There are a lot of coupons that I clip or print but never use. In fact, I believe that having a coupon for an item often is not a good enough reason to buy an item. Many times, I insist on having a coupon and finding the item on sale in order for me to make a purchase. Unless there is an item to which I am brand loyal, I stick to the “two ways to save” requirement of having a coupon and finding the item on sale.
With that said, there are many coupons in my stash that go unused. My kids help me sort through my box every couple of weeks, and the pile of coupons we empty out of the box can really add up. But from that point, my coupons have a couple of options for extending their usefulness.
First, I can donate my coupons to military families overseas. These families can use my expired coupons for up to six months past the expiration date at commissaries on bases around the world.
There are a few different organizations that handle the shipment of expired coupons to these families. You can find organizations online or on Facebook that will tell you how to go about sending your coupons to overseas military families. In addition, if you know a military family that shops using coupons on the military base where they live, contact them directly and organize a group of friends who will donate unused and expired coupons to help these military families.
Of course, recycling my expired and un-donated coupons is the next step. I put my newspapers into a recycling bin at a school or a church in my area. These recycling bins help non-profit groups earn money from the recyclers. The more that gets recycled, the more money they earn from the recycler. So in addition to recycling the newspapers that I get each week, I also recycle the leftover coupons that do not get used or passed on to others.
There are two times, however, when I can use expired coupons at my local Publix store. If you have read my column long, you know that I like the very friendly coupon policies at my Publix stores. The ability to use expired coupons is another reason to add to the list of why Publix’s coupon policy is so friendly. If I want to purchase an item but that item is out of stock when I get to Publix, I always pick up a rain check. From time to time it takes a few sales cycles before that item is back in stock, and there have been times when my coupons have expired before the item is back in stock. In these cases, I check with customer service and let them know what has happened. I explain that I have returned to their store numerous times and that the items were still out of stock. I explain that my coupons are about to expire. Typically, the customer service employee staples my coupons to the rain check and sometimes initials them. When it is time to make the purchase, I simply hand the coupons, along with the rain check, to the cashier at checkout. I have never had a problem redeeming expired coupons in this manner.
Another friendly policy toward couponers at Publix is that in many Publix locations, the coupons that are redeemed all week are processed Saturday afternoon and evening. Therefore, if a coupon expires Sunday, but it would go along with a Publix sale that begins Wednesday, at many Publix stores I am able to use that coupon with the new sale as long as it is redeemed by Saturday night. You should check with your Publix store to be sure this is their policy as well. But using my expired coupons during the week in which they expire has never been a problem at my Publix store.
So these ideas should help you decide what to do with your expired coupons. Sometimes these ideas can help you save more money, and sometimes giving them away helps others save more money. Just remember when making your grocery list that it is important not to decide to make purchases simply because you have a coupon.
Better to have clipped and then toss them than to spend more money than you should just so you can use that coupon before it expires.
Rachael J. Mercer is a freelance writer and coupon workshop instructor who lives in McDonough. To learn more about Mercer or her workshops, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.