A Primer on Rebates

17 01 2009

I’m offering a disclaimer here right up front: I am no expert on rebates, but I did have a reasonable success last year with $864.68 in cash back. To recap: I’ve already got $742.28 in hand with another $122.40 in the pipeline. Not bad. Of course, to keep it honest, I need to subtract $36.54 in postage and another small amount for the 79 envelopes I used, though I stockpiled boxes of envelopes for pennies when Eckerd’s went out of business.

OK, so the $846.68 question………..where do I get all my rebates?

1) Local newspaper coupon inserts. Along with the coupons, manufacturers will frequently offer rebates on their products in the Sunday coupon booklets. 

2) Manufacturers’ websites. Many companies will periodically offer rebates online. Consumers are able to simply print out a rebate form in PDF format.

3) Product packaging. Often a rebate form will be incorporated into the packaging of a product you purchase or the form will be included inside the package.

4) Store displays. This is where I find the vast majority of my rebates. They are frequently offered on tear pads or on tags hanging from products.

5) Online trading sites. It’s important to note here that it is illegal to sell coupons or rebate forms but there is a hot trading market for both. There are trading boards all over the Web on which rebate forms are “traded” for stamps, PayPal deposits, other forms or coupons and “concealed cash.” My favorite trading site is a members-only board linked to the site refundcents.com. Subscribers pay $12 for an annual subscription to the site, which is a wealth of information on couponing, rebates and other ways to save money. I have found this to be well worth the money and an invaluable tool not only with rebates but my entire frugal way of life. Through Sunday, by the way, you can try out the Refund Cents site for free.

Types of Rebates

1) “Try Me Free” rebates are pretty self-explanatory. Try the product, send in the UPC and/or a receipt, the form and the company rewards you with a check for the amount you paid. If you used a coupon, most companies still send you the full-price amount.

2) “Satisfaction Guaranteed” rebates are also self-explanatory. The company offers to refund your money if you are not satisfied with the product. Once again, you send in a form along with your receipt and UPC.  But what if you liked the product? I have read quite a bit of discussion online about whether it’s ethical to send for this rebate if you were satisfied with the product. What most savvy shoppers do, myself included, is write on the form that my family liked the product but would like to participate in the promotion anyway. I’ve never been denied.

3) Beer company rebates. These are my favorites! In North Carolina and 16 other states, the beer manufacturers periodically offer rebates to consumers for buying designated products — WITHOUT buying any beer. These rebates usually run for a month or two and follow seasonal themes. Right now, a lot of the rebates are offering to pay consumers to buy Super Bowl party groceries and healthy living foods. This is where I make the bulk of my rebate money.

4) Wine rebates are similar to beer rebates but are sponsored by wine companies.

5) Miscellaneous rebates are those rebates that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories. One that comes to mind from last year was sponsored by the Post cereal company and Honey Bunches of Oats. All you had to do was send in 5 coupons for other cereals and the Post company would send you a coupon for a FREE box of Honey Bunches of Oats.

Rebating advice

1) Read the forms carefully and follow the information to the letter. Abide by all requirements and dates.

2) Make a copy of your rebate form and any required receipts. If you don’t want to use your ink and paper supply, scan them and keep them in a separate rebate file on your computer. Whenever I am denied, I call the number on the rebate form and let them know I have a copy of my submission. Almost always, they immediately send out the rebate check.

3) Be organized. Keep all your current rebates and receipts in one place. As soon as you have made the required purchase, send in your rebate. Don’t wait and risk missing the deadline.

4) Consider keeping all your grocery tapes for a period of time. I keep mine for three months — just in case I happen upon a rebate that I can match up with previous purchases.

5) Have fun with rebating. Keep track of how much money you make. Or save the money to buy something you really want but don’t have the extra cash to buy outright. Last year, my rebate cash just went into the family budget. This year I’m saving it in a credit union account to put toward a special purchase. We haven’t decided yet what that will be but I’ll post about it when we do.

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9 02 2009
What’s in your mailbox? « Free to be Frugal

[…] without saying 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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