Charitable Couponing

When I’m teaching my coupon boot camp class, one of my rules of thumb is to only cut a coupon if you would purchase that item if it was free or cheap. Since I don’t have children or cats that has eliminated my need to mess with coupons that have anything to do with either of those categories. However, for nearly a year now, I’ve been ignoring that advice in some respects, and the results have felt wonderful.

A couple of months ago, I accidentally clipped a coupon for cat food. I filed it in it’s respective section in my notebook thinking that it was a coupon for the dog food I used. A few weeks later I was in the pet aisle of a grocery store and noticed my error.  So I decided to peruse the cat food just to see if there was an ‘equal opportunity of savings” between one species and the other. As it turned out, the store was having a sale that week on the brand of cat food that I had a coupon for and combined with the coupon the cat food was free. I must admit, I found myself a bit excited to think that once again I could get something for free.  And then, of course, I pinched myself back into reality, chiding myself about the rules of the coupon game.  But then I remembered that my local  Humane Society had been advertising for donations of food, cat litter, and toys for the pets they were presently holding.  So, without thinking any further, I decided to get the free cat food, and then on my way home drop it off to the Humane society.  The organization was appreciative of the donation and also gave me a receipt for the donation so that I could use it on my taxes if necessary.

Recently I had the occasion to fall head over heels in love with three very adorable brothers who had been placed in my sister’s home for foster care.  The littlest one, 18 months, was nearly at death’s door when the authorities took him out of the home.  He and his two other brothers, 4 and 6 years old, would be locked in their room for weeks on end with nothing but pop tarts and water to live off of. The mother would allegedly go on multiple day drug and alcohol benders and leave the three boys to the “care” of the 6 year old.  After falling in love with these three boys, I couldn’t help but wonder what they were in need of the moment that they were taken into custody.  Juice boxes?  Pull-Ups?  A comforting stuffed animal?  This last week I got Capri Sun juice boxes for only 98 cents each. I got some Pull-Ups for only $1.50 for a pack of 6, and I also got a free toy from Target courtesy of their own store coupon and the manufacturers.  Clearly the need of mothers, children, and families do not occur just at Christmastime. They occur all year round.  I have to say that I’ve grown to love my couponing habit as much for what it can do for others as for what it can do for my own home.

Last August, the newspapers and stores were going crazy promoting back to school sales of school supplies, clothes, etc. As the founder of Women of Caliber, I tend to be a bit more aware of the domestic violence that goes on in my community. Growing up as the daughter of a single mom of five kids, I know that there were some really tough times for my mom.  But I can’t ever remember not having the school supplies we needed.  I can’t imagine how horrific it would have been for her if she wasn’t able to provide for us in this manner.  But I do know that there are several families in this very situation all throughout the year.  As a result, I took great delight in loading up my shopping cart with all of the free school supplies I could get my hands on (with the help of my coupons, of course) and then took a quick trip over to the Women and Children Center to drop them off.

I don’t tell you any of this for a pat on the back.  I tell you because I think that the charitable aspects are yet one more way that we overlook the impact that coupons can have in our lives for good. Not only can others benefit, but we benefit as well—financially (with the tax write-offs), emotionally, and spiritually.  Getting involved in our community in this manner also emphasizes the human-ness of all of those around us and reinforces the fact that when the chips are down, only the persons who are aware and prepared to act will protect the lives and well-being of others.

I can’t afford to help all of the people or animals who need it.  But I firmly believe that I can do my part by keeping my eye out for how my couponing can add to the efforts of others. I say that because last year when I wrote a couponing article on this blog, one of the readers took exception to the whole “couponing nonsense” asserting that she had no need for anything other than organic in her life. She was quite adamant that the couponing effort was a waste of time and made little or no impact in her own life.  When I suggested that she think about the potential needs of others and what the future might bring in a time of great trial, my suggestion was dismissed as “out of touch” and unrealistic.  Well, my thought process for such coupon actions may not seem necessary or realistic to someone such as that, but I can tell you that the smiles and tears that I’ve seen from others in need have been very real indeed.  And I’m very, very glad I can help with very little effort on my part.  I hope that some of you may consider doing the same.

(Be sure that you check out our in-home Coupon Training Boot Camp program that comes with a video presentation as well as a manual for quick reference. Check our schedule of events for details for live and webinar classes)

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I so agree with this post. I have bought shoes on clearance to donate to a homeless shelter, and have recently started stocking personal hygiene items to give to a women's shelter. There are always people in need and if we all made a little extra effort, so many of those needs could be met.

Lovely Kellene. I do the same, but haven't found any free ones yet. Soon enough I will though!

Ahhhh Kellene, WE are kindred spirits.... I do the same thing... My daughter has several friends who are school teachers...They needed pencils, paper and all kinds of things for their students who couldn't afford it... I will buy paper when I can get it for 10 cents, pencils when they are on sale and other things.... Most of this is don't in late July and August when they have back to school sales... Coupons can be used for almost anything!

