If you think rebates are a waste of time, think again!
Many items are free after rebate – or even turn you a small profit when combined with sales and coupons. Today I’m gonna spend a little time on this topic with you. I talk a fair amount about rebates on this site, so it’s something worth learning.
First off, confession time. I’m NOT the best at tracking my rebates. (Yeah, yeah, I’ll get with the program soon.) That being said, I sat and quickly tallied up all the rebates I’ve done in the last 6 months or so that I could recall or dig up online. The result? I’ve received nearly $250 in rebates back! All things being equal, I’d wager that at least $200 of that amount was completely free. And if I were to guess, I’d say I’ve easily received $350+ in rebates since the start of the year.
What sort of stuff did I buy on rebate?
- Computer software
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Diapers – Huggies, Pampers & wipes
- Copy paper
Does my list surprise you? I hope so. I want you to know that you can buy many, many things on rebate – not just computers or electronics. And, they are often VERY straight-forward to fill out! Let’s talk about a few various kinds of rebates, shall we?
These are rebates offered by the store. My favorite example would be Rite Aid. I just came from their handy rebate site and guess what? Since June alone, I’ve racked up $104.65 in Rite Aid rebates and gift cards! Sweet! Getting started is easy and free. Just create an online account. They offer new rebates each month (although some are only good for certain weeks during the month – so watch the dates!). After you make your purchases, go back online and enter the data from your receipt. When you are all done making your purchases for the month, request your check (but do NOT do this until you are sure you are DONE for the month)!
In the case of Rite Aid, you will receive a check that looks like a postcard – generally 2-3 weeks later. The process is very simple. And no mailing receipts, postage, forms, etc. required! Sometimes, they will have special rebate gift cards ON TOP of their monthly rebate. Here is a gift card I got for purchasing Kimberly-Clark products (I bought Huggies, specifically).
And here is a $20 I received for buying other stuff on rebate. I seriously spent pennies earning this.
Other stores that have rebate programs include office stores – such as Staples (which I also recently did and it was easy too). In general, I like store rebates. They are usually well advertised, and if you run into an issue, you can always contact the store directly as opposed to trying to hunt down a wayward manufacturer.
Have you ever seen those “try me free” tags that hang on products? Or maybe they’re printed on the box? Usually these rebate forms will require you submit your UPC and receipt. Some stores may be able to print a second rebate receipt. If not, I like to just photo copy the original receipt for my records and filing later.
You’ll also find these rebates in the Sunday inserts. Many times they are right next to a coupon. If you were paying attention today, you might have noticed there was one for Finesse Shampoo in this weekend’s SmartSource. Use the $1/1 coupon to help offset the cost of your purchase, and send in the rebate form with your receipt to save an additional $2 (incidentally, this item is $2.99 at Rite Aid this week – so after rebate and coupon, it’d be yours for free!).
Instant Rebates (AKA Catalina coupons)
Sometimes, you might receive store credit as soon as your transaction is complete at the store! These are called Catalina coupons (AKA off-your-next-order coupons or Register Rewards at Walgreens). I consider these to be a form of rebate because you must first purchase something to get the credit. (Unlike a coupon or sale where the discount is taken before you pay anything.)
How do these work? Buy the promotional items as specified. Sometimes it’s a quantity of a certain product you have to buy, other times it’s a dollar amount. For instance, you might have to buy 4 boxes of Post cereal at Albertsons in a single transaction. Then you will earn an “off-your-next-order” coupon once your transaction is complete. You can then turn around and use this coupon on virtually any item in the store you wish (there are a few exclusions – so always read the fine print). Here’s a pic to jog your memory. I bet you’ve received coupons that look strikingly similar to this with your receipt at checkout. Some are cents-off coupons, and others (like these) are good for merchandise in the store.
Get money/get items
Other rebates may be seasonal promotions. For instance, we recently saw a $10 Kelloggs rebate for back-to-school when you bought 10 select Kellogg’s products in a single transaction. There are also items to get items with purchase. For instance, right now you can score a free baby frog bath toy from Johnson’s with purchase of their baby bubble wash. Other times, you might not have to buy a thing! I scored this chic Gardenburger tote just by filling out a form I found in a Gardenburger flyer with coupons I found at Fred Meyer a few months back. Be on the lookout – rebates can be anywhere.
You can also score cash back for buying online! One of the more popular rebate sites online is Ebates. Setting up your account takes all of a minute. Then you select the store you had intended on shopping at – JC Penney, Target, Famous Footwear, etc. and you’re off! When you sign up you can earn a bonus $5 cash in your account or a selection of $10 gift cards. Go here to sign up with Ebates.
Here are some of my best tips for having success with rebates:
1. Track them. (Or not.) I think it’s generally wise to track your rebates (particularly the larger ones) to make sure you’ve received them. Make sure to follow-up with Customer Service if you’ve not received your rebate in the specified timeframe. Or, you can be rather willy-nilly as I have apparently been this year. The upside to not tracking them is that you never know what may appear in your mailbox. It’s sort of like Christmas every day for me because I never know what I might find in there.
2. Fill them out correctly. For Pete’s sake, read the instructions! If they say submit original receipt, do that. If they need all 40 UPC codes, cut them out. Make sure your name and address are printed legibly. Common sense stuff, folks.
3. Combine with sales & coupons. If there is a $10 rebate out on some fancy new candle, you could buy it at Store A where it’s on sale for $15. Or you could buy it at Store B where it’s $23. Or you could wait until Store C puts it on sale for $10 with a buy one, get one free and snag two for free. Think about it.
Favorite Rebates right now!
Now that we’ve talked about rebates, I want to share some pretty terrific rebates you could take advantage of right now. Wherever possible, try to combine sales and coupons with rebates to drive down your out-of-pocket!
The Caregivers Marketplace- ongoing – get $0.75 per jumbo pack Huggies plus many other baby and elder care items
Johnson’s Baby Frog Bath Toy- as mentioned above, here’s the full scoop!
Real Simple- going on right now! Earn $5 with the purchase of $15 or more select products
SC Johnson- LOVE this one – earn $5 with the purchase of ANY three SC Johnsonproducts
Nabisco - get $10 back when you buy 10 select Nabisco products
Rite Aid rebates- look for these peppered throughout my Rite Aid deals this week. Several items are FREE after rebate. Why not buy one, set up a Rite Aid rebate account, and get started?