Beat the Sunday paper: Print coupons yourself

- The Sunday paper is not what to once was. 

The journalism is still top-notch. The light features are still fodder for the water cooler. And the funnies are still, well, funny.

The problem is with the coupons.

“You're going to save more money even though you're printing them at home,” said coupon blogger Sarah Morris, who helps run YesWeCoupon.com.

Morris had flown to Florida from Missouri to attend the country’s largest coupon convention. As she mingled with her cost-conscious cohorts, she offered all who asked the startling bit of advice: print your coupons yourself.

Coupons of all sorts are readily available online. And they are not hard to find. The uncreatively named Coupons.com is among the largest repositories. On any given day, consumers can print hundreds offers.

Others coupon sites, such as RedPlum.com and SmartSource.com are hosted by the same companies that print coupons and send them for delivery in the newspaper.

PRINT MORE, SAVE MORE

Morris has run numbers. She‘s watched the trends. And she says people who rely solely on the newspaper for coupons are leaving money on the table every single Sunday.

"Printable coupons are often higher value than insert coupons,” she said.

We had to check that out. And we did. It didn’t take long to confirm what Sarah had said. Many coupons available online offered bigger discounts than those we plucked from the paper.

In one case, the offer in the Sunday insert required us to buy more than one item; the online coupon only required us to buy one. Many, many others offered an extra $.15 to $.50 compared to the newspaper.

We’ll caution you that a bit of work involved. Many coupon sites require updated software (such as Java or Flash) and will not work without the latest versions. We also found that we had to switch from one web browser to another to kick-start the printer in a few cases.

COST VS. SAVINGS

Then there’s the cost.

Printing at home isn’t free. Ink - -especially color ink -- is not cheap. We found that we could reduce the cost by switching to greyscale printing and/or printing more than one coupon per page.

It will also take time.

The online coupon clearinghouses are as stocked as the supermarket – and sometimes clunky to search. Slow, buggy, or both. We found that Coupon bloggers like AddictedToSaving.com and TrueCouponing.com can help streamline the process. They regularly match up deals and provide handy links that will take you directly to printable coupons.

Even when you account for the cost of your time, ink cartridges, and paper, Morris says coupons that you print at home still offer a much better deal than those clipped from the newspaper.

If you are unconvinced, she has a warning.

"You are missing so much,” she said.

COPYING IS NOT PRINTING

Not too far away from Morris was Bud Miller, with the Coupon Information Corporation. Miller is the industry's beat cop. He polices the coupon crowd for fraud.

"We fight the counterfeiters," he said.

He reminded that while printing coupons is legitimate, copying them constitutes fraud (it's in the fine print on the face of every coupon).

Miller warned that when coupons are repeatedly copied and exploited, manufacturers are far less likely to run future offers.

He said he was satisfied that the conventioneers were playing by the rules.

"It's good to see the integrity here," he said.

Morris agreed.

"We all want to save money, but we want to do it ethically," she added.

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