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By Gus Bode

As a single mother who makes $36,000 a year, Rachel Taylor said she only spends $220 a month because of extreme couponing.

Taylor, a graduate student in workforce education and development from West Frankfort, said in tough economic times, college students find it hard to make ends meet. She said extreme couponing creates a system of accountability and sustainability for students.

“What someone typically doesn’t realize is when they begin couponing, they alter their mindset about money and financial matters,” she said. “You can begin offsetting your daily budget by utilizing these extra coupons, purchasing the item when it’s on sale and purchasing quantities of the item you typically use.”

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In May, 585,000 people were unemployed in Illinois, giving the state an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent compared to the national unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, according to the State of Illinois Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s official website.

Taylor said people also engage in extreme couponing as a hobby. She said she originally began extreme couponing as part of her undergraduate curriculum to create a lesson plan for a class.

“I began teaching other single parents, college students and anybody who might have a deprivation or even be at the lowest totem pole of economic stature,” she said.

Taylor said couponing allows students to reduce living expenses and maximize their investment.

Darris Miles, a senior from Chicago in architectural studies, said he got started in couponing after watching the show “Extreme Couponing” on the TLC network.

“It was pretty influential and very amazing to see how people would get loads of food and supplies for close to nothing,” he said.

Miles said he began to use coupons as a hobby, but after a certain amount of time the habit almost turned into greed.

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“It was like the taste of a drug because the first time you get something free you never have that feeling where you could walk into a store and walk out without paying anything,” he said. “It was so easy that it was almost greed, like what else can we get.”

Taylor said although some  may see extreme couponing as a means of making unnecessary purchases, she said it’s a great expenditure for students who have to budget their money wisely.

Taylor said she was able to go from having large proportions of debt as a student and being a single parent to having the ability to provide all the essential needs and wants for family members.

“It’s crazy that people lay awake at night out of fear from creditors thinking, ‘How can I wake up and repeat the same cycle, because I’m not getting anything,’” she said.

Andriana Sturgis, a senior from Joliet studying information systems technologies, said she became interested in couponing after she witnessed a customer at Wal-Mart spend $150 on groceries that were valued at $400.

She said she looks at couponing as a necessity because, as a college student, she is on a tight budget. Sturgis aid any amount of extra money she saves helps with her phone, cable and electricity bill. Sturgis said the use of coupons has helped her save an average of $150 a month.

“I am a full-time student and part-time worker, and the amount that I spend monthly outweighs the amount that I make,” she said. “Even though it is only $150, it does help out. That’s less overnight hours I have to pick up at work, and less I have to ask my parents for extra money.”

Miles said the savings built up from couponing can be used toward bills and other expenses students need. He said if a person could invest the time in couponing, the work would pay off and a student would not need to buy household items for up to three to six months.

“It’s quite time-consuming, but it has a huge benefit to the college student who’s pinching, stretching and saving their dollar,” he said. “It’s almost like a business investment, where you spend a little time and money and it can save you three to six months down the line easily.”

Sturgis said college is the best time for students to learn the importance of a dollar. Once a student moves from the dorms to off-campus housing, the responsibilities pile on, she said.

“Stretching your dollar is very important,” she said. “Many of us are living above our means. We should pay more attention to the way the economy is because the price of necessities continues to fluctuate, but … our minimum wage does not.”

With couponing, Taylor said students can see the value of their dollar increase.

“What begins to manifest is that you don’t see boundaries anymore,” she said. “You see it as potential instead.”

 

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