Printable Grocery Coupons: Worth the Effort?

Printable grocery coupons seem like a good idea, but some stores just won’t take them.

Printable grocery coupons have been offered on the Internet for almost two decades now — basically for as long as the ‘Net’s been a widespread and popular phenomenon. Unfortunately, they’ve always been an iffy proposition for consumers, because many retailers won’t take them.

So, should you bother printing them out and trying to use them? Can they really save you money, or are they a big waste of time? As with so many things, the answer is, “It depends.” It’s certainly possible to cut your costs, assuming you do things right.

The Problem

You’d think that printable coupons would be a great deal for everyone involved, especially the companies offering the coupons, because they didn’t have to print and circulate them. And they’re great for the consumers, because they’re so easy to acquire.

The problem is that it didn’t take long for someone — or a lot of someones — to foul the nest.

Counterfeit coupons appeared on the ‘Net almost immediately, created by people who weren’t associated with the companies that made the products in question. Grocers unknowingly accepted them for a while, because they looked genuine… and lost a lot of money when the manufacturers refused to redeem them.

The Backlash

After that, most grocers refused to accept most printed coupons, since it was obvious that anyone with a good graphics program and some computer skills could fake them up. Some stores still won’t accept online grocery coupons even today.

Admittedly, there’s still a lot of fakery out there, but it’s actually possible to cut the cost of your groceries by using online coupons. You’ve just got to do two things first: download your grocery coupons from reputable sites, and check with your local grocer to see if they’ll accept them.

The Process

Acceptable online coupons must always include a scannable bar code, the manufacturer’s authorization and address, an expiration date, and standard limitations like “one coupon per customer per visit.” Of course, just because it looks legit doesn’t mean that your grocer will accept it.

If you have any doubt at all, stop at the courtesy booth before you shop and get the coupon approved in advance.

You’ll have an easier time of it if you print your coupons exclusively from reputable sites that actually work with the manufacturers and have their full authorization to produce the coupons (some sites still don’t). We recommend the following sites: CoolSavings.com, Coupons.com, and Valpak.com.

The Bottom Line

Online coupons have a bad rap because of scammers in the past, but if you’re careful, you can still save money with them. Just remember to do your homework first, because all printable grocery coupons are not created equal!