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Shortcuts: Sharp answers to couponer's FAQs - Jill Cataldo

Q: "This week the deodorant that my husband uses is on sale for $1.99. I have two manufacturer coupons for $1 off a purchase of two deodorants. Can I use both of those coupons when purchasing just two deodorants?"

A: No, you cannot. While it might seem like you should be able to use two of these coupons on two items, a coupon for $1 off two items actually functions as two 50-cent coupons to the register. Because manufacturer coupons are "limit one per item purchased," this coupon does indeed apply to both items. When the register scans that coupon, it will take a 50-cent deduction from each item. At that point, the register will not accept a second manufacturer coupon on the same item. This would violate the "one per purchase" terms of the coupon. If the clerk scans a second coupon, the register will beep to reject it.

Q: "I went online to search for coupons for coffee and ended up at a web site that wanted all kinds of personal information, including my birth date, and required multiple surveys. Before I even finished filling out the forms, someone called me asking about something I did not even sign up for. Perhaps you should warn readers that this is a major marketing ploy to get our personal information and track our shopping, so they can barrage us with advertising."

A: There are many sites on the web that offer printable coupons – some legitimate, some not. Probably the worst way to look for printable coupons is with an Internet search engine. It's easy to end up on a spam site like the one you described, which is designed to harvest and sell your personal information. Worse, you may fill out all of those forms and discover there was no coupon to print at all.

The best and safest way to find printable coupons online? Stick to major, well-known coupon sites and manufacturer web sites. The three most reputable coupon sites are Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and RedPlum.com. They are free and require no personal information.

Each site offers new printable coupons every week, and most of these offers have a print limit of two coupons per computer. Remember to go back to the link after you've printed your first coupon and print another. (When we're stocking up during a good sale, it's always beneficial to have multiples of the same coupon!) Many well-known product manufacturers offer coupons on all three of these sites.

Manufacturer web sites are also great places to find coupons. Always visit a manufacturer's site typing its address into your browser (i.e. www. Pillsbury.com) so that you're certain you're on a legitimate web site for printing coupons.

Some manufacturers' web sites require you to register before printing coupons, but it's typically not the kind of invasive registration that you experienced. I usually use a different e-mail account, rather than my regular e-mail address, to register for coupons. Set up a free e-mail with Yahoo or a similar service and use that for coupon-related e-mail. And remember, never disclose any personal information you're not comfortable giving out.

Q: "How many printable coupons do you print, Jill? It seems like every week there are hundreds of new ones."

A: Oh, there are! And because many of the coupons are often offered repeatedly, I don't waste time or paper printing coupons I won't use. I typically only print the coupons I'll actually use for this week's shopping trip.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own c.