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Do you take the time to fill out rebate forms?  Have you ever been denied a rebate because of one tiny error?  Do you even know where to find rebates?  Many people think rebates are a waste of time. However, they can add up if you complete the forms correctly and take the time to track them.

You can find rebates by doing a search online.  There are companies that put rebate tags on their products and websites devoted to finding rebates.  I know this all sounds so time-consuming but rebates really do add up. Just this year I have received over $395 in checks, coupons, and free products. Here are some tips to help you make the most of rebates without taking too much of your time.

Read the terms of the rebate. Make sure you know exactly what product you have to purchase and what you must save from the purchase of that product. Some rebates require you to send in the UPC code along with the form and receipt. Other rebates only require the form and circled receipt.  Some even require you to make all your purchases at the same time.  Many will let you send in more than 1 receipt.

After reading the terms you can decide if the rebate is worth your time and effort. If the rebate is worth going after take the time now to complete the rebate form. I even address the envelope and attach it to the form with a paperclip. I don’t recommend putting a stamp on the envelope since you may later decide not to go through with the rebate which would waste a stamp. File the rebate form and envelope where you will be able to find it later. I use a regular file folder.

Use a 3 x 5 card or if you prefer, a small notebook, to make a note of the following: the product you must purchase, the purchase dates, the rebate deadline, and any coupons you may have for this product. Pull the appropriate coupons and attach them to the card. I carry this card with me at all times. I keep my cards in a small coupon organizer. Something that will fit in your purse or back pocket if you’re a guy will work.

I have found several products on clearance and have been able to fulfill the purchase requirements for next to nothing. I did this last month to get a free bottle of Aveeno body lotion.  You were required to purchase two or three products to get the free bottle of lotion.  I purchased all three products on clearance for under $1.50 and using my ECBs from CVS I only paid tax.  I received a coupon back in the mail for a free bottle of Aveeno lotion that normally runs $9.00.  The required products were items that I use on a daily basis.

Once you have made the required purchases you can then proceed with mailing the form.You want to make sure that you double check the form to confirm that you purchased the correct product. Make a copy of all required documents including the UPC code and receipt.  I’ve even made a copy of the envelope to show that I mailed it to the correct location. After you mail the form and documents make a note of the date you mailed the rebate and the expected return date.

There is actually rebate tracking software available for free on the Internet. I prefer to track my rebates in an Excel spreadsheet. I record the type of rebate whether it’s money or product, the company offering the rebate, the required purchase, deadline date, expected return date, the amount of the rebate, and the date I receive it back. This way I know which rebates are still outstanding and which ones I have already received.

This doesn’t take up much more time in my schedule. When I plan my shops for the week I review my rebate list and make a note on my shopping list of any rebate items. Once a week I review my rebate spreadsheet to see which rebates will be ending soon. Doing this will remind you to send in the rebate before it expires.

Now, don’t go out and buy products that you don’t need or use or want just to receive a rebate. That would be a waste of money. If there is a rebate on items that you may not use but the rebate would make that item a moneymaker it might be worthwhile. You can later donate the item that you don’t use to a family member, friend, or shelter. I did this with the product in January. The product retails for $12.99 in the store. A certain store had this on sale for $9.99 and I had a coupon that made this item free up to $9.99. I had been holding this coupon for over six months waiting for a deal. This deal became even better when I learned there was a rebate for this particular product. I bought this product and paid $.70 tax and got back a check for $9.99 thus making this a nine dollar and $9.29 moneymaker.  Now I don’t color my hair but I gave the product to someone who does and boy did they appreciate it.

Follow up with the companies if you don’t hear something in the allotted time. If the form states you should receive your rebate within 6 to 8 weeks and you haven’t heard anything in 12 weeks pull out your file and give the company a phone call. I have only had to do this once. When the company realized that I had copies of every piece of paper I mailed them, they were happy to send me my rebate. Apparently my rebate form had gotten misplaced. If you maintain copies of your paperwork including the date you mailed your rebate you should have no trouble.

So let’s review our tips:
1.  Understand the rebate
2.  Combine the rebate with store sales and coupons
3.  Shop with the rebates in mind
4.  Make copies of all your paperwork
5.  Follow the requirements carefully
6.  Track the status of your rebates either online, on your computer, or in a notebook
7.  Follow-up

I hope you enjoy rebating as much as I do!