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Before we begin this post, I have make a confession: Prior to becoming a coupon blogger and a SAHM (and now a homeschooling mom), I was a math teacher. A middle school math teacher.
**Pause while everyone gasps in horror**
Yes, I know, quite terrifying. And you know what? I loved it.
Teaching math is my passion. And 11-12 is my absolute favorite age to teach. You know, 6th and 7th grade? Everyone else’s worst nightmare?
Yes, I’m aware I’m weird. But being a math teacher is so much a part of me, just like being a mom or being a Chronie (I have Crohn’s disease).
In fact, teaching is so much a part of me, that when I first started using coupons (a couple of years after I stopped teaching so I could stay home after having my first child), all I could think about was how much I wished I known this back in my teaching days! In order to fulfill that wish, I’ve created a mini math unit you can use to teach your kids how to coupon AND use math!
You see, using coupons is all about math. It teaches math concepts all the way from elementary school to middle school, and even into high school! Check out our post on the 12 math concepts that can be taught by using coupons.
Sample Unit Outline
Since I can’t go back to the classroom to teach kiddos there how to use math with coupons (and thus answer the age-old question, “When will I ever use this in the real world), I am going to teach y’all how to teach your kids math with coupons!
But first, we need to learn how to coupon! So this post is kind of a two-in-one deal. As I walk through the steps of how to coupon, I’ll also break down what match concepts can be taught along the way. (And, of course, there will be a ton of life skills in this as you help your kids make shopping lists and use a budget.)
First, pick a grocery store
Please don’t try to coupon at a store that you’re unfamiliar with. Just choose the store that you typically buy your groceries at. If it has an app (like Kroger, Safeway, or Target), then download the app as well.
Second, get a Sunday paper
The majority of coupons still come in the Sunday paper. If you can afford it, sign up for a Sunday newspaper subscription to be delivered to your doorstep! I recommend signing up HERE, because you can get discounted newspapers (save up to 92%!). Other coupons can be printed online or downloaded digitally to your store’s card from their app.
In each paper are booklets with coupons in them, called inserts. Just pull out these inserts and write the date with a Sharpie on the front. Keep them in a filing cabinet (or even a stack in the corner) for future use. We’ll explain what to do with them later.
Math tip: This is a great time to teach your younger children about how to write dates, and how to put items in order by date. If you choose to get more than one newspaper (so you can use more than one coupon), then you can un-collate the inserts, which demonstrates patterns. (All of the first pages go together, all of the second pages go together, etc. to cut them out more quickly.)
Third, start looking at the grocery ads
There are a few ways that you can do this.
- Look at the ads that come in the Sunday paper or weekly circular in your mail
Math tip: this is a great time to start talking about percentages, specifically how much % off an item is if it went from $5 to $4, or what 25% off of the price of an item would be.
- Download the app Flipp, which has a scan of the ads from all of your local stores. You can even search the ads to find the price of items in each of the ads, like milk!
Math tip: This is a great time to teach kids about greater than, less than, or equal to (especially with decimals!) You can also use this time to teach about rounding.
- Go to our favorite couponing blog The Crazy Shopping Cart to get coupon matchups
- What are coupon matchups? They’re what your mom used to do for hours each week, only someone else has already done it for you! Some blogger (like us!) has gone through the store’s ad, and matched every single item in the ad with any available coupons!
Fourth, look for coupons
Now that you have an idea of what’s on sale that week, see if you can find any coupons that go along with them! You can search this coupon database to find out if the item you’re looking at has a coupon. If it does, it will tell you the date of the Sunday paper the coupon came in. (Or if it is a coupon that you can print, it will be linked and you can print it.) Then you can go over to your stack of coupons
Math tip: this is a great time to talk about addition and subtraction with lining up decimal points. If an item costs $5.99 and the coupon is for $2 off, then it is $3.99 (not $5.97).
One of our favorite ways to save is with the Ibotta rebate app. When you purchase any item listed on the app, you can scan your receipt and they will give you a rebate (we cash it out to Paypal) for that item! (Bonus: if you download it here, you can get an extra $10 when you redeem your first rebate!)
Fifth, decide if it is a good deal
When couponing, you want to make sure that what you are purchasing is a good deal, and not being fooled by the bright colors of a “for sale” sign! To help with that, our friend’s website provides a stock-up price list. This list gives ideas of how much you should be paying for an item.
When you are comparing prices, however, you need to make sure that you are comparing apples to apples, and not apples to oranges. One simple example of this is if the sale says $2 for a gallon of milk, or $1.25 for a half-gallon of milk. Which is the better deal? (Hint, it is not the cheaper price of $1.25!)
Math tip: this is where some heavy math comes into play. You are going to be switching between units, calculating unit price, and multiplying/dividing with decimals and perhaps fractions. If this is something you are rusty on, check out this stock-up price list. If you want to simplify this for younger children, then you can try rounding some of the numbers.
As you can see, making a shopping list with coupons can be rich with mathematics! For middle-school age kids, you could comprise an entire unit based on setting a monthly budget and making grocery trips with coupons once a week that stay in that budget.
Math tip: you could also go as detailed as providing specific recipes, calculating how many pounds of flour are needed for the week, and then double recipes that have amounts as fractions and in different units.
Oh! One last thing!
Sixth, follow the rules.
Before you run off to the grocery store, I just want to go over a couple of rules real fast. These are rules that apply to every single store, pretty much. (If you want store-specific rules, you can see some of them HERE.)
- You can only use one coupon per item. Even if there is a digital coupon for $0.50 off mayonnaise and an insert coupon for $0.75 off mayonnaise, you can only use one or the other (unless you buy two). This is written on every coupon as, “Limit one per purchase.”
- Some coupons will state how many of each kind of coupon you can use at once (the term for this is “like coupons.). You will see something like, “Limit 2 like coupons per transaction per household per day.” This means you can buy two items and use two of that coupon.
- If the coupon doesn’t have a limit, some stores will have a limit. Target limits you to 4 like coupons per day, and Kroger limits you to 5 (although only 2 if they are printables).
If you aren’t sure, just ask a cashier! If you tell them that you are new to using coupons and want to make sure you use them correctly, they will be more than happy to help you!