All About Couponing: Printable Coupon 101

by Marcy on August 18, 2009 · 21 comments

Yesterday I began my new and improved All About Couponing Series talking about coupon inserts. Today I want to spend some time talking about printable coupons. Specifically, what they are, how they can be used, where you can find them, how to spot a fake, and how to troubleshoot printing problems. Please note that I do not consider myself a printable coupon “expert”…these are just a few things that I have learned while using these coupons myself.

What is a Printable Coupon, anyway?

In a nut shell, printable coupons are manufacturer and store coupons that you can print off of the web. Most printable coupons can be printed twice (per computer) by either hitting “back” and “refresh” after printing the first one, or by returning to the initial page where you found your coupon and printing it again.

Sometimes you will be asked to load software on to your PC that will allow you to print coupons, but the process is typically quick and painless. This software is required by some sites so that the bar codes will print properly on the coupons.

Note: The sites that I promote on this blog are coupon sites that I have found to be trustworthy and reliable. Please be careful when downloading software from untrusted websites.

How can I use printable coupons?

Printable coupons can be used just like you use the coupons that you find in your newspaper inserts. It is important to note that not all stores accept printable coupons (this can vary widely even within the same metro area!), so be sure to check with your local stores to confirm that they do accept these coupons.

If you have ever printed a coupon off of the web, you may notice that some of them say “do not double”. It has been my experience that most stores *will* double these coupons if their store policy is to double coupons up to a certain amount. A trick that I like to use is to look at the bar code on my coupons to see if the first number (on the far left) is a 5 or a 9. Coupons with bar codes starting with 5 should double even if they state otherwise. Coupons with bar codes starting with 9 will not double. Most coupons that you come across will start with 5, with one common exception being the “blinkie” coupons that you find in the machines attached to your grocery store aisles/display cases from time to time (they almost always start with 9 and will not double).

Like the coupons found in inserts, some printable coupons are store coupons and others are manufacturer’s coupons. Most stores allow you to “stack” or use a store AND a manufacturer’s coupon on one product. For example if you print a Target store coupon for Colgate toothpaste, and have a manufacturer’s coupon from either the web or a coupon insert, you should be able to use both coupons in on one product. Again, this policy varies by store, so be sure to check with your local stores to better understand their policy. I always try to note when “stacking” should work in my weekly deals posts.

Finally, I have received questions in the past asking if you can use more than one manufacturer’s coupon on one product. Sadly, the answer is no. Meaning if you have 2 coupons for the same product (whether printable, from a coupon insert, or a combo of both), you cannot use more than one per item. The only time I am aware that you can use more than one coupon on one item is the scenario I listed above (store & manufacturer) and in the case of e-Coupons (which I will discuss tomorrow).

Where do I find printable coupons?

Printable coupons are everywhere! There are coupon services that exist solely to provide printable coupons. Several manufacturers also post printable coupons on their websites.

Here are a few of my favorite (and legit!) places to print coupons:

And a few manufacturer’s coupon sites:

Find tons of great printable coupons for your favorite products in My Coupon Database.

If you are looking for a specific printable coupon that you can’t find anywhere, always check out the manufacturer (or product) website. Most sites typically have a “special offers” or “promotions” page that sometimes contain great printable coupons!

How can I spot a fake?

This can get a little tricky, but I typically try to steer clear of coupons that are hosted on sites that I am not familiar with…especially if the coupons are on a PDF (or other type of) file. One exception I make to my “no PDF” rule is if the PDF file is hosted on the actual manufacturer’s site. Another sign that an Internet coupon might be counterfeit is if it sounds too good to be true.

In my opinion, the best way to avoid fake coupons is to stick to reputable sites (such as those listed above) when printing your coupons. When in doubt, you can always perform a simple Google search or check your favorite forum or blog to see if you can find info about the coupon in question.

tyle=”font-style:italic;”>Note: Each printable coupon is assigned a unique serial number. Your IP address and other information about your printing and coupon redemption habits is recorded on these coupons. If you attempt to make photo copies of these coupons you will get caught. Companies could block your IP address or take legal action, so please don’t do this!

