Internet Coupons 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Printable Savings

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I recently received an email from a reader who had never printed online coupons before. I felt badly because I’d never considered the possibility that we have readers who haven’t tried online coupons yet – even though I hopped on that bandwagon late myself.

So this post is for all of our readers who still haven’t tried it. You have nothing to lose but a few seconds and some scrap paper. In fact, printable coupons may be the closest we’ll ever get to having a money tree in the backyard.

If you’re already an e-couponing pro, feel free to share your own tips with us by leaving a comment below. But for now, here are mine…

  • Print coupons ASAP, even if they don’t expire for a while or you don’t plan to use them immediately. This is perhaps the most important tip. Internet coupons can be pulled down at any time. Some also have print limits, which means they’re first-come-first-served. You never know, so always print coupons as soon as you happen across them.
  • Use scrap paper. I keep a bin of scrap paper next to my printer so I can easily swap out my clean paper before printing coupons. Just make sure that the scrap paper doesn’t have any personal info on it before you hand your coupons over to the cashier.
  • Hit the back button after printing a coupon from Coupons.com. These coupons are limited to one print per printer. I’ve seen extreme couponers set up multiple printers just to be able to print multiples of the same Coupons.com coupon, but there’s another way around the limit. Internet lore says that your printer will spit out a second copy if you hit the back button after the first one prints, and I find this usually works. Here’s an example of a Coupons.com coupon from the Deals & Coupons page so you can try it yourself:

Ghirardelli chocolate: $1 off any 4.12-ounce-plus bag of Squares Chocolates (print first – click the “Get Coupon Now!” link at the bottom center of the page) [12/31, unless it runs out of prints sooner].

Just keep in mind that Coupons.com probably tries to limit coupons to one per person so that the maximum number of people can use that coupon. So, printing more than one of a limited-run coupon is like depriving another couponer of the chance the print it even once.

  • “Unlike” Facebook pages after printing their coupons. Most Facebook coupons require you to first “like” a product’s or company’s Facebook page. If you’re like me and don’t want your Facebook News Feed cluttered up, this requirement could get annoying. But there’s nothing stopping you from clicking “Unlike” (which you’ll find at the bottom left of the page) after you print the coupon. Here’s an example of a Facebook coupon that requires you to “like” the product first:

Yogurt: Four coupons, each for $1 off these YoCrunch products: Fruit Parfait Multipacks, Cookie & Candy Multipacks, Greek cups, and YoCrunch cups (“like” and print first – you can “unlike” right after printing if you want) [9/6].

  • Get organized. It doesn’t matter how you keep your coupons in order – and you don’t need complicated 4-inch-thick binders like you may have seen on TLC’s Extreme Couponing show. Even the simplest system will keep you sane so you can enjoy the savings. I don’t use that many coupons, so I have two envelopes: one for food coupons and one for everything else. Within each envelope, I organize the coupons by expiration date, but some people organize alphabetically or otherwise. To each her – or his – own.
  • Make sure you get the best deal. Coupons don’t replace comparison shopping. Just because you’ve got a coupon doesn’t mean it’s the cheapest way to buy a product. For example, while a coupon can make a brand-name product cheaper than its generic equivalent, sometimes it’s cheaper to toss the coupon and buy the generic.

Karla Bowsher runs the Deals & Coupons page; posts deals every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; and shares consumer wisdom every Thursday. If you have a comment, suggestion, or question, or if you want to share a great deal you found (she’ll credit you), leave a comment or email her at karla@moneytalksnews.com.

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