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I love caffeine. With four kids, a job, a dog and a husband who works long hours, caffeine is a necessity. I've cut back before, even quit completely. But I always go back to the Diet Coke. I'm a much better person when properly caffeinated.

And now, I've discovered a bonus to my addiction: I started saving Coke rewards months ago. With my Diet Coke points, the points my aunt collected from her co-workers, and the points I rescued from the bleachers at my son's football game, I just got a $50 Nike gift card which I immediately used to buy my 7th grade daughter a new pair of basketball shoes. This was a super easy way to save a little money on something I needed by buying something I can't live without.

Yes, I've probably spent more than $50 on Diet Coke in the past six months, but it’s money I was going to spend anyway whether I got something in return or not. So really, I'm getting rewarded for my dependence on caffeine!

Here are the Basics of How Coke Rewards work:

1. Collect the codes. They can be found on 15 Coca-Cola products (including my favorites: Diet Coke, Dasani water and Powerade). Look under the caps, inside the tear-off on 12-packs, and on the wraps of multi-packs. Reward points vary, depending on where you get the codes (some are worth 3 points, others are worth 20).

2. Become a member. It’s fast and easy, with so may benefits!

3. Enter your codes. There are four ways to do this, including online and via text. There is a limit of 120 points per week which means it will take some time to build up enough points to get something big like a Nike gift card, but you can get smaller rewards much more quickly.

4. Redeem them online.  Once you’ve earned enough, it’s time to cash them in. There are six ways to spend your points:

  • Rewards. They have an entire catalog of things to choose from. I love being able to earn products!
  • Sweepstakes. Enter to win some amazing prizes for only a few points.
  • Instant Win Games. Like sweepstake but there are fewer to enter, and they only last one day.
  • MCRPoints Plus. With this program you find a deal that you like, pay for a portion of it with your points, then pay for the rest like you normally would.
  • Support a Cause. There are several different causes you can donate your points to.
  • Donate to Your School. An easy way to help schools earn money.

For more on Coke Rewards, go here.

In the meantime, look around for more "rewards."  I bet there are lots in your hometown for products you already buy (hopefully, at a discount!)

My favorite local "rewards" include:

  • I get a free cup of coffee after buying ten cups at my favorite coffee shop. A friend and I take turns buying, and it's a great excuse to get together every couple of weeks.
  • Every few months I take my clothes to a consignment shop. I have a rewards card there, and after I've sold $250 worth of clothes, I get $10 free.
  • Our local bakery has a frequent shopper card. After 12 loaves of the most delicious bread on the planet, I get a free loaf. That's when I splurge and buy something fancy (and expensive!)

The rewards are likely different in your community, but they are there. Smart business owners take care of their loyal customers and do whatever they can to make you want to come back. For me, that means rewarding my caffeine addiction with an occasional freebie.

This has been a guest post by Jody from Bismarck, ND
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