I was looking through our website analytics last night, and someone found us searching for the phrase “can you print coupons at the library?” I thought it was a great question, so I wanted to answer it. There are a number of reasons you might want to print coupons from your local library. Maybe you haven’t been able to afford a printer at home and are looking to save some money for your family. Maybe a particular deal at the grocery store this week is so good that it’s worth spending a little in printing charges to get more copies of the necessary coupons.
So can you print coupons from the library? Well, maybe. It depends on your library’s rules and their computer use policies.
Couponing Software And Library Computers
Nearly every legitimate online coupon site relies on some sort of coupon printer software to process requests to print coupons. This software is downloaded the first time you try to print from a given computer, and it activates silently in the background whenever you try to print a coupon. This software is what ensures that users can only print a limited number of coupons, and without that software present on your computer, you can’t print coupons. Each site tends to have its own proprietary coupon software, so you may have 5-6 different coupon programs on your computer if you do a lot of couponing.
Access to this coupon software is probably going to be the biggest hurdle keeping you from printing coupons from the library. Library administrators have a vested interest in preventing patrons from installing unknown software on their public-use computers — malware, viruses, and illegal programs are all liabilities for libraries that can cost time and money to deal with.
If you’re lucky, the library computers will already have coupon software installed, if some other couponing patron got to them before you did. If not, you’ll have to install that software yourself. If the computer doesn’t have any security restrictions, you may be able to do this without any problems. If the computer does have restrictions, you may need administrative access to install the coupon software. If something like that comes up, go talk to the librarian. If you explain what you’re trying to install and why, there’s a decent chance they’ll be okay with it and will help you get set up.
On the other hand, don’t be surprised if the library has a draconian policy forbidding any outside software installations. Libraries that have been burned time and time again by patrons installing malicious programs may decide on a no-tolerance policy. If you run into one of those, you’re probably out of luck and might want to try another library (if there’s one nearby).
The Cost Of Printing
Most libraries these days charge a small fee for every page you print from their computers, usually around 25 cents per page, although that amount can vary wildly from library to library. This cost will limit which coupons are worth printing. That said, as long as the coupons save you more money than it costs to print them, they’re probably still worth it, especially for Grade A deals that get you free stuff.
Make sure to only print coupons you’re absolutely sure you’ll use — there’s no sense paying for coupons that might not actually save you any money. When possible, print more than one coupon per page.
Print Limits Still Apply
Even though library computers are public access, the coupon companies have no way of knowing that. Once you print that $1.00 off Huggies coupon twice, no one else can use that computer to print that coupon. Given the sheer variety of coupons out there and the fact that many libraries have multiple public access computers, this isn’t likely to be an issue, but it’s something to keep in mind — you may go to the library planning to print a particular coupon, only to find out someone else got to it first. Again, make sure you’re only printing coupons you’ll actually use, so you can leave the rest for others.
So, Should You Print Coupons From The Library?
This is kind of a tricky question.
If you have no other way to print coupons and need to save money for your family, you should absolutely see if you can get them through your local library. Those savings will let you divert funds to other necessities, so you can get out of the hole and improve your standard of living. If there’s nothing more pressing, maybe use your savings to fund a printer of your own, so you can print your coupons at home.
If you have a printer at home and you’re just looking for a way to get extra copies, it’s probably not worth the time and effort in most cases. The cost to print will cut into your savings, plus there’s the time and travel costs of getting to the library in the first place. It might be worth it for certain particularly remarkable deals, though. That said, because of per-computer print limits, you may actually be preventing someone who needs those coupons more than you from getting them, and that’s just greedy, so use your own judgment and don’t abuse the ability to print coupons from your library.
Have you ever printed coupons from the library? Would you?
Photo by Liz West