Today I was scouring Sunday’s ad circulars for some FFF – fabulous frugal finds. And Walgreen’s, as they do most weeks, had three rebate promotions, which reminded me I owe you this post.
The items offered were Nature Made vitamins -$8, Colgate advanced toothpaste – $2.99, and Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew – $12.99. So, if free is always good, why didn’t I run down and purchase these? Because in order to get Free, I have to deliver $26 to Walgreen’s now.
Successful rebating requires that you determine whether your time and effort are worth the rebate amount. For active rebaters, it’s easy to have several hundred dollars pending return at any given time. You know your budget. Set an amount you’re willing to have in limbo. For me, the decision is a combination of the rebate value, my desire quotient for the product, and what I can buy the item for without a rebate.
Let’s take the Walgreen’s offerings:
Vitamins – $8. This time it’s a no. I’m stocked up right now, vitamins are offered BIGIF weekly, and I have coupons. I’ll wait until I can get two bottles for $8, use my coupons and end up with 2 for $6. Same with the toothpaste. It’s on sale for $1.99 this week elsewhere and I have a coupon. I’ll pay $0.99. After a stamp, it costs me $0.60 more, but there’s no aggravation cost. The Skin Renew is a definite maybe. If I thought my skin would look like Sarah Jessica Parker’s afterwards…
Rebating can be very helpful for a frugal budget, but, in truth, I’m not a fan. It’s a lot of work. It takes time, effort, exceptional organizational skills, and, on those occasions when you don’t receive your money back, grrrr guts to fight for it. Let’s be honest, if they truly wanted you to have the item for free, they would have issued a free coupon. Manufacturers count on people not following through with the required elements to receive the refund. Think of it as running hurdles. You’re at the starting line, your money is the finish line. Here are my tips for navigating the hurdles in between.
1) Read the terms & conditions. Make sure before you purchase that the rebate program is what you expect. There is nothing worse than expecting $$$ back and having coupons arrive in the mail.
2) Buy each item on a separate receipt.
2) Fill out the rebate form IMMEDIATELY, prepare a mailing envelope and attach the receipt. Put everything in the envelope.
3) Since most times the manufacturer requires a UPC from the product, you need to be sure you can consume the product by the “must be postmarked” date. Often rebate lead times are short, and there’s nothing worse than purchasing an item for “free” and missing the rebate due date. Here’s a tip: Cut out the UPC code from the box, bag, whatever, and use packing tape to reseal the package. If it’s shampoo, lotion, something like that, you might be able to transfer it to a bottle you have on hand. Whenever possible, mail the rebate when you first purchase the product. Oftentimes, you wouldn’t have bought the item if not for the rebate. Don’t cost yourself money by missing your refund.
4) If you can’t mail everything immediately, use your email calendar to send yourself reminders of due dates. Schedule a reminder for a week before the rebate’s “gotta be postmarked by” date. Then, you have some breathing room to use the item and find a mailbox.
5) IMPORTANT: Before you mail, make sure you have a copy of all the required information for the rebate: the form, the receipt, the UPC, anything else they requested. Another tip: I staple everything to a sheet of paper so nothing is “lost” and copy that.
6) Now, it’s time to set up your tracking tools. I use Excel and a file folder. My 8 1/2 x 11 copy goes in the folder by date mailed. I set the spreadsheet up with the Product, Date Mailed, Amount Due, and Expected Receipt Date (like in 6 – 8 weeks.)
7) Some rebates offer on-line tracking. If your item does, check for the status of your submission. If not, wait patiently.
8) Don’t get antsy yet.
9) OK, start checking the mailbox.
10) Woohoo. It’s here!! Remove the copy from your file. I like to mark them with the received date and keep them to track what I’ve saved. You may want to toss it – just be sure to shred first. Then, mark it complete on your spreadsheet.
Now, what if you followed steps 1 – 9 and nothing arrives? It’s a week past the 6 -8 weeks, then 10 days. Here’s where grrrr guts come in, which we recently had to employ with Fry’s Electronics. We purchased Norton’s 3 computer virus protection for *Free* after the rebate. $50 is definitely worth the effort so I employed all of the above, tracking my submission on Symantec’s site. However, when the check was due to arrive, guess what? We didn’t qualify for the rebate according to Fry’s. Thanks to our documentation and followup – better known as harp, call, complain – we received the rebate.
Granted, I don’t rebate often, but this is the only time I’ve had to employ grrrr tactics. If you follow the rebate directions your money normally arrives. But, occasionally mail is lost, usually not by the post office, but by the rebate processing company.
Check out this article, and no, I’m not picking on Frys. It just happens to be an article we found when employing our grrrr guts.
If you can provide all the documentation and follow up with your own grrrr, you’ll usually succeed in getting your $$$. Like I said, it ain’t for wimps.