Are all newspaper coupon inserts of the same value?

Jill Cataldo

Q: My mom and I get different newspapers, and she saves her coupon inserts for me each week. I have noticed that the coupons that come in her paper are often different from the ones that come in mine.

The coupons are usually for the same products but the dollar amounts are different! On the same day we both had coupons for dishwasher detergent. My newspaper had a $1 coupon. Hers ran the same ad with a $5 coupon for the same product. Is this normal?

A: It's no secret that different newspapers may carry different coupon inserts each week. What surprises many new coupon shoppers is that different coupon inserts often have the same front and back covers, so they appear to be the same. But inside, you may find coupons for different products, even in papers in the same market area. Or you may find coupons that appear to be the same at first glance, but on closer inspection carry different dollar amounts.

Why is this? When manufacturers run promotional campaigns, they may vary the products and the terms from market to market. They control which products they promote in specific areas.

They also may choose to offer higher coupon values in one publication than in another. With the dishwasher detergent coupon noted in the reader's letter, the week it was issued the company distributed three different versions: a $1 coupon, $2 coupon and $5 coupon.

An informal survey of family and friends found that some of us received the highest value coupon while others got lower values. We all receive the same paper but live in different delivery areas.

Q: Is there a way to get coupon inserts without buying the newspaper every week?

A: I can't fathom why anyone would not want to buy the newspaper every week for the coupons alone! That $1, $2 or $3 investment can easily net you $50, $75 or $100 in coupons each week. My newspapers pay for themselves after I've used only a couple of coupons, and then, all of the other coupons I use in the following weeks and months are essentially "free money" to me. In fact, some weeks I buy extra copies of the newspapers to get the coupons.

My newspapers offered a coupon for a free eight-pound bag of a premium dog food. I bought 10 papers simply for that one coupon. Not only did my newspapers immediately pay for themselves but I also have 10 extra sets of coupon inserts from that week to help me on many other products.