How to Save Through Refunding
By Dr. Charlotte Gorman
You probably have a number of refund forms just lying around your house. Look at them as INCOME MULTIPLIED. Use them and get back hundreds of dollars annually. Try some of the ideas below.
1. Save all refund forms you come across. If you can’t use some of them, then trade them for forms which you can use. There probably is someone out there who would like to have your refund form for receiving $1.50 back on the purchase of a package of chewing tobacco. Refund forms are potential money in your pocket.
2. Keep your refund forms organized, and you will be better prepared to take advantage of refund offers. Here is one way you might organize your refund forms: First, get out twelve used business size envelopes (from the stack you have been saving). Second, write January on one of them, February on another, and so on through December. Third, sort out your refund forms by the expiration dates and put the forms in the appropriate envelopes. Being organized will help you to take advantage of as many refund offers as you can.
3. Never leave home to go shopping without your inventory of refund forms. You might need to refer to them while you are out shopping. For example, you find a shampoo on sale for $1.00 and you think you have a refund form for $1.00 back on the purchase price. If you have all of your refund forms with you, you can easily check to see if you have one for the shampoo.
4. Search actively for items for which you have refund forms if you can use the items or give them as gifts and if the amounts of the refunds are worth your efforts.
5. When you send in refund forms, be sure to fill in all the blanks correctly, completely, and legibly and enclose the required qualifiers. Use small envelopes if possible; they are cheaper than the business size. Try to keep the weight of your letter at one ounce or less–peel off thick cardboard backings and trim all qualifiers as closely as possible. Additional weight could require more postage and reduce the amount of money you will actually realize from the refund offer.
6 . Write down and keep the following information about every refund offer to which you respond: Name of the refund offer, the mailing address where you sent the form, what qualifiers you sent, date sent, and what you are supposed to receive. Some refund forms will list an address to which you may write if you have not had a response within a certain length of time. Write this address down, also. Keeping the above information will help you in following up on a refund offer in which you are participating but from which you have not yet received your refund.
7. If you have not received a response to a refund offer (check, coupon for a free product, or merchandise) within 12 weeks after submitting the form and qualifiers, write to the head office (corporate headquarters) of the company offering the refund. Normally, this is not the same address to which you sent the refund form. The head office address usually is found on the product package, and sometimes it is listed on the refund form itself.
I have written (I have called if they had toll-free numbers.) to the head offices about several refunds which I had not received and have gotten very nice, apologetic letters along with refund checks, coupons for free products, or whatever the refund offer was promising. Since most refund offers are handled by clearinghouses which receive thousands of refund requests, it is always possible that one will be misplaced.
8. When you write to the head office (corporate headquarters) of the company offering a refund to inquire about your refund, use a post card, not a letter in an envelope. The postage for a post card is much cheaper. Every penny saved on postage is important in refunding, since postage is a relatively large part of your overhead.
9. Where do you find refund forms? The following are some suggestions:
a. Search for pads of forms on the shelves throughout stores. You should take no more than one of each form. Taking more than one deprives others of the opportunity for a refund.
b. Check bulletin boards at the front of the store. Take only one of each form.
c. Look through special mailouts to your address, so be sure to open all of your "junk mail."
d. Examine newspapers. e. Swap with friends. Get a group together for a swapping session.
f. Explore boxes at the fronts of various stores. Shoppers put in refund forms when they have some they don’t need. Others take out ones they can use.
g. Flip through magazines, especially "women’s" magazines.
h. Ask the cashier whether he or she has refund forms under the counter. Take no more than one of each different form. i. Investigate file cabinets or boxes in the store office or at the courtesy/information/exchange desk. Ask the manager or the person at the desk if you may look through such cabinets or boxes. Take only one of each different form.
j. Observe the outsides and insides of specially marked packages. k. Ask relatives and friends to save refund forms for you.
l. Put a note on a store’s bulletin board saying, "I will trade refund forms. Call ——-." Be sure to clear with the manager before you place a note on the bulletin board.
