“Dear Jill,

I like getting my newspaper for my coupons, yet I will say the coupons haven’t been very good for a while. The worst part is they expire so quickly — why? You can’t imagine how many times I went to use a coupon only to discover it expired.

Please talk to the people who put out their coupons and ask them to get their acts together. I’ve been so disappointed. I’ve tried to sign up for coupons, yet with a limited income I cannot afford to keep buying ink and paper for my printer. Please help. I wanted to write the paper myself and say, ‘Come on — start giving us coupons we can use again with longer expirations.’”

Kim M.

In some cases, coupons’ expiration dates have been shortened specifically to combat coupon resellers, which have long been a scourge on this industry. I’ve noticed manufacturers really are becoming proactive with the shorter dates, especially in recent months. If you are unhappy about the short dates (you’re not alone, of course), the people selling coupons online are really the ones to blame. By shortening the window of usage, manufacturers are making it more difficult for resellers to acquire coupons, clip them, and make them available to ship, as the shipping time cuts into an already-short window of time.

The issue of insert diversion is rampant. In many cases, coupon inserts are being stolen from the newspapers or distribution centers. It sounds like a small problem, but it’s grown out of control both due to the number of people willing to buy coupons online, and also due to the number of people willing to take the risk of stealing them for resale.

You may wonder why the newspapers don’t keep coupon inserts under lock and key, but it seems they simply do not give coupon inserts the same security a similar quantity of dollar bills would receive.

To discourage theft and resale, brands have shortened expiration dates. Coupons with a two-week date have to be stolen, cut, organized, listed online, and shipped to buyers in a time window that’s shorter than ever.

I do speak with a variety of manufacturers regularly, but until the issue of insert diversion is solved, I simply do not think we are going to see longer expiration dates. The newspapers involved with ongoing diversion issues need to step up their security and prevent the inserts from being stolen in the first place.

As far as asking brands to “get their act together,” remember that coupons are a privilege, not a right. They’re a marketing tool used to drive people to purchase a product. They aren’t gifts to help us financially, although many of us use them that way. Coupons are designed to bring a product’s price to a tipping point where buying the product becomes attractive.

Additionally, writing your newspaper to ask for longer expiration dates will not work, as your newspaper has no control over what kind of coupons appear in the inserts. The types, values, and duration of coupon offers are completely up to the brands and manufacturers.

Despite these issues, coupons that appear in the newspaper do account for the majority of coupons issued by manufacturers. According to Inmar, 90.1 percent of all coupons issued in 2016 appeared in freestanding newspaper inserts. I would never recommend cancelling your newspaper — it is still our largest and most cost-effective source of coupons.

With regard to your issue of the cost of printing coupons, it’s true that it’s more expensive to print coupons at home than it is to purchase the newspaper each week. Here are two of my favorite tips to cut that cost: Print on scratch paper — anything with a blank back side is fair game in my house! Second, look into purchasing expired ink cartridges online. (I often find them on Ebay.) I have yet to have an ink cartridge that’s new, sealed, yet past its date code not work in my printer. I often find them online for less than $5 per cartridge.


Jill Cataldo is a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three.