Rebates and Refunds

Back in the early 80's I was really, really into rebates and refunds. With 5 kids I bought a lot of groceries and household products (using coupons of course). Every receipt, wrapper and box that came into the house was saved after the contents was used. In my basement I had BARRELS of stuff. It was a mess - but it did bring in quite a few refund checks and free products.

At that time all that was required for a refund or rebate was the official form and the UPC or some other form of proof of purchase. Then the manufacturers began to make it more difficult to redeem their offers. They wanted the original sales receipt and proof of purchase. Suddenly all those barrels of stuff became worthless because even if I had kept the receipt it didn't match up with the refund timeframe. So I trashed it all (this was before recycling became popular) and gave up on refunds and rebates.

Since that time I've occasionally sent in a rebate form - mostly on larger purchases like computers or household appliances. But about a year ago I started noticing a new type of program - combined rebate booklets.

You've probably seen these in local chain stores. In my area drug and office supply stores use them. Each month a new booklet is published which contains rebate offers for many different products. You purchase the products throughout the month saving the receipts and proof of purchase. At the end of the month everything is mailed in one envelope and you receive one rebate check for all the rebates you earned that month. One drugstore, Walgreens, now allows you to enter your rebate information online and even offers you an additional 10% of your total rebate if you accept a Walgreens gift card instead of a check. OK with me - I can use it to purchase the next month's rebated products!

It's worth your time to sit down each week with the weekly ads, the rebate brochure and your manufacturer coupons. Many times you will end up with products that are free - or almost free. Here's how. First look for items that are on sale in the store's weekly sales flyer. Sometimes there will be a store coupon for the item. Next check your manufacturer coupons for this same product. Most stores will accept both a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon on the same product - giving you two discounts off the original price. Next check the rebate brochure for the product. If there's a rebate then that's more off the original price. Last week I had 6 items in one store that gave me that triple discount.

WARNING: It's easy to get carried away with this program. Many products in the rebate program will be expensive. Even if you're getting a triple discount it doesn't make sense to pay a lot for a product you won't use.

On the other hand, if the item is going to be free or almost free you may want to buy it anyway. Even if you don't use that brand of shampoo or flavor of kool-aid you can donate the products to a local shelter or food bank.

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Susan / TX
I make copies of every rebate I submit and I keep them in the back of my coupon binder along with the date when I sent them. Once I receive the rebate, I throw out the copy from my binder. This helps me keep track of which rebates I've received and which are still outstanding.

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