I began couponing in mid-2011 after seeing our Krazy Coupon Ladies, Heather and Joanie, on Fox and Friends and the Nate Berkus show. It intrigued me because I view couponing as a strategic game. I find it very entertaining, and it provides me with the ability to save money and help my friends, family and community.

At the beginning of 2012, I decided to get more serious about couponing and to track my progress throughout the year. I read the KCL blog religiously and took advantage of many of the deals. With the close of 2012, I decided to evaluate how I did this past year. Here are my results:

Savings

I saved over $6,000 in 2012 by using coupons and taking advantage of store discounts, fuel discounts, and rebates. That amount does not include rewards from various panels. The money I saved paid for a trip to Walt Disney World that my sister and I took with my two nieces this summer. On New Year's Eve, my younger niece said that the trip was her favorite part of 2012 (and that was priceless!).

Charity

  • Food banks and shelters: With my small couponing stockpile, I am able to donate to two local food banks on a regular basis. I also provide cleaning supplies and toiletries to local shelters. Coupons often allow me to buy free travel size items (which are great for shelter donations). If I can purchase anything free with coupons, I buy it whether I will use it or not because I know I can always donate it.
  • Children: A group of us put on holiday parties at a local children's home. Couponing helps defray costs for food, crafts and entertainment. I also donated several toys to a Christmas toy drive.
  • Elderly: My employer collects Christmas gifts for a local nursing home. Items I purchased throughout the year made great gifts.

Rewards

I belong to several rewards panels. I spend fewer than five hours per week across all of the panels. However, I received many rewards in 2012: Free iTunes gift cards, free restaurant and store gift cards, hotel reward points (used for a free night's stay on our drive to Disney), free DVDs and cash to my PayPal account.

The primary panels I am a member of are:

e-Rewards Opinion Panel: Membership is by invitation only (sponsor companies can invite their customers to join). Participants receive an e-mail notification when new surveys are available. They can be completed quickly; I typically receive a few each week.

MyView: Register online to join the panel. Based on each participant’s demographic data, there are different surveys that can be selected. Participants receive e-mail notification of new surveys, but I often find that even when I did not receive a notification, there are still new surveys available. I tend to visit this site once or twice each week and take the available surveys.

Ipsos i-Say: I also registered for this panel online. I receive notifications by email when a survey is available. The surveys are not as frequent as other sites, and I qualify for fewer of these surveys, but even if I do not fully qualify, the site has fun games to play along with other features that make it worth a visit even when a survey isn’t available.

National Consumer Panel:  I actually found out about this panel on the KCL site! You register online and, if approved, they send you a handheld scanner. You scan your purchases each time you shop, and the data transmits to NCP. Points are awarded for each week that you transmit purchases. You can also earn points by taking the few surveys they make available each month. You are able to purchase items from their gift catalog with your points. Items include gift cards and merchandise.

My proudest achievement of 2012 happened because of my involvement in the National Consumer Panel. The panel ran a Veterans Day contest, and I nominated a local veterans organization for an award, and they WON! They received a $5,000 check to make improvements at the facility. I was thrilled that my couponing could pay off to help such a deserving group.

With the exception of NCP, because I do scan every purchase, my participation on the panels ebbs and flows throughout the month based on what is going on in my life. Some weeks I have more time than others to spend taking these surveys. I have accepted that it may take me longer to receive my rewards, but that is okay. In addition, with the miraculous invention of the Kindle Fire, I can multi-task and take the surveys while I am watching TV, sitting in the doctor's office or waiting for something to cook on the stove. Just keep it fun and do not let it consume your life!

As I begin 2013, I am confident that the skills I am learning while couponing will improve both my life and the lives of those around me. Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2013!

This has been a guest post by Kim from Barre, VT
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