Supersizing a deal: Sale + Coupons + Rebate + Free Gift

I buy massive amounts of cereal. I only eat it a few times a week, but as most of you know by now, I’m fond of donating it. I get asked a LOT how I get this stuff for a net cost of free, better-than-free, or like 25 cents a box. What they don’t know is that I do even better than that sometimes…

Kelloggs has a “Fuel for School” rebate offer, where you buy 10 qualifying Kelloggs/Keebler products on one receipt, submit it with the bar code, and get back $10. I did this at Target when they had Kelloggs cereal on sale for $1.88 a box and there were valid $1 coupons available. I spent $8.80 for 10 boxes of cereal, and will get a rebate check for $10.

Many of the cereals have a couple of cute free gift deals valid thru sometime next year. You cut the tokens off the boxes and submit with the form printed on the inside of the box. Some of the gifts don’t appeal, like “classic” DVDs of Rocky 3 and such. However, there are two things available for the “Wake Up To Breakfast” token:  a digital alarm clock and a cereal cup that keeps the milk separate and chilled. So far I’ve sent away for two alarm clocks – 6 tokens makes it free, or you can send 2 tokens plus $5.99, shipping included either way.

So let’s see what the true cost of this venture was. I did two rebates (one for my address, one for my mother’s):

TOTAL COST:  $21.78
$17.60 … 20 boxes of Kelloggs cereal @ $1.88 – $1 coupon
$2.50 ….. Purchased 20 x $1 Kelloggs coupons, incl shipping
$1.68 ….. Postage for submitting for rebates/gifts
GET BACK:  $20 in rebates + 2 free alarm clocks valued at $5.99
TOTAL NET COST:  $1.78

I keep hoping General Mills will start offering cute gifts. They put out some great printable coupons, and I did a 4-boxes-for-$8 deal at ShopRite yesterday using .55 & .75 coupons that double (whee!), so I spent $2.80. Lo and behold, amongst the less-than-interesting deals spat out by the catalina coupon machine was a “$2 off your next order” coupon, making the net cost just 20 cents a box. Didn’t notice it until I got home, otherwise I’d have done it all over again. As it is, I managed to get 10 boxes of Eggo waffles for $9.90, used 5 x $1-off-2 coupons, paid $4.90, and guess what? It qualifies for that $10 Kelloggs rebate deal. I spent $13.50 total on great deals at the supermarket (3 boxes Betty Crocker cake mix, 3 cans of BC frosting, 4 boxes General Mills cereal, 2 jars of Welch’s grape jelly, 10 boxes of waffles plus a $1 donation to a local food pantry drive that earned me a free reusable tote). So I got a $2 instant rebate from the cereal, will get a $10 rebate for the waffles…and ended up a whopping $1.50 out of pocket for all this.

Yes, it’s fiddly. Yes, there’s some $$ outlay up-front. But once you get this all going, you’ll be getting back rebate checks for past purchases that roughly cover your current rebate spending. The sad thing is, this doesn’t work so well for families that live paycheck-to-paycheck. Plus, you need to enjoy the game or else you’ll never remember to follow through.

Swag-Thanks!

Just wanted to send out a THANK YOU to A.P. and J.P. for signing up for Swagbucks through the link in the left column of my page. Every time you earn a buck, I earn one too for your first 100 Swagbucks. I will happily use those SBs for the greater good 🙂

I’m not sure who you are (keeping your first names secret though, to preserve your anonymity), but feel free to let me know in the comments what your bloggie name is!

9/8 Update:  Two more people signed up for Swagbucks through my link — L.A. and M.O — THANKS!!!.

I also have a lot of others to thank for mailing me coupons, though I have trouble matching up real names with blog names, and quite a few of you have chosen not to put any name at all – sometimes not even a return address! Anyway, I’ve been using quite a lot of the coupons you all have been sending me, especially the internet printables. You all rock!

Again – THANKS!!!

Swagbuckers: Can I borrow a $5 Amazon gift card?

A couple of weeks ago, I told my beloved readership about a mom-of-9 from the Bronx whom I’d helped out with a care package…and then met up with again a week later to give school supplies. Well, today she emailed me about her 6-year-old with a bad case of canker sores, asking if I thought she should make him rinse with peroxide. I thought it was almost Twilight Zone weird that only an hour before, the freebie blogs had all put out a link to a coupon for free CankerMelts, and I had thought – nah, I won’t bother with that one, too hard to give away. Now I’m hoping the stores actually have them in stock!

Then she told me that she just found out this week that Little CankerSore Boy didn’t have any school pants that fit. She had hit up three Good Will stores and they didn’t have black or gray in his size. As you might imagine, a woman with 9 kids isn’t going to enjoy shopping excursions much and doesn’t have extensive internet browsing capability (Sidekick), so her attempts to find affordable pants yielded a best price of $20 a pair, and he needs 5 pairs – not doable on her budget. Since I’m such a good shopper, she thought I might know where to get a great deal since she couldn’t come up with that kind of dough for one kid’s school needs.