How do I Troubleshoot Printing Problems?

Everyone seems to have trouble printing coupons on their PC from time to time. These problems can be caused by a host of issues ranging from browser incompatibility to not having the coupon printer installed properly. I have listed a few troubleshooting tips and resources below for common issues that I am aware of:

1) Bricks coupons tend to cause issues depending on the browser that you are using.

Here is an example of a bricks coupon link:

http://bricks.coupons.com/Start.asp?tqnm=qd2ofpe27206309&bt=vi&o=56178&c=KR&p=R6Q9AMlp

This particular coupon is configured to work for people using Internet Explorer. You can tell this by looking at the “vi” above in the URL (sometimes a “wi“). To make this link work for someone using Firefox as their browser, simply change the “vi” or “wi” to “vg” or “wg” and you should be able to print the coupon.

I try to make note of these when I can in my deals posts, but that isn’t always possible. Here is an example of what I sometimes write in my posts using the same link from above: Use $1.50/2 here (FF) or here (IE)2) If you experience issues printing coupons on Smartsource.com, it could be due to a variety of reasons. You can find a helpful Troubleshooting Guide for Smartsource.com here.

If you use Safari, word has it that if you change the “vi”, “vg“, “wi” or “wg” to “xs” that the coupons should print.

3) If you experience issues printing coupons on Coupons.com, you can find answers to your commonly asked questions here.

4) If you experience issues printing coupons on RedPlum.com, you can find answers to your commonly asked questions here.

5) Some coupons are hosted on PDF files. You will not be able to print (or even view) these files unless you have Adobe Reader installed on your computer. You can download it for free here.

Next Up in my All About Couponing Series: e-Coupon 101

Do you have additional questions about printable coupons that I didn’t answer here? Please feel free to email me or post a comment. Do you have a tip about printable that I didn’t share? Please feel free to share those as well!Find the entire All About Couponing Series here:* Coupon Insert 101
* Printable Coupon 101
* eCoupon 101
* Coupon Organization 101

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The O'Donnells August 18, 2009 at 1:52 PM

Thank you thank you thank you for taking the time to break down “couponing” into coupon inserts, printable coupons, and eCoupons. I am new to couponing, and am reading as much information about it as possible.

I do have one question. What is a catalina, andd how do you know you’re going to get one? Is it a coupon for the same product you just bought, or money off your next total(like cash?) I am familiar with Walgreens “Register Rewards” and CVS “Extra Bucks”–is it like those, but for a grocery store?

Thanks again for all the tips!

2 Loreli August 18, 2009 at 3:43 PM

Love the posts, have gotten alot of great info. I am a recent coupon convert/user and love the bargains I can get. I have always been frugal, but with the current state of the economy am looking for ways to tighten our family budget.

I often encounter that my printables won’t scan at the register?? This is especially true if I try to reduce ink and print in a fast draft or fast normal mode, but it also occurs when I do a normal ink sucking print!! Any thoughts or suggestions?

Thanks again for the great info!!

loriescoup@gmail.com

3 Anonymous August 18, 2009 at 6:01 PM

O’donnells,

many stores of implementing a catalina machine. It’s a program/printer used by a 3rd party vendor to help manufacturers stay competitive.

For example, if you buy a pack of Huggies diapers, the catalina machine might print out a Pampers coupon.

Companies pay for this point of sale competition to win your loyalty.

They are also used to promote products. For example, currently Kraft is doing a great promo at select stores where if you buy $25 of participating products, you get a $5 instant catalina coupon and a $20 mail in rebate.

Some catalinas are similar to RR or EB, some are coupons and some are rebates. It depends on what you get.

4 Marcy August 18, 2009 at 6:07 PM

Natalie –

A Catalina Coupon is one that prints out with your receipt at the register. Yes, it is a very similar concept to that of RRs and ECBs at Walgreens and CVS, but at the grocery store.

