Couponing 101 – Paying it Forward
I was sitting here trying to decide what this week’s topic would be and I landed on “Paying it Forward”. I know it really isn’t directly related to Couponing but it is strongly promoted throughout How to Shop for FREE by its Members, Moderators, and of course, Kathy. The first time I met Kathy it was at a Couponing for a Cause Event that she was facilitating. I had been part of the How to Shop for FREE Community for some time and thought this was a great idea. We all met at Kohl’s in Danvers, MA and the beneficiaries of our efforts that day were those affected by Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the freebies we got at Kohl’s many of us brought donation items from our stockpiles. As I drove home I thought about what had happened earlier that day. A group of strangers got together in an effort to help another group of strangers who, in some cases had lost everything. It was a little overwhelming when I realized the impact that each of us may have had on someone’s life.
I’m sure most of us started Couponing to save a few dollars, stretch our budget, or put some money away for a special purchase. What we How to Shop For FREE’ers soon discovered is that the secret to shopping for free is to buy everyday items when they are free or nearly free and buy enough to at least get us through until the next time the item is free. Then we discovered that items like toothpaste, shampoo, body wash and other basic staples are free A LOT. I ended up with so much more than I realistically needed. The next logical step for me was to start sharing my products. I’m probably the only one in my workplace that knows what brand of toothpaste, laundry detergent, shampoo, and cereal most of my coworker use. That’s not too weird, is it? Even after sharing with friends, family, and coworkers there was still enough to share so I started looking outside my circle. My employer rounds up donations every year around Thanksgiving for a local organization who makes holiday baskets for their elderly and disabled clients. The baskets include food and toiletry items as well as a Turkey or Chicken for their holiday meal. For me, this has been my end of the year stockpile purge for the last several years. I also organized a food drive in my cooperative. We then expanded it to include other household items and toiletries. The effort has expanded and we now collect donations year round. If one of our Members is in need, we can often help them out. These same people are more than willing to provide donations when they can. It’s truly neighbor helping neighbor.
Keep in mind that paying it forward doesn’t have to be with stockpile items. It can be with knowledge. How did you feel the first time you scored your first deal or big haul? Wouldn’t it be cool to share that feeling with someone else? Maybe that friend that you shared your knowledge and a few coupons with was secretly wondering how they were going to feed their family and they were too embarrassed to seek out help. You never know the impact that one simple gesture can have on someone’s life. I just get so excited when I find a deal I want to share it with everyone. I guess I’m kind of a bargaining geek. I love to learn and I love to teach so as long as I have an audience I will share my tips and tricks of shopping for free.
Paying it forward is very personal and each person does it in their own way. There is no right or wrong when it comes to paying it forward and there is no couponing “rule” that says you have to. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the subject as well as some of my experiences. If you have a story about paying it forward that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear it.