One of the main ways you can save on your grocery shopping is with printable coupons (also called IPs for “internet printables”). Here's a primer on how they work and what you need to know to make them work for you:
Who offers printable coupons?
- It started with groceries, but now you can get clothing, toy, and restaurant coupons online. There are even Organic Deals & Coupons. My tip–create a “junk email address” using a free service like Gmail or Hotmail and use that email to sign up for store and product offers and e-newsletters. You don't have to check it often, and all your “junk” will collect there instead of clogging up your personal Inbox.
- For a list of coupon printing sites, see my Coupon Links page. You can also just Google your favorite products and check their websites for printable coupons. Most store and restaurant coupons come within e-newsletters they email you.
Where can IP coupons be used?
- Grocery stores, drugstores, Target, Walmart, etc. take printable coupons as well as restaurants and stores that offer their own discounts and deals. Most stores have a printable coupon policy posted on their website, as Walmart does. The concern is that some customers have perpetrated fraud by simply photocopying IP coupons; by responsibly printing and using IP coupons, you're helping show store managers how they can be used legally.
What do I need to know?
- When you visit a printable coupon site like Coupons.com, you're able to print two of each coupon per computer. You'll notice that each coupon has a different numerical code on it. If you have a second computer in the house, that computer can also print two of that coupon. This is one of the ways that the super-shoppers get so many of the same coupon (I even ask my neighbors or friends to print for me if there's a really good coupon and I want multiples).
- Each IP coupon has a bar code that needs to print clearly in order to scan at the register. It costs less to print your coupons using the Black Ink Cartridge Only (that's a setting you can set on your printer).
- Most printable coupons (at Coupons.com, Betty Crocker, etc.) print in the first 1/3 of the page. I maximize my printing by printing three on a page, or if I print a single IP coupon, I usually turn the paper around to use the blank side for a second printing, and then cut the coupons apart.
When should I print IP coupons?
- Most printable coupons have a set number of prints before they disappear (such as 20,000 total over the course of a month). When a high-value coupon pops up online, it can be worth it to print right away if it's a product you regularly use so you don't miss out. On the other hand…
- Printable coupons usually print with an expiration date of 30 days from when you print. I usually wait until I need the coupon to print it, saving me ink and paper in case I don't use the coupon, but then I miss out on some of those high-value coupons. You'll have to try it both ways and see what works better for you.
What questions do you have?