m. Join a coupon/refund club where you can exchange refund forms. (Organize one if there is not one in your area.) Better still, join several clubs.
n. Trade forms through the mail. Some couponing and refunding magazines have classified sections with ads placed there by people who would like to trade refund forms. You send forms to these advertisers; and they, in turn, will send you an equal number of forms of similar quality. Often, the advertisers will be from other states, so you may receive some forms which are not available in your area.
o. Trade refund forms by mail with people you know.
p. Purchase refund forms through the mail. Some couponing and refunding magazines have ads placed there by people who sell refund forms.
q. Place an ad in the newspaper. Some newspapers offer free ads of a noncommercial nature. Your ad might read: "I want to exchange refund forms. Call——-."r. Write to companies. When all of the refund forms have been taken from a pad on the shelf at a store or on the store’s bulletin board, the cardboard backing will sometimes give an address to which you may write to request one of the forms.
10. A word about qualifiers: In general, save the entire product package. One manufacturer may require the proof-of purchase (POP) seal for a particular refund. Another may request the net weight statement, another may ask for the hinge off the top of the plastic bottle, and one may want the plastic lid from a coffee can.
You can never be totally sure just what qualifier a manufacturer will request in a particular refund offer. You can no longer afford to save only box tops and universal product codes (UPCs)–the bar codes consisting of lines with numbers below them. Unless you save virtually everything, you could miss out on many refund offers and the opportunity to save money.
11. Organize your qualifiers. Separate qualifiers for storage. For example, all cereal boxes may be flattened and placed in one large box; soup, fruit, and vegetable can labels could be placed in a smaller box; toothpaste boxes and soap wrappers may be placed in yet another box; and flattened facial tissue boxes may be placed in another. Small qualifiers may be stored in used envelopes. Being organized should help and encourage you to respond to more refund offers.
12. The following are some examples of qualifiers: box tops; fluid ounce statements; ingredient listings; proof-of-purchase (POP) seals; the names of the products; the ends of pouring spouts; the universal product codes (UPCs); instructions for preparation; the net weight statements; the side, front, or back panels; the product symbols or "logos"; box bottoms; the round circles where the prices are stamped; certain statements on the containers; warranty statements; instruction sheets; inner seals; tear strips; entire labels from cans, jars, and bottles; the cap liners; complete outer wrappers; neckbands; plastic lids; individual wrappers, such as wrappers from individual bandages; owners’ manuals; and instruction manuals.
13. The following are some sources of qualifiers:
a. Items you purchase.
b. Friends, relatives, and co-workers. Ask them to save qualifiers for you. If they save quite a number of qualifiers for you, you may want to give them an occasional gift of an item you receive through your refunding activity or something else as a token of your appreciation.
c. Coupon/refund club meetings, swap sessions, and Refunder’s Conventions. Trade your qualifiers here.
d. Newspapers. Place ads such as: "I would like to trade or buy qualifiers. Call——-." "I need five box tops from Kellogg Cornflakes, two hinges from the top of Pert shampoo bottles, and six cardboard backs from Duracell size D batteries. Will pay or swap. Call——-." Hopefully, your local newspapers offer free ads of a noncommercial nature. If they do not, after paying for the ads, you may not realize enough profit to make it worth the effort of putting the ads in the papers.
e. Couponing and refunding magazines. Check the ads to see if the qualifiers you need are offered for sale or for swapping.
14. Always save all cash register tapes. Many refund offers require that the dated cash register tape with the price circled be sent in with the refund form and the necessary qualifiers.
15. Planning your menus so that they will be nutritious but at the same time using as manycoupons and taking advantage of as many refund offers as you can will be well worth the hour or so it will take you for this planning. Simply stated, whenever possible, buy the item on sale, use a coupon with it, and then send in the qualifiers for a refund. With careful planning, you will be surprised at how often this combination is possible. You could save quite a lot of money each week on your grocery bill.
SOURCE: The Frugal Mind by Charlotte Gorman
*Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Mind, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself.