I have been a big grocery coupon user for years, as many of you readers are. As far as I’m concerned, coupons are free money and are readily available. In fact, 99% of grocery coupons are thrown away so I even benefit from friends and family members who happily give me their unused coupon circulars. I save twice as much and they do not suffer the guilt of throwing away perfectly good currency.
But I will admit that I have not been an avid user of rebates. I have tried them in the past and found that I managed to misplace receipts and rebate forms, missed deadlines or overlooked required details. In spite of making an effort, I would get a card in the mail that simply explained I had not met the requirements of the rebate offer. So I gave up.
In recent years readers have let me know that I should be taking advantage of the new, easier rebate programs available. They assure me that there are generous rebates available that are easier because they require fewer steps and are easier to track. It is true that rebate offers can be very lucrative because most people do not take advantage of them.
Earlier this year I decided to give rebates another try. Recognizing that my problem probably had more to do with my disorganization than the rebate itself, I set out to find an easy rebate system that would work for me.
I am happy to report that I have saved over $120 in three months by completing a few simple forms. The money has come in the mail, I have not received any “rejected rebate” cards and to be honest, I haven’t spent very much time on it. So I thought I would share my rebate secrets with those of you who consider yourselves to be “rebate-impaired.”
I tested two types of rebates. One type is rebates offered directly by the manufacturer for various grocery items (purchased at any store). The other type is drugstore rebates, which are offered by individual drugstore chains like Eckerd, Rite Aid and Walgreens. This column will discuss how to find good grocery rebates and my next column will explain how to use the drugstore rebate programs.
My easy system assumed I would only do rebates that offered a generous payout of at least $10 or more for each rebate. Once I decided to complete a rebate offer, I immediately addressed the envelope to the rebate center and put the rebate form and shopping list (with any coupons that applied) in the envelope. I folded the envelope and put it in my coupon organizer. When I shopped, I immediately put the receipt in the envelope instead of in my wallet or in the bag. When I got home, I filled out the rebate form and cut off any required UPC codes from the packages (which only one out of five rebates required). All I had to do at that point was stamp the envelope and mail it. No digging receipts out of my purse, no searching for the rebate form, and no missing details!
You can find generous grocery rebate offers in the Sunday newspaper coupon circulars, from tear pads posted on store shelves, at the customer service counter at your grocery store, and on the websites of food manufacturers. Look for the word “promotion” or “special offers” on manufacturers’ websites to see if they have printable rebate forms available.
I received a $10 cash rebate for buying 20 cans of vegetables, broth and tomatoes. Because the items were on sale and I had coupons, I ended up making a couple of dollars after receiving the $10 rebate!
In addition to cash rebates, I also took advantage of free merchandise rebates if they did not require much effort. For example, by cutting out the UPC codes from two boxes of cereal (purchased on sale with coupons) and mailing them with the rebate form, I got a free Curious George computer game for my son. By cutting out three UPC codes from Campbell’s products (again, purchased on sale with coupons) and sending in $1, I got a Campbell’s cookbook that included several stories about professional football players. My sons asked me to order the cookbook because of the stories, and I found the recipes were pretty good!
|Copyright 2006, United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
United Feature Syndicate