The anatomy of a deal

24 03 2009

img_1616-1I got six bags of Doritos today at Harris Teeter, and did not pay a single penny of real money. I thought it would be interesting to blog about it to show how one deal can roll into another. And sometimes, when the coupon stars align, you get an unbelievable deal.

Today’s Doritos deal was one such deal, and on the eve of triples no less!

OK, here goes.

Doritos regularly sell for $3.99 a bag, though I couldn’t imagine paying four bucks for a bag of snacks. Total for six bags: $24.

Ending today, Harris Teeter had them BOGO. (Buy one, get one free.) That reduces my total to $12.

Next, I used a $3 coupon and a $2 coupon that I received in the mail this week as part of a Pepsi promotion I did back in January. My new total: $7.

I paid with an American Express gift card I received back in January from Home Depot as an apology for a promotion gone wrong. My out-of-pocket expense: $0.

To sweeten the deal even further: I will use the receipt from this transaction to cash in on a beer rebate offered by Budweiser for $5 back when you spend $5.01 or more on snack foods. No beer purchase is required. So ultimately, I will MAKE $5 on the deal. Don’t you just love it when a deal comes together like this.

What great deals have you run into lately? Please post below how you work your coupon magic.


The rare and wonderful wine tag

30 01 2009

Today I hit the wine tag jackpot.

Hanging from the necks of  wine bottles much like a necklace, the tags are designed to pull the shopper over to take a look at the wine. But for me, the tag is the real gem.

To a couponer, wine tags are truly a treasure because they typically offer money off on meats, seafoods, cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables — all items for which there are rarely any coupons. And if you are trying to eat healthy, as our family is, it’s hard to keep your grocery budget in check because so many coupons are on packaged foods.

Next to beer rebates, wine tags are probably my favorite type of coupon so you can imagine how thrilled I was today when, while picking up a bag of dog food at Food Lion, I happened upon wine tags for $3 off meat, compliments of Blue’s Corner wine . Any meat. No minimum purchase. Better yet, here in North Carolina, there is no requirement to buy the wine to use the coupon.

I then went over to my favorite Harris Teeter to scout out any meats dated today that were being marked down. Score. I ended up paying 22 cents for a pound of Angus stew meat that regularly would have cost $4.51. I paid 44 cents for 1 1/4 pounds of ground beef regularly priced at $4.91. I’m envisioning beef stroganoff with the stew meat and sloppy joes with the ground beef.

That’s 66 cents for nearly $10 worth of meat, a 93 percent savings!

Gotta love those wine tags.

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 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.

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.