Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lesson 9: Grocery Mail-in-Rebates

Financial Planning for the Recent Graduate



I absolutely love mail-in rebates.  This is a quick lesson and an easy lesson to pick up and implement into your life.  Part of why this series was started was because I would come home with lots of food and groceries and hardly pay anything for them.  When you can combine mail-in rebates with coupons (next lesson), you'll see how you can start saving today.  It takes a little effort and patience, but pays off in the long run and really adds up over time.

From now on, every time you go to the grocery store (Lowe's Foods, Harris Teeter, Kroger), head over to the beer section, and by the big beer displays, you'll see stacks of mail-in rebates like the ones in the picture above.  Whether it's Coors, Miller, Dos Equis, Budweiser, Sam Adams, Guinness, etc., each of these companies are paying to get your attention by pairing their beer with common purchases so you will associate their beer to that particular food.  Ex) $5 off frozen pizza when you buy Budweiser...$3 off chips and salsa when you buy Dos Equis, $5 off oranges when you buy Blue Moon.  Here's the cool part: If you're living in North Carolina or Kentucky, you don't have to buy the beer.  You can simply enjoy the savings without the beer purchase.  

Here's the kicker, and something that I can't stress enough: don't let the mail-in rebates dictate your purchasing habits.  If you have never purchased chips and salsa in your entire life, DON'T buy chips and salsa just because you're saving $3.  Chips and salsa costs more than $3 anyways so you're spending that extra money that you wouldn't have, if you hadn't seen that rebate.  Same goes for when you see a $5 rebate off of a minimum purchase of $10.  If you weren't already going to spend $10 on that thing, DON'T. 

When you're looking for mail-in rebates, you'll find some good ones and some bad ones.  Some of the good ones I've gotten are $5 off of $5 in deli meat, $10 off of $10 of oranges...the rebates that will eventually give you the items for free (minus a few cents in sales tax). 

Also, you don't have to use mail-in rebates in that store you got it from.  I find that the best place to use these mail-in rebates are in grocery stores like Aldi, or minimalist grocery stores where your dollar is worth more.  So take them with you! 

Step 1: Make a "receipt box" and keep all of your grocery receipts in them, just in case you run across a mail-in rebate that will give you money back on a past purchase.  Mail-in rebates have a date range, often many weeks, so if you bought chicken a month ago, the next rebate you find might save you $$ on chicken.  

Step 2: Start collecting rebates.

Step 3: After you shop for groceries, make sure you get a copy of your receipt before you leave the store (rebate companies will only accept original store receipts).

Step 4: Fill out the back of the rebate form with your information, attach the receipt to it, circle the purchase that satisfies the rebate, stick them in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and send them off.  

Step 5: Wait.  It takes anywhere from 4-6 weeks for rebates to come in (it's my favorite thing that comes in the mail).  When you get your check, take whatever money you receive and apply it to whatever step you are currently in (see my first 5 lessons).

Questions?  Leave a comment below.