After deciding that I’d contribute 2 pairs no matter what, I took a cyber-stroll over to OldNavyWeekly to see what they had on the go. This week’s selection kinda sucked – I was hoping for a 30% off coupon, but most of the “achievable” ones available specified men’s/women’s clothing – in other words, not valid for a boy’s size 8. So I printed a $10-off-$50 purchase and am crossing my fingers for a decent Labor Day weekend sale. I’ll be visiting my mom in the burbs this weekend, so there’s always hope for an amazing sale at Sears or JC Penney’s or Kohl’s. I emailed Mom-of-9 about my plans and the two pairs I’d be getting her, and she was quick to let me know that she was happy to buy them herself, it’s just that she didn’t have access to a decent deal. Now…how do I hand this exhausted welfare mom 5 pairs of pants and ask for money? I can’t do that, I just can’t. 

…and then I had a stroke of genius: Amazon! I have $20 worth of gift cards I got for free by accumulating Swagbucks (see left sidebar), and there are pants that match Ricardo’s (aka CankerSore Boy) needs for $15-$18. So I can get 2 pairs with free shipping for $10-16. I’m pretty happy with that. And then I remembered how so many of you have readily stepped up to supply me with coupons, and figured it might be worth putting out another little appeal:

Do any of you savvy Swagbuckers have  a $5 Amazon gift card to spare?

I’d like to “borrow” one – meaning I’ll give you a future $5 Amazon GC code (you’re welcome to donate it to this little project, but this is my cause, not yours – I’m just happy to have the loan!). I earn one every 2-3 weeks and am one little Swagbuck away from my next GC, but they take about a week to process. This way I can get 2 pairs for completely free, or maybe pay a little and get a third pair depending on the response. Hoping to place the order asap. Anyone…?

Book & Cookie Swap in Little Italy

This evening, I joined my friend Bluejay for a Book & Cookie Swap at the Mulberry Street branch of the New York Public Library. It was their first time holding such and event, and it’s a shame they didn’t publicize it beyond a flyer on a bulletin board – plenty of people like books, and everyone loves cookies! Apparently it didn’t even make their monthly schedule of events online. I heard about it through Bluejay, who frequents this particular branch, and it’s a good thing we went. There was a whopping total of 7 swappers plus a library staff member, who was actually pretty cool.

The cookies could be homemade or store bought, so I brought a box of chocolate caramel truffle cookies, CVS brand (which I’d had before, and so knew were decent), and three books – a novel by the author of The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, a guide to powerselling on eBay, and The Biggest Loser diet book. No one took the books I’d brought, but I did snag two: a novel by Lee Child and some travel lit by Paul Theroux. I thought the idea was to swap cookies as well as books, but no – we were supposed to eat the cookies at the event. Eh, I’d already overdosed on sugar that day and wasn’t really in the mood…a good thing really, given my Incredible Expanding Waistline.

NYPL toteThe librarian intended the event to be the grown-up equivalent of a summer reading club, so there was swag! Everyone got a pen, and there was a free raffle for 4 items:  2 tickets to the New Museum, $10 gift certificate to a fancy gelato place in the ‘hood, a NY Public Library t-shirt, and a NYPL lion reversible tote bag ($24 price tag on the NYPL website!). I won the tote bag – and everyone knew I’d been kinda hoping to win that, so the losers were especially gracious. Of course, I couldn’t wait to call my-mother-the-high-school-library-lady to taunt her with my new prized possession. At the moment, I’m using the tote with the red side showing.

I really think the Book & Cookie Swap idea is a great one, especially as an alternative to a book club – you do end up talking about books with each other, but without the formality of a sheet of deeply intellectual questions or the pressure to consume a book you might not even like by a certain date. I also think the cookie aspect is fun and cute, but should have been handled differently – meaning, the way I had expected. I’d much rather have walked out of there with a ziploc baggie full of assorted cookies or a few little saran-wrapped parcels than felt pressured to eat cookies at 7pm.

The subject of offloading unwanted books arose at the swap, with most of us remarking that most charities that resell your donated items don’t want books or go through long periods of not accepting them. The librarian mentioned that a charity called Housing Works accepts them and in addition to having a bookshop-cafe nearby, actually sells the bulk of them very successfully on Amazon and Half.com.

I really, really like the idea of swap meets – but is that the right word? Though for some reason it calls to mind “recipes” and “baseball cards”, a quick Google of the term describes the concept as a synonym for ‘flea market’, but that’s not how I mean it. I mean an event where everyone brings something and takes something of similar value.  I know that there are some seriously big clothing swap events here in the city – now that frugality is all the rage, they even get a mention on the evening news!

Have you ever been to a swap meet or something along those lines? How did it work, what did you get?