Why coupon shoppers love rainy days

Q: "In a previous column, you mentioned shopping Sunday through Wednesday, or the days the sales cycles overlap at the store. A disadvantage is the stores may be out of sale items by the last day or two, but you can get rain checks, and then purchase when needed or when you get a coupon. Just this past week, toothpaste was on sale for $1.50 a tube, but my store had sold out. I had four coupons for $3 off two tubes of toothpaste, so I got a rain check and went back to get my toothpaste once it was back in stock. With those coupons, I got 8 free tubes! That's what I call a deal."

A: Rain checks are an excellent way to ensure you'll get the products you want, even if the store has sold out. They're also a way to extend the sale for yourself, buying a little more time to come up with coupons to match to a good sale price.

In a previous column, I discussed a promotion at my store in which dog food went on sale for $3.99 a bag ... and there were $3 coupons for the dog food in the newspaper inserts. Clearly, dog food for 99 cents is already a steal. But during that sale, after I purchased my bags of dog food with the coupons I had in hand, I also got a rain check for the same brand of dog food. Why?

Because in doing so, I bought myself another 30 days' worth of time to purchase that dog food at $3.99 a bag. And over the next few weeks, I got in touch with friends and family members who don't own dogs and asked if I could have their $3 dog food coupons. About three weeks after the sale ended, I went to the store, where the shelves were fully stocked, and I brought home even more 99-cent bags of dog food.

Any time I find bare shelves, I make sure to get a rain check for the items I'm looking for - but for a particularly good sale, it never hurts to get a rain check just to extend that sale a little longer for you, too. Even if you don't have anyone to trade coupons with, you might find coupons online or in upcoming newspaper inserts, weeks after the sale ended - and then, you can match them to the rain check and continue to stock up on that item at a great price.

Q: "What happens to the thousands and thousands of coupons that are printed for inserts to the newspapers that never get sold? I would like to find a way to have these sent to me. I am an avid coupon person and it makes me sick to think these go to waste."

A: You're probably not going to like this answer: inserts are typically recycled along with the unsold newspapers. (The horror! I'm also appalled at the thought of so many wonderful coupons going to waste. It's not time- or cost-effective for any newspaper to go through every single unsold newspaper, pull the coupon inserts and then find a way to get them into the hands of people who might want them. And, the coupon inserts are intended to be sold as part of the newspaper, not separately. Legally, coupons cannot be sold at all. (Read the fine print on any coupon for further information on this.)

But all is not lost. Avid couponers have found creative ways to get their hands on those extra coupons. Many gas stations and convenience stores will simply give you the unsold papers the next morning, especially if they're going to throw them out anyway. Ask the staff if you can stop in each week to pick them up! I know quite a few coupon enthusiasts who have also made arrangements with their newspaper delivery person to receive their surplus of undelivered newspapers. I know a woman who leaves a shopping bag filled with free and cheap groceries on her front porch for her paper carrier each Monday morning - and the carrier, in turn, leaves her a stack of his extra papers!

In short, it never hurts to ask.

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 jill@ctwfeatures.com.