I have found myself in the middle of this scene many times: it is Sunday morning. I find a hot store sale and a coupon to match it up with. Lo and behold, I can snag the item for nearly free! I head to the store and to my horror, the shelf has been emptied. There is no product left, and no good deals coming home with me today. As I head back out to my car, it starts pouring down rain…

Okay, I made that last part up for dramatic effect, but the truth is, nothing is as frustrating as hurrying to a store for a hot deal only to find it is no longer in stock. So what does this mean? Are you out of luck? Do you quit couponing? The answer is no! The bad news is, stores run out of stock. The good news is, there are five simple steps you can take to ensure that you still get in on a hot deal!

1. Anticipate your needs

If you know a sale on a certain item is approaching, stores are happy to order product for you. For example, you might see that Campbell’s soup is going on sale at your store in two weeks. Your coupon preview shows you that a high value $1.50/1 coupon will also be in circulation. You can call your store ahead of time and order as few as two or as many as 20 cans. Anticipate these sales ahead of time and save.

2. Ask for a rain check

Cashiers have pretty efficient systems in place now to issue rain checks to you quickly. If a store is out of stock and the sale terms don’t exclude rain checks, you can ask for one. This way, you can return to the store at a later time and still get the hot sale price without a hassle. Some stores say they will not issue a rain check on certain sale items, but it never hurts to ask. In some cases, a manager will still be happy to write one if he sees the store did not order enough product.

3. Put it on hold

Just like a shop will put a hold on those shoes you have your eye on, grocery stores will do the same for food items. If you are aware of a high-value coupon on cereal that is coming out on Sunday, you can go to your grocery store on Saturday and gather the number of boxes you wish to buy. Ask to place them on a 24-hour hold at customer service. When you return, they will be waiting. Remember to be considerate, as you don’t want to crowd your customer service desk. Don’t ask to hold three carts of groceries, but a handful of items is just fine.

4. Call around and save

If your local Kroger ran out of particular product you wanted, customer service will phone other locations to see if they have the product in stock (or you can do this yourself). If the alternate location is within a reasonable distance, it may be worth the trip. Weigh your options and see what will best pay off for you. If the location is too far, you can always have a friend or relative who lives nearby take advantage of the deal, and you can pick it up when it’s convenient.

5. Send out good shopping karma

The truth is, no one likes a shelf clearer! When taking advantage of a hot sale and coupon matchup, take only what you really need. Do you need all 125 cans of pasta sauce? Probably not. Why not leave a few for someone else, even if it’s just half a dozen cans? Instead, put some good couponing energy out there and take what you need, leaving more for others who want to take advantage of the deal. Hopefully, your kindness will inspire someone else and send some good couponing karma out into the world.

No one wants to miss a great deal and go home empty-handed. Give these tips a try to make your couponing experiences happy and profitable!