Cha-ching: Rebates add up

8 01 2009

I admit it: Before last year, I was one of those people who said they were going to mail in rebates on groceries, tax software and appliances. Then, the form would sit on my kitchen counter until buried under piles of my children’s schoolwork, junk mail and newspapers. Or I would use the product and forget to clip the UPC code. Or I would simply procrastinate until one day, I would declare to myself that today would be the day that I sat down to once and for all fill out that rebate form only to discover that I had missed the deadline.

That was the old me. The new me, starting Jan. 1, 2008, decided to approach rebates differently. I wanted to know if rebates were really worth the time and effort. All these months, I worked hard at “rebating” and documented my successes and failures so I would have real evidence to reach a verdict. Last week, I added up the numbers:

Number of rebates: 79

Number of refusals: 2 (equaling $7 total)

Money earned: $742.28 with another $122.40 in the pipeline

Largest single rebate: $50 on patio furniture courtesy of the Coors beer company. (Gotta love those beer companies who sponsor rebates on items other than beer.)

Smallest rebate: $2 on a greeting card. (Ok, ok. Minus the 42 cents, that’s only $1.58. You are starting to doubt me here…. But if you saw $1.58 lying on the ground wouldn’t you bend over to pick it up?)

Products sent: coupons for a free toothbrush, a free box of toothpaste, a free DVD rental, a free box of cereal and $15 in Pepsi coupons.

Postage costs: 42 cents X 79 rebates = $33.18

Labor costs: mmmm. This is where rebate naysayers would argue that the return isn’t enough to justify the time investment and aggravation. But I tend to disagree. As my year of rebating progressed, I was able to streamline my methods. I tried to fill out rebate forms as soon as I received them and clip the corresponding receipt to it until I was ready to send it off. Additionally, I made a habit of keeping all my receipts clipped together so in the event I was missing a receipt I knew exactly where to go to look for it. (No frantic flailing through the desk drawers, my purse and the floorboard of the minivan.) Finally, I often filled out these rebates while watching TV or during other down times when I wouldn’t have been doing anything productive anyway.

What did I do with my rebate cash: In 2008, I would periodically take a wad of rebate checks to the bank, cash them and use the cash at the grocery. This year, I plan to put all the rebate bucks in our credit union account and watch it grow. I think it will be fun to set a goal for a family purchase. Perhaps it will be next year’s frugal vacation.

Watch for a future post on the how-to’s of rebating.

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5 responses

8 01 2009
Sprchk

I just sent in $68 worth of rebates. Ten envelopes, so $4.00 (since I bought Forever stamps way back when they were still 40 cents each). I have no idea how many will come back to me, but it even one does (The lowest amount was $5.00), I will make up for the cost. My goal this year is to keep track of the results better, so at the end of the year, I know how often the checks actually came through.

On the side, I am so excited you started a blog! I will be checking in often!

Sprchk 🙂

9 01 2009
Planet Perspectives

We have a $50 rebate due soon, for my new cell phone. My husband bought it, and knows where everything is, but it is worrying me that we could lose the money if we don’t send it soon!!!

9 01 2009
freetobefrugal

In my vast experience in procrastination, I would definitely recommend you mail your cell phone rebate in soon. In my former life, I let many a rebate expire. I would also make a photocopy of all your paperwork because if something goes wrong you will have no recourse without it. Also, don’t be surprised if your cell phone rebate comes in the form of a gift card. That’s how ours have been. I then immediately use it when paying the cell bill online. The company, of course, is banking on the fact that most consumers will either forget to send in the rebate, will somehow fill it out incorrectly or will shove the gift card in a drawer and forget about it until after it expires. I’m convinced that’s why companies use rebates so widely for marketing. Call me a cynic but I think it’s true.

9 01 2009
freetobefrugal

Thanks for checking me out, Sprchk! What do you plan to do with all your rebate cash?

10 02 2009
What’s in your mailbox? « Free to be Frugal

[…] that cash rebates are my favorite thing to receive in my mailbox. Check out my posts here and here to learn more about cashing in on […]

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