I absolutely love getting things for free! A lot of times when a new product comes out, the manufacturer will promote it by offering customers to try it free either with drugstore rewards or after a rebate. In my experience, medicines and personal care such as shampoo, toothpaste, etc. are the most common items that are free.
If you are willing to put in some energy, part with your money for up to 8-10 weeks, read some fine print and put in the effort to mail forms, you can get many things for free.
Free After Drugstore Rewards
Every Sunday I look at their both CVS and Walgreens ads online and see if there are any items that are free after drugstore rewards. CVS recently did a website re-design for the weekly ad which is hard to navigate. Fortunately, I found a link to the CVS weekly ad which is very easy to navigate.
If there are multiple items free in any given week, I always start by purchasing the cheapest item and use the drugstore rewards that I received on my previous purchase to make my next purchase. In the end I have 1 large drugstore reward that I can hopefully use before it expires to get something else free. If not, I use it to load up on everyday things that I need at the drugstore.
The key to making sure that you win in this game is to check when your drugstore rewards expire since once they expire, you are out of luck and can’t use them. This is what CVS and Walgreens are hoping will happen as they don’t have to pay out the value of the award.
My favorite drugstore reward program is CVS. Their program is ExtraBucks which print out on your receipt after a purchase with your CVS ExtraCare card. ExtraBucks do not expire for 4 weeks and you can use as many as you have to make a single purchase.
Walgreens also has a rewards program called Balance Rewards. When completing purchases with your Balance Rewards card, you earn Register Rewards which print out on a separate printer. Whenever I know that I am due Register Rewards, I always make sure that I receive them before the cashier helps the next customer in line.
Walgreens Register Rewards are less flexible than CVS’s ExtraBucks. You only have 2 weeks from the purchase date to use your Balance Rewards before they expire. There is also a rule that you can not use more coupons than items purchased. This rule is not printed anywhere but is hard coded in the cash register. Coupons include both Register Rewards and manufacturers coupons. I use a loophole where I purchase several very low cost items such as 7 for $1 Halloween pencils to raise my item count to the point where I can use all of my coupons.
My favorite time to maximize drugstore rewards is around black Friday. For the past several years both CVS and Walgreens offer around 15 or so free items each. This is when the purchasing and continuing to roll your drugstore rewards on to the next purchase comes in handy. By playing this game you can get tons of free things without getting stuck with a ton of drugstore rewards to use up when you are done.
Free After Rebate
I really love getting things for free after rebate because I will get my money back to me in the form of a check several weeks after submitting it.
Free after rebate offers can sometimes be a little hard to find. I have found it is easiest to visit Freebie Depot which is an aggregate site which pulls all offers to a single website. You can also look for tags hanging on products or peel off stickers while at a drugstore. The best is when you have drugstore rewards that you can use to purchase the product with. You can submit your rebate and get the full amount back in the form of a check.
Before you purchase anything that is free after rebate, read the fine print carefully. There is sometimes a window of time that you must purchase the product in, specific retailers that participate or are excluded, limitations by state, and more. If you are eligible, purchase the product and keep your original receipt in a safe place as you’ll likely need it when you submit your rebate.
Some rebates allow you to submit online which is nice as you don’t need to pay for a stamp or worry about anything getting lost in the mail. Staples has what they call easy rebates, you submit everything online with codes from your receipt or online order. These typically pay quicker than mail in rebates as well which is an added benefit.
My parents favorite rebates are for liquor. They live in Michigan where there are strict rules about liquor purchases, but Illinois’s laws are more lax. Mom and dad can purchase liquor in Illinois and submit to have a rebate mailed to me in Illinois. They once received a $80 check for purchasing 8 bottles of liquor, that’s $10 off per bottle which is over half the price of the liquor itself. Since liquor never really goes on sale beyond a certain point, that is cheaper than you would be able to pay, even if there was a large sale.
The manufacturers are counting on people not doing the work to complete the rebates. To make sure that you don’t forget about the rebate, always complete it right after you get home. Before you seal the envelope and mail it, scan or take a picture of the envelope itself and all the contents within the envelope. Save these for your records in case there is any issue with getting your rebate fulfilled. It’s also nice to have a reminder of the rebate checks that are due to you.
Helping Others by Donating Unwanted Things
There are a lot of things that are free that I don’t necessarily need. I have purchased everything from denture cleaner, to stool softeners to menopause remedies. I save these and when I get a bag full, I donate these to charity. I figure that somewhere someone needs these items and may not be able to afford them on their own. It’s a win for me as I am able to claim the value of these items on my taxes.