Completely agree!! I've been doing that for years with all sorts of things - another great one is when you can get things like toothpaste, deodorant, razors, etc. for free (or almost) after coupons & rebates. I take several bags up to my local Veterans Hospital a few times a year - they have programs for homeless vets.

Our local Post Office has a drop off barrel for the local food bank so I drop off any food donations when I am mailing things. Also include dog & cat food there so that maybe someone picking up food for themselves will be able to keep their pets.

Hubby USED to think my couponing was silly - until I showed him a $91 grocery receipt that ended up being $13 after sale prices & coupons were taken off :-)

I can't say that I've even thought of doing this, as I don't even use coupons or rebates much myself. But I'm very impressed with all of you and am very touched to hear of your compassion. I guess I need to attend the couponing webinar!

"Out of touch" and "unrealistic"??? Come again? That reader needs to find her way into our reality.

You keep on doing what you're doing, Kellene. Let God decide if your coupon charity isn't what He would have us do for our brothers and sisters.

My friend is a social worker at a local hospital and is always clipping coupons she has no use for and combining them with others doing the same thing - sends them off to military bases for use in their on base stores. Apparently you do not have to purchase the product - the cashier just adds them up and subtracts the total from your bill! What a great way for young military families to save money....

Sunee, do you know if the Commissary's overseas still take the expired coupons?
They used too do that when I was in Germany in 2003.

Preparedness Pro's picture

Jamie, yes, they do. The military bases take the coupons up to 6 months past their expiration date.

Thanks Kellene I'll that into the "care packages". Woot

Sorry Kelene is that just Stateside or overseas? I seem to remember that overseas was a year after expiration date. Sorry it may have changed and I'm not aware of the new policy.
Still a great thing to help out with toiletries and TP for those OCONUS folks. TP in Germany is not a happy moment. I think our telephone books would be better. Recycled german tp is feels like an invitation to splinters. I can just imagine at other overseas locations.

Preparedness Pro's picture

Both, Jamie. Currently it's only 6 months past the expiration date though.

Two things.
Funds aren't always as available as I would like to allow me to purchase items to donated. However, if I have a coupon that I can't use and/or it is close to expiration date, I let it stick out between two of the items on the store shelf hoping that it will benefit someone else.

Not regarding coupons, but when I picked up my three children from their foster home on the day that they were to become my adoptive children, I noted that there were multiple garbage bags by the front door. When it was time to leave, the bags were taken to my car along with the little ones. What a sad thing for a child to have not even a suitcase to hold their belongings. I suggest donating suitcases and duffle bags to your local child protective service for their use with children who are in their custody.

Preparedness Pro's picture

I LOVE the coupon fairies who leave coupons behind for others! It's so much fun! Like a treasure hunt!

Hi Kellene,

I attended your bootcamp a few weeks ago and have since come up with a few questions and wanted to post them here so everyone can benefit from your answers.

-How many stores do you visit every week?
-How often do you go online to print out coupons?
-What is your newspaper coupon to printed coupon ratio?
-How often do you go and get a large load of groceries for nearly free (as opposed to 50-75% off)?
-When you do get food for nearly free is it most often because you have been able to combine manuf. coupons and store coupons? Or is it often just because of manuf. coupons and sales? (I'm just kind of confused about store coupons because I have seen very, very few.)

Preparedness Pro's picture

First of all, thanks for posting the comment/question so that everyone else can benefit as well!
Secondly, understand that I don't usually address these questions in the training because my answers may have nothing to do with your practice because every area is so different. If I lived in my sister's area, for example, in Kansas City, I would most likely visit 4 stores regularly because she's got awesome access in her back yard. In my area, I have 5 major grocery stores all within 1/2 mile of each other. However, when I lived in FL or Ohio, I didn't have the luxury. It all depends on where you are. I go where the deals are and I spend less time at the stores doing this because I go in, go out, and am done.
I print my online coupons throughout the week depending on when I get alerts. You need to print the online coupons as soon as you can because the manufacturers usually put a limit on the number they allow to be printed.
I get about 55%-60% of my coupons from the newspapers/magazines, and the rest via online printing.
I get free deals on items every single time I go out. It's my criteria to go out. It's what keeps me motivated. Even the best of jobs can still get boring, so I make sure I stay motivated by getting the most out of my purchases so that I can keep on doing the happy dance.
Store coupons usually come in the Sunday paper, the midweek junk mailer, or are available in the stores themselves. Stores using their own coupons is a part of the dance. They simply can't function without them. They eat and breathe their own promotions. However, that being said, I only use store coupons on about 10% of my total purchases. The sales combined with the manufacturer's coupons are usually sufficient. The store coupons combined with electronic coupons and the manu. coupons are just an added bonus.


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