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Coupon Masters: Two Teens Take On An ‘Extreme' Couponing Challenge

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By Aaliyah Gibson and Emma Harrison

Aaliyah is a senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School and Emma is a senior at Hinsdale Central High School. Both are student reporters for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

Aaliyah:

Day 1: I let my parents know that I’ll be “living on my own” for the next 10 days. I began by searching for coupons on Target’s website. I also looked for a coupon book.

Day 2: I mainly prepared for the next few days by printing out the coupons I wanted to use and setting aside $20 to make sure I was prepared for the trip to Target. I went to Target with the coupon book and I purchased snacks such as ice cream and pizza. It came to $11 and some change.

Day 3: I went back to Target for the second time. I mainly focused on purchasing breakfast items such as granola bars and cereal. I also bought chips and two frozen side dishes that I could microwave and eat. I had about $1 and some change left. Good thing my parents made me eat the dinner they cooked. Yay!

Days 4-5: I attended Lollapalooza these two days. I noticed a Farmer’s Market stand and tried to use a coupon out of the coupon book I had, but it wasn’t accepted. Booo ...

Days 6-9: I only ate leftovers from the things I bought. For breakfast each day I had either a bowl of cereal or a bowl of grits. I would snack on the granola bars for lunch, and for the first two days I had pizza for dinner. On days 8 and 9, I still had some grits and cereal left to eat for breakfast, as well as some chips. For dinner my mom made a main dish, but the frozen side dishes that I bought with the coupons were used as well.

Day 10: This was the last day of my adventure. After using coupons for 10 days, it was actually weird to have to go back to using the money I had. I’ve watched shows about the ladies who collects coupons and considered it to be one of the oddest hobbies. But after this experience, I was able to see the fun in it. Instead of simply checking out clearance racks at Target, I learned to be more aware of the deals around me. I did miss french fries, though.

Emma:

Day 1: After contemplating different strategies, I developed my plan of attack: I would spend the majority of my $20 the first day to stock up on things I needed throughout the week. After what seemed like hours of mental math in the aisles, I decided I would buy four products, one coupon for each. Cereal, granola bars, macaroni and cheese and Lean Cuisine microwaveable meals filled my cart. I spent $15.80 and saved $4.34. I hoped my remaining $4.20 was enough for any odds and ends I needed later.

Day 3: I’m starting to get the hang of what it means to coupon. When you use coupons, you’re often forced to buy things in bulk, so you end up eating much of the same foods. We’ll see by Day 9 if I like Market Pantry Blueberry Crunch Cereal anymore.

Day 4: I’m starting to get tired of the foods I’ve bought, so for dinner I decided to ditch the Lean Cuisine and opt for a homecooked meal. Lesson learned: Just because you have a coupon for it, doesn’t mean you’re going to like eating it.

Day 6: I went to Target for the second time. I scanned the frozen dinner aisle and I saw a sale on Lean Cuisine Fajita-Style Chicken Spring Rolls for four for $10 and I went for it. They were originally priced at $2.89 each, so I saved more than $2 on four meals. The catch? I exceeded my total $20 budget by $5.98.

Day 10: I’ve reached the end of my couponing experiment! In total, I spent $25.98 and saved more than $6. Although the savings weren’t as extreme as I might have hoped, they’re more than I would have saved if I had not used coupons at all. I learned that couponing as a teenager is possible, but it does take time, planning and effort to pull off.

Where to find coupons
-- Your Sunday paper
-- coupons.com
-- smartsource.com
-- redplum.com
-- Grocery store websites

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