What do you do with expired coupons? Are your outdated coupon inserts lining the bottom of a birdcage or filling up the recycle bin? There is a more productive way of using those expired little slips of paper.
Many of us take coupons for granted. The newspaper arrives every week with a new supply of coupons for us to use, match up to sales and save some money with.
But it's a different story for our military families stationed overseas on U.S. bases. It's difficult for these families to obtain manufacturer coupons via the paper, yet they are able to use coupons to shop at military commissaries.
We all want to save money. The current economy is difficult no matter where you happen to live. Luckily, there's a great, easy way to help military families save money — by sharing our unused coupons with them.
Did you know that overseas military commissaries accept coupons up to six months past the expiration date? Months after you've recycled unused coupons, a family halfway around the world could be using them to save money on their groceries and other household expenses.
It's been quite some time since I mentioned sharing your unused or expired coupons with military families, but these emails from a reader made me realize it was worth a mention again.
Q: "Over a year ago, my newspaper ran your column about donating unused coupons to military families overseas. I convinced my Sons of the American Revolution chapter, a small 25-member group, to undertake such a service project.
"We recently sent our 11th package for a total of $191,810.25 in coupons! Even a small group can make a difference. Even when only a third of our coupons get used, it's still a lot of money the sailors and Marines don't have to take from their pockets."
Q: "Our local VFW chapter has been collecting coupons for quite some time now. You can just drop the coupons off and they take care of sending them to the bases.
"I have personally taken the VFW more $6,000 worth of coupons in the past year and I still drop them off every month. It's so easy to help."
A: Isn't that incredible? One reader put thousands of dollar's worth of coupons into the hands of different military families, and another spearheaded an effort that sent nearly $200,000 in coupons overseas. This is a very easy way to make a real, tangible difference in people's lives!
Would you like to start sending your expired coupons to a military base? Here are a couple of websites to help get you started:
— The Overseas Coupon Program, http://www.ocpnet.org ,
One of the largest and longest-running websites spearheading the coupons-to-military effort, the OCP has excellent, step-by-step information on how to sort and package coupons and how to choose a base to send them to.
— Coupons to Troops, http://www.couponstotroops.com .
Coupons to Troops has great information on how to sort and mail both expired and unexpired coupons to troops, with lists of both overseas bases and organizations within the United States that collect and ship coupons.
To send coupons overseas, you have the option of choosing parcel post, which is slow but less expensive, or priority mail. Donating coupons this way means you pay for postage, but it's a wonderful way to help those serving our country save money.
To prepare coupons for shipping, both sites advise sorting them. Separate coupons into two bags, labeling them "food" and "non-food." (Food is defined as anything that goes in your mouth, so coupons for medicine, candy and gum would also go there.)
Remember that it takes time for shipped coupons to reach their destination, so don't send coupons that are on the verge of hitting that six-months-past-expiration window.
It's better to send coupons that have been expired for two to three months so the coupons have time to arrive and to be used.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, http://www.jillcataldo.com . Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org .