You don’t always know when you are going to get one, but sometimes you’ll receive info with your receipts telling you about an upcoming Catalina coupon promo. You can also find info about these types of promos on this blog and others like mine.

Hope that helps!
Marcy

5 Marcy August 18, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Anon – thanks for the additional info about Catalina coupons!

Loreli – is there any pattern to the coupons that won’t scan? Meaning are they from one place (coupons.com for example) or does this always happen to you at the same store? Or is it random?

6 shannon August 18, 2009 at 6:44 PM

just wanted to let you know that i am a safari user and once i learned about altering the letters to “xs” i got a lot more coupons to print. so yes, it definitely does work!

7 Loreli August 18, 2009 at 7:31 PM

Marcy — it occurs at many different stores and from different coupon sources. But I often wonder if it is the equipment at the stores. I went to one Target and everything scanned:)) I was so happy I told the young guy that I wanted his scanner so I could carry it with me!!

Most cashiers have the ability to force them thru but don’t seem thrilled to do it.

It is rather annoying as many cashiers and fellow customers kinda look at you like you are trying to pull some scam ….. but they were all legitimate prints.

Just thought this may happen to others and someone may have some suggestion that helps??

8 ljane August 18, 2009 at 8:21 PM

Thanks so much for all of the work that you do in order to help others save money!!

I am wondering if it is possible to print coupons in only black & white? My printer would not print coupons without a color cartridge. I bought one and it lasted less than one month. :( If I have to spend $25 a month on color cartridges, it doesn’t sound like such a great deal!

(I’m wondering if there is a specific printer out there that will allow me to get more bang for my buck.)

Any suggestions?

9 pcohen August 19, 2009 at 1:53 AM

How often are new printables added? Also, is there a limit to how many you can print? I know you said you could print two at a time, but could I go back the next day and print the same coupon again?

10 Marcy August 19, 2009 at 5:18 AM

pcohen – Printable coupons are all reset at different times. I know that you’ll typically find the best selection of printable coupons the first week of the month. Typically when you print a coupon twice, it will be a month or more before you can print it again, but this varies.

11 Anonymous August 19, 2009 at 12:37 PM

what is your suggestion on what to print? It would be a waste to print tons of coupons every month it seems. I never know what coupons to print and hang on to or if I should wait until I see the deal before I print. Do you have a method to this?

12 Jennifer August 22, 2009 at 1:20 AM

I was just wondering-you said that you can only use one manufact. coupon on an item. I have seen in some blog posts where people will say to use the “buy a Razor, and get a shave gel free” AND a $4.00 off the razor coupon. Is that true that you can use both in that situation? I have seen it a few times now but have not tried it because I wasn’t sure if it works.

13 Anonymous August 22, 2009 at 1:52 AM

I was having problems with my coupons scanning as well. I decided to buy a laser printer, boy what a great decision! I have saved so much money on ink- I only print black and white. And all of my coupons have scanned since I bought the printer in January. Laser is the way to go!

14 Marcy August 22, 2009 at 3:18 AM

Shannon – thanks for letting me know that the Safari fix works!

Anon – thanks for your tips on laser printers – I have researching this on my list of things to do (and write about).

Jennifer – I wish I had a good answer for you, but I have never tried using coupons like these together. Does anyone else happen to know?

15 Veronika October 4, 2009 at 6:12 PM

Thank you for this information – it really helped!

16 Anonymous November 11, 2009 at 7:17 PM

I print a lot of internet coupons and I’m finding that it’s costing more in printer ink! Ugh! Any suggestions out there?

17 Erin April 29, 2010 at 12:12 AM

I am having a problem printing coupons. My problem is that the coupon prints with no border, expiration, barcode number (just lines print). This all started happening when I hooked my computer up in my new house to my all in one printer. It is my default. When I lived at home I was hooked up to a single function printer and I had no problem. Is there something I am missing?

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