Each January, I start the year by making at least one resolution to save a little more money in a specific area. Since I enjoy finding new ways to save money on groceries and it is a large expense for my family of four, I always start there. I am already a heavy grocery coupon user, so this year I decided to save more by paying attention to grocery rebates and merchandise offers available on products I already buy.
If you would like to play this game with me, begin by looking for offers. The easiest places to find rebates and offers are on the packages of products you buy, in the Sunday coupon circulars, on store displays, on grocery and drugstore Web sites and advertising circulars, on the Web sites of product manufacturers, and even at the customer service desk of your grocery store. Many food manufacturers send displays and rebate forms to store managers, who may not have room to set up the display. Instead, they may put the rebate form pads in a box or a drawer at the customer service desk. Ask your store personnel if they have rebate forms available - you may be surprised at the gold mine of offers you find!
Set up a simple process for your rebate offers. I have a file folder on my desk with copies of completed paperwork for each offer I send in. If you do not have easy access to a copier, you can simply make a note of the offer details, address and Web site contact information if available. That way, if you do not receive your rebate offer in the suggested time frame, you will have a way to "remind" the company that you are waiting for your rebate.
I began by scouring the grocery coupon circulars from the Sunday newspaper. I found a $5 rebate when I bought three participating Tylenol products, which were on sale at my store and had coupons available. If you missed that offer, it is available until Jan. 30, 2007, and you can go to www.valuesforhealth.com to print the rebate form. The coupon circular also had a mail-in rebate form to earn 100 General Mills Box Tops (worth $10 to my son's school) when I send in proof of purchase seals from 12 General Mills products. Again, I would buy the items anyway because they are "buy one, get one free" at my store and I have coupons for the items, which the store will double. I spend $7.20 on 12 cans of soup, and my school gets $10!
A quick check of this month's Easy Saver catalog on the Walgreens.com Web site shows me the items I can get "free after rebate" with their single rebate form. I take advantage of the items that I would buy anyway and get a bottle of shampoo, hygiene products, and a toothbrush for a total value of $18.48. I opt to have my rebate put on a Walgreens gift card that gives me a 10 percent bonus. The bonus brings my Walgreens rebate up to $20.33. Adding that to my General Mills $10 rebate and Tylenol $5 rebate brings my first week's rebate savings to $35.00 already!
I entered some common brand names into Google and found the Web sites for Colgate, Kraft, Nabisco and Procter and Gamble in seconds. Not only did I find several free coupon offers, but found very attractive rebates and free product offers. Colgate will send me a free power toothbrush for my children if they fill out and mail in a daily toothbrush log, as well as a $10 rebate when I buy six participating Colgate items (which I will get when they are on sale with coupons, of course). And for only $4.99 and six proof of purchase seals from various Nabisco cracker products we buy, I can get Rachael Ray's "Express Lane Meals" cookbook, worth $18.95. Kraft's Web site lets me sign up for a free subscription to their "Food and Family" magazine, which usually has several grocery coupons in each issue. That's a great deal!
Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News' "Good Morning America." You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her Web site at www.couponmom.com. She can be reached at shoppingmom(at sign)unitedmedia.com.