I receive many letters from readers who share the same sentiment. They want to use their expired coupons somehow. Here are notes from two readers:
"I enjoy reading your column and was wondering if you have ever had any success using expired coupons in stores?"
"Why can't a store take coupons that are only expired by a few days? If my coupon expires today, surely the store is not turning it in for redemption the same day. If their window to redeem is bigger, can I use expired coupons longer, too?"
Last week we discussed why coupons have expiration dates to begin with. Manufacturers and stores want us to use them within a specified timeframe.
When it comes to expired coupons, I am a big believer in following the store's policy. Most retailers across the country will not accept coupons after the printed expiration date. The obvious reason, of course, is that the store itself will not be reimbursed for the coupon should they submit it for redemption after it expires.
It is true the store does have a little more time to redeem that coupon than we do. If a coupon expires today, the store has a window ranging from several weeks to several months to submit the coupon for redemption.
Remember, the coupon's expiration date is designed to get shoppers to purchase products within a specified time.
However, there are actually some stores that will accept expired coupons. Typically, these stores will accept coupons up to 60 days after the expiration date, when they can still submit those coupons for redemption.
A store that accepts expired coupons provides a nice incentive to shoppers. You can extend the window of time to use a given coupon a little longer, and you also increase your chances of matching that coupon to a good sale in the store.
To learn whether or not your store accepts expired coupons, visit the store's Web site or customer service counter and read the coupon policy. A store's coupon policy is one of a coupon shopper's biggest and best tools. You may be surprised to learn that your store accepts expired coupons in some circumstances.
If your store does not accept expired coupons, it's important that you do not try to use them there. Attempting to bend or break the rules at your store is never advisable. Cashiers remember frequent customers. It can give stores and staff a bad impression of "those coupon shoppers" if you are caught trying to pass expired coupons.
Never cut the expiration date off a coupon to try to fool a cashier. It's fraudulent to do so. Many cash registers now read an encoded expiration date automatically, so this dishonest ploy typically won't work anyway.
Where I live, I am lucky enough to have one store that accepts expired coupons. The policy is an incentive to shop there.
People often ask what I do with my expired coupons. The answer may make you smile, but it's true. I keep any high-value, expired coupons in a file crate in my garage, just in case this particular store has a great sale on those products. Trust me, there have been some fantastic sales that had me digging in the crate to find valuable, old coupons that I was glad I hung onto a little longer.
I don't recycle any of these coupons until they, too, have passed the window of redemption at this store, months after their actual printed expiration date.
No stores in your area accept expired coupons? There is one other way to use those old coupons instead of tossing them out. I'll share the tip with you next week.
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.super-couponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.