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Printing coupons can waste money

By Naomi Mannino ·
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Posted: 5 pm ET

Every month, I clean out my pile of expired coupons. This was made even more annoying recently when I realized I was removing unused printed online coupons -- a lot of them.  That's the same day my $15 black ink cartridge went empty, which prompted me to wonder: How much was I spending to save money by printing coupons, and how many of us couponers are in the same boat? According to eMarketer, online coupon usage has increased by about 4 million users every year since 2008.

I decided to get the official word and called up Lyra Research, the digital imaging research authority. I spoke to consumer imaging senior analyst Larry Jamieson, who said, "Printing a lot of coupons can get expensive, far exceeding the cost of the machine, as the marketers have put the burden of the printing on you, the consumer. But how expensive depends on the printer."

I bought my all-in-one inkjet printer more than six years ago, and Jamieson says the older printers can be even more expensive.  I'm spending about 5 cents per page in printing black and white and up to 30 cents per page for color.  So I asked him about those cheap $68 printers on the market today. "The cheaper the machine, the more expensive the ink, " he says. "Our research found that the worldwide printer cartridge replacement market (inkjet and laser toner) is worth significantly more than the printer hardware market."

Jamieson says if I upgraded to a new inkjet device in the $100 to $200 range, my printing costs would go down to 1 cent per page for black and around 10 cents per page for color. What about laser printers? "Laser printers run a bit more. With a monochrome (black only) laser printer in the $100 to $200 range, you'll find the black cartridges top $50 and cost 3 to 6 cents per page," he says. It used to be that laser was cheaper than inkjet, but inkjet technology and design has caught up.

I'll just wait until my printer dies, and in the meantime I'll take Jamieson's advice to avoid wasting money printing coupons.

  • Choose the black-and-white only setting, so color will only print in grayscale.
  • Set the printer to a default economy, draft or fast mode.
  • Copy and paste (whenever possible) as many coupons into a one-page Word document, and print only when full.
  • Only print the coupon -- nothing outside the coupon.
  • Print only the coupons you know you will use.
  • Track your printed coupon usage during the life of your next ink cartridge, and see if the savings add up to the cost.

Coupon mom Stephanie Nelson also reminds that most grocery and drugstore coupons online can be found in your local Sunday paper inserts. "Buy extra Sunday papers during weeks that have a lot of coupons you use.  If the total value of coupons you would use is more than the price of the newspaper, that's a no-brainer. "

The old proverb, "penny-wise is often pound-foolish," comes to mind when I think about coupons I printed and didn't use.

How do you stop yourself from wasting money printing coupons?

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January 11, 2012 at 10:18 am

Print the coupons to a PDF file and save them electronically. When you need to use one print it on paper when you know you need it. You can also reprint the PDF coupon as many times as you like and also share the PDF file with friends/family via email. You can also email yourself the PDF file and access it from your smartphone at the store. There is lots of PDF printing software available for free or for purchase. and are two free ones that I have used and they both work well.

You can take this a step further and print everything (or almost everything) to PDF electronic files. Receipts, emails, tax returns, funny jokes, anything you might want or should keep. No more boxes/files of papers just so you have them. When you think about it for most things you only need to access them when you need them and they don't have to be on paper, just available to access. You can always print them if you need them on paper later, which usually isn't needed. Enjoy!

January 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Print the coupons at work and it costs you nothing !