We all love a great deal, right? That’s never truer than when there is a rock bottom price on a popular grocery item—because everybody has to eat! Depending on where you shop, the shelves might be cleared before you ever make it to the store—sometimes even on the first day of the sale.This is one of the biggest frustrations I hear from friends who are trying to save money. It takes valuable time to scour the ads, make a list, clip coupons and shop at your store(s) of choice. Finding the shelves empty after all that work can be discouraging enough to make you want to throw in the towel on couponing.
But have no fear, because my friend Megan has a solution to this common problem … the rain check! A rain check is simply a store’s way of honoring a sale price past the sale date when they are out of an item. Most stores, especially drug stores and grocery stores, will offer a rain check if you ask. I am often surprised how many people do not utilize this great tool. There are many benefits to getting a rain check.
✅ The greatest benefit of the rain check is that it allows you to return to the store at a later time to purchase the item that you want.
Life is busy and we rarely have time to run around from store to store looking for one item, not to mention that the money you spend in gas doing that probably negates the savings. Just ask for a rain check and get the item next time you are shopping. Easy!
✅ Another benefit of rain checks is that they allow you to spend the money when you have the money.
For example, one of my local grocery stores had a great price on boneless skinless chicken breasts last week. I wanted to stock up but we were a few days from payday and I really didn’t want to spend the money on something I didn’t need right then. Not willing to pass up the sale, I sent my husband to the store to pick some up anyway. They were sold out and thankfully I have trained him well, so he asked for a rain check. The chicken is no longer on sale, but now that my bank account has been replenished I can take my rain check to the store and stock up.
✅ Sometimes there are sale items that are a good price, but would be even better with a coupon.
However, you may not have a coupon for the item at the time it is on sale. There have been many times when I obtained a rain check and then found a coupon for that item in the next week’s coupon inserts.I can take that coupon to the store with the rain check and buy the item at an even lower price than expected. It isn’t something you can always count on, but it is a great bonus when it happens.
✅ Some items have a short shelf life.
My grocery store will often run out of things like strawberries or bagged salads when they are priced right. I may be able to get a few items during the sale, but you can only use so much before they go bad. A rain check comes in handy because I can use up what I have on hand and then restock later at the same price. Then there’s no worry about your food going to waste. If it spoils before you can use it, it isn’t a good deal. Rain checks help spread out the savings over time on perishable items.
There are some things you need to be aware of when using rain checks.
✅ Expiration dates: Most rain checks expire in 30-60 days.
The expiration should be clearly noted on the check. If you are using manufacturer coupons with the rain check, the store will generally not accept them if they are expired. You may be able to use a store coupon that has expired with a rain check, though. One exception is CVS Pharmacy … their rain checks do not expire. I love that!
✅ Stores may not offer rain checks on all items.
If the ad reads “While Quantities Last” that is a good clue that they will not offer rain checks. Seasonal items are often not eligible for rain checks. The stores generally only allow rain checks on items that are regularly carried and restocked.
✅ You will probably be required to fulfill all aspects of the original offer when you use a rain check.
If a soda deal requires a $25 minimum purchase, then the store may require you to spend $25 when you use the rain check. If there is a promotion where you have to buy 10 participating items, you may be required to buy 10 of the item you have a rain check for at the time you redeem it. You can sometimes get around these restrictions, but be prepared for them.
✅ Stores will sometimes allow substitutions rather than rain checks.
It never hurts to ask. This can sometimes work in your favor if the brand you prefer is not on sale. Most likely you will be offered a store brand. Be aware that you will not be able to use your manufacturer’s coupons if you substitute for a different item.
✅ If you need an item right away and cannot wait for a rain check, price matching at another store is a good alternative.
It may be easier to locate the item at a store that does not have a sale on the item. Walmart and Target are best known for price matching, but there are other stores that allow it as well.
✅ If there is an item limit listed for the sale, that limit will also be included on the rain check.
If there is not a limit, the store will often ask how many you want and create a limit on the rain check. Always ask for more than you need … if you change your mind you can buy less, but they probably will not allow you to buy more than the rain check states. You may be able to ask for multiple rain checks for the same item so that you can structure your purchases to maximize coupons or shelf life.
✅ Rain checks are generally only given for advertised items.
Most stores have dozens of “unadvertised” deals every week, but the cashier does not have the time to check the shelves and verify the price for these. If it is in the weekly ad, you have a much better chance of getting that rain check.
Remember that rain checks are for out of stock items only … be ethical and do not try to take advantage of the store. Stores want to please you and want your business, so it never hurts to ask what they can do for you when they do not have what you need. ou just might be surprised how easy it is.
And, don’t forget that if you shop online for any of the items you use on a regular basis – you can use the Ebates website to visit your favorite stores and earn cash back!