If you're following the Krazy Coupon Lady, it's a safe bet that you regularly use, or are learning to use coupons.  As you travel down the path to better control family finances, don't forget about rebates! I know, I know…they don’t provide the instant gratification and pulse-racing excitement of a great couponing checkout. However, what they lack in speed, they make up for in savings.

While I've been couponing for years, I just started paying attention to rebates about a year ago. To satisfy my own curiosity and to see if rebates are worth the time and stamps, I decided to set aside all of my rebate money for a year. So, are they worth it? My answer: ABSOLUTELY! I cashed all of my rebate checks and placed them in an envelope with rebate gift cards.

Drum roll, please….TOTAL SAVINGS: a whopping $342.75! Who among us couldn't find a use for that? Whether you use it for emergency savings, tuition, or a great pair of cowboy boots is up to you!

Here are a few pointers to help you get started saving with rebates:

Find a Good Rebate. Hands down, the best rebates are found in the beer and wine section. Not a drinker? Not a problem! Most rebates offered by beer and wine companies do not require an alcohol purchase. Always take a quick glance for those beautiful rebate tear pads as you coupon your way through the store.

Read the Fine Print! As an example, a common beer rebate is $10-$20 off a $100 purchase. I once passed these by because I rarely have a $100 purchase after coupons. Be smarter than I was! Read the fine print to see that the $100 minimum purchase can be on separate tickets. Keep every receipt.

Keep EVERY Receipt for What You Buy – even a Coke at the local 7-11. You have no idea how many times I've needed just a small amount to qualify for a rebate, and I'll admit a bit of KRAZINESS here, I've been known to pocket a receipt left behind at the self checkout or a in cart. Seriously, you may need it later!

Use More Than Once. Most rebates (but certainly not all) are limited to one rebate per address. This is where you can bless friends or family! I normally pick up four copies of a rebate. I do the first for my own household, then submit the next one (if I have enough purchases to qualify) in honor of my cash-strapped niece in college. What fun for her to find extra money in her mailbox! If I can qualify for more, I submit them for my mother or sister-in-law. It's a little