May 10, 2010

Ways to Make & Save Money #14: Take Advantage of Rebates

Every Monday, I share a way to make and/or save money, as I strive to achieve my New Year's Resolution of banking a large sum of money by year's end. You can read the rest of the series here.

Up until about two years ago, the only rebates I bothered with were for new cell phones and big appliances. But then I discovered that you can actually make money if you shop smart and send in for rebates.

For example, last fall, you could request a booklet from Kraft/Nabisco that contained not just coupons but a couple of rebate forms. One of the rebates was for a $20 check if you sent in receipts showing the purchase of 10 participating Nabisco cookies and/or crackers, 5 participating Kraft drinks, and 5 Kraft Mac & Cheese cups. Purchases had to be made between January 1 and June 30 of this year.

Back in February, Ralphs had good deals on Capri Sun and Kraft Mac & Cheese cups, and I bought some of both. (Thanks to Stephanie Carnes for the recommendation to get the Roaring Waters variety of Capri Sun for T-ball snack!) I realized that my purchases would match up well with the rebate, and that I was likely to purchase 10 boxes of cookies and crackers before the end of June since they're often cheap with coupon and sale.

I finished up my purchases over the weekend, and sent in for the $20 rebate. I spent about $15 on these groceries, and will get $20 back. And that's $15 I would have spent anyway, just because I got deals on the items. So that $20 check, when it arrives, will go straight into savings.

The SC Johnson rebate (pdf) that's valid through June 30 is another great example. You buy 3 qualifying products and get $5 back. The number of participating products is huge, so you can easily find 3 products that are very cheap, and then submit for the $5 rebate. For example, at Vons/Pavilions/Safeway stores this week, you can buy a box of Ziploc bags for 69 cents after the in-ad coupon and 40 cents/1 coupon in the 3/21 SS. Buy 3 for $2.07 + tax + 44 cents for the stamp, and get $5 back. You actually make money for buying something you probably would have bought anyway.

You can find out about rebates the same way you find out about other shopping deals - I list the big ones here at CFO, and you can find them at various deal blogs and forums as well. I think it's a good idea to set some parameters, especially if you're constrained for time. I generally don't submit for rebates less than $5. And if you're going to want to follow up on a rebate if you don't get it in a timely fashion, you'll want some way to organize your submissions so you can keep track of them. Just remember that rebates usually take 6 to 8 weeks for processing.

Keep an eye out for rebates in the late summer - back to school seems to be a popular time for high-value rebates.

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