DEAR JILL: It seems like every time I see a good deal in the store, it is on something I didn’t expect to buy at all, and then I am torn whether I should buy it or not because my coupons for that item are at home. I cut and bring the coupons along that I plan to use, which is a much easier system, but those deals that get away nag at me. Do you just buy them without a coupon anyway if the price is really low? — RANDI G.

We’ve all been there! I’ve certainly felt the excitement of seeing a great item on sale or even better — on clearance for 75% off — only to realize that I don’t have a coupon on hand to drop that great price even further. Should I purchase the item anyway? Or run home, clip some coupons and come back to the store?

If your store has a coupon app, you can always check it from a smartphone while you’re in the store to see if there are any electronic coupons for this item. If so, activate them, and they’ll be applied at checkout.

If you can’t find an electronic coupon and the item is truly a fantastic deal, the chances are high that another shopper may buy that closeout product before you do. That’s why it’s worth researching your store’s policy on redeeming coupons post-sale.

Most major grocery stores and drugstores have written coupon policies that detail all of the ways you can use coupons in your store. These documents can typically be found on the stores’ websites or at the service counter in the store. They’re worth perusing, because you may learn a variety of things about your store’s rules for coupons. Some stores may accept competitors’ coupons. Other stores may accept two coupons on a “Buy One Get One Free” sale.

One policy that may surprise you if you’re not familiar with it: Some stores allow shoppers to redeem coupons after a sale has taken place! One of the major supermarkets in my area has a 60-day post-redemption policy. Shoppers can purchase items, then return to the store with their receipt and the coupons they want to apply to it. The store then issues the value of the coupons to the shopper, either in cash or in-store credit.

I recently scored an incredible deal on grain-free dog food for my favorite four-footed friend. I was browsing the pet aisle and spotted 16-pound bags of grain-free dog food on clearance. Grain-free pet foods are typically expensive, and the regular price on the shelf tag for this brand was $35.99. However, it was on clearance for $8.99!

I knew that I had seen coupons for this brand in recent newspaper inserts, which I keep cataloged at home. I purchased all three clearance bags. Then I went home and used a coupon database to find the coupons I was interested in. (There is a free coupon database on my blog at if you’d like to try one.)

The coupon database told me which insert had a $3 coupon. I subscribe to two copies of the newspaper each week, so I clipped both of those. Before heading back to the store the following week, I also paid a visit to my public library to see if I could garner one more $3 dog food coupon.

Have you ever thought about how many newspapers libraries receive? What does your local library do with the coupon inserts it receives each week? It’s worth finding out, as if your library saves these coupons, they may share them with patrons.

Our library files the coupon inserts each week and makes them available to their members. After a quick trip to their coupon file, I picked up the one extra coupon I needed.

The next time I went to the supermarket, I redeemed my dog food coupons, along with my previous receipt, and I received $9 in cash. This dropped the price of each bag to just $5.99 — a fantastic way to coupon-shop after the fact!

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, Email your own couponing victories and questions to

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