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You may have heard of the famous CouponMom website and its founder Stephanie Nelson who saves thousands of dollars a year using her strategic shopping strategies. You may have even watched in amazement while stars of the show “Extreme Couponing” collect truckloads of items for what seems like pennies. But how many of you have taken advantage of the free labor force at your fingertips to realize the same savings as these Super Shoppers?
Couponing with Kids
Our children are our most valuable resources . . . And I don’t mean when they grow up — I mean right now! They love to help (mostly.) They’ll literally work for pennies (or at least a few pieces of candy or an extra TV show.) And, let’s face it, they’re always looking for something to do. Why not let them earn their keep?
I started couponing about 6 months ago and am already saving an average of 50% a month over my previous spending. While I still consider myself a novice, I have discovered some ways to involve my children in meeting our savings goals. We are now on a mission to clip, clip, save! If you have been struggling to find the time to coupon in the midst of motherhood, here are some tips for involving kids of all ages:
Ages 11 and up:
Kids this age can categorize and sort. They can load new coupons into your binder or accordion file and pull out expired ones. My tween is also a big help with coupon savings at stores like Walgreens and CVS, which offer “rewards bucks” with purchases. In return for $2-$3 in “rewards bucks,” she is content to help me coupon to my heart’s content. If she finds a few coupons to add to her “rewards,” she may even get an item she likes for free. She has quite a nail polish collection started already. Even for that small payment, I still save money, and she learns to be a strategic shopper.
They are most likely learning how to count money and make change in school. Most of them can recognize numbers and may even be adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. They have also become fairly proficient with scissors, and — most importantly — they are easy to bribe. This makes coupon clipping the perfect job for them! I ask my 8-year-old to clip $100 worth of coupons at a time. This gives him the chance to do some simple addition and maybe even some multiplication. He earns a 30 minute TV show or 30 minutes of computer time, which gives me another few minutes to myself. At the store, he helps locate items using a copy of my shopping list. Store websites will allow you to pre-load coupons to your store savings card via their website and print a customized shopping list with pictures. Once we get to the store, the scavenger hunt begins!
Ages 3 – 6:
At this age, some kids will be able to cut well, while others can’t. My son is one of those who can’t. For him, I save coupons that we will most likely not be using but that someone else can if he manages to avoid slicing them apart — great! I send them on to the military bases. If not, at least he’s practicing his fine motor skills. However, for all his trouble cutting, he‘s an excellent mathematician. I bought a disposable calculator for $.50 in the school supply clearance section at Jewel, and he’s content to wander the store, adding prices. This is especially helpful if there is a minimum purchase requirement. His favorite store is Mariano’s in Vernon Hills. He loves the little shopping carts and wide aisles. He also likes that we get there around lunchtime and try all the free samples. I like that Wednesday is double coupon day. With a minimum purchase of $25, Mariano’s will double manufacturer coupons up to $1.00. Thanks to my walking calculator, we avoid any surprises at the checkout line.
Ages 2 and under:
Forget taking out a pair of scissors when these guys are around. Your time in the grocery store is probably pretty limited too. However, hiring a mother’s helper for a few dollars an hour can still help you save money in the long run.
As your coupon prowess improves, you’ll find this is more than enough time to get everything clipped and ready – and still enjoy a latte. Even with those small overhead costs, you’ll potentially be money ahead in savings.
While I claim them as indentured servants, couponing with kids is really about teaching life skills. They learn about saving and spending and the value of a dollar. They understand our family’s spending priorities and how to be good stewards of our resources. It also opens up a dialogue about how we budget and work together to achieve our family’s goals. Also, the whole process has gone a long way in replacing the gimmes in our house. For instance, instead of my tween saying something like, “Mom, can I have a new swimsuit?” She now says, “Mom, there’s a swimsuit I like, and it’s on sale for 25% off until Saturday. I found an online coupon for 40% more. That means I’ll save 65% if we can go to the store this week. It’s $22, and I’ve saved my own money for it. Can you drive me when you have a chance?”
Heck, yeah! That’s a strategic shopper talking!
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