, 2012 at 4:58 pm

Kerri-I am “weird” just like you, and this blog helps me not feel so alone! :-)
I too love having extra to share with others and am trying to teach others too.

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Rachel February 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Like others have said giving back has been one of the greatest rewards to couponing! Not only was I able to fill many paper bags of goods to donate to food drives I have found another great way to give back through coupons. A friend and I are couponing with the goal of making a meal for 30 people at our local Ronald McDonald house. They have people sign up for an evening and make dinner for the families staying at the house. Part of the expectation is you provide the ingredients for the meal. Using coupons we’re able to keep our cost under $10 for a complete dinner including dessert!!

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Howard February 2, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Well said, by both the writer and those who replied. I’ve been couponing and doing refunds for 35 years and never get tired of it. I really enjoy FLNW.com; have already picked up some good coupons and tips in the month since I subscribed. I also like posting my own experiences and tips to help other hobbyists. We who do it all get a “high” from our savings, let’s face it. I often play “guess the price I paid” with my wife and daughter when I come back on a Sunday from Albertson’s. I’ve befriended a local coupon “addict” who donates a lot of her stuff to a charity; when we run into each other, we exchange tips and stories every time.

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gloria February 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Loved your remarks Howard. We must have some of the same genes. I began the search for bargains at about age 11. I would read the food ads in the paper, on the living room floor and make notes as to the deals, which I would relay to my mother. When I started to drive, she let me go and get the deals. I’d plan the route and help with the shopping. In college when I had an apartment, I’d make the shopping list and go get deals for my week of food prep. I’d always try to get more for less to benefit the four of us. Then in the early years of marriage, it turned into to making weekly shopping lists and spending Saturdays driving all over getting the deals. This was before coupons were so predominate. Also when gas was under 50 cents a gallon! Like several people said, it is a game and an addiction. And I have some regrets as well. Sometimes I have overbought and wasted stuff because it was “free” or almost free, because I was addicted. I have learned and like Angela or someone else said a while back, if you miss one deal it will come around again and just because you have a coupon doesn’t mean you have to buy. There will be more next week, next month. So I guess I’ll be celebrating 50 years this year! I hate to admit my age! Had not even thought of it that way. It is just a way of life. I also could pay full price, but never will.

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Julie D February 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm

Great post. I have only been doing this a few months but have already noticed the less waste effect. I also find it a bit addictive. My husband wants to go shopping with me now, which he only did grudgingly before. He enjoys the game too and cheers me on as I try to beat my own % off on the receipts each time I go, while still buying only stuff I need and want.

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Nicole February 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Thank you
I am approaching my one year mark for couponing, and one of my biggest rewards is hospitality.
I remember, not to long ago, that I did not want to have anyone over. For fear of not being able to afford to feed them (or just not wanting to feed them spaghetti) Now we have friend and/or family over on a semi-regular basis. When something is taken away you do not realize how much joy you receive from it.

All thanks to couponing
Oh yeah and feed my family on a tight budget

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denise February 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Thank you for the great post. I agree with everything you you said. In addition, why would I want to spend money on things like toothpaste and deodorant. Yuck. I love giving bags of these things to the battered women’s shelter, pastor’s families who are on very sparse stipends, and to family members who think they “cannot coupon.” Sure I could work more and make more money, but that is all taxed, what I save can be used for something more fun.

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TJ February 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I loved your post, you are a great writer! To add onto your bit about couponing as a hobby, not only is it good clean fun, but it’s CHEAP fun! I happen to love shopping, and with couponing I can shop for next to nothing! It takes time and effort but that’s what a hobby is; doing something you love with your extra time! It’s a win-win!

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charolyn February 2, 2012 at 4:55 pm

TJ I agree too!

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DeAnn February 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm

This post was wonderful! I agree 100%.

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Liz February 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

First off..great post! It is always good to reflect on the “why”. I think even if I found ‘riches’, I would still coupon. I can afford to pay full price on anything, but it is ingrained in me to save, save, save. I do it so I can afford those things I can’t get a discount on. Thanks again for your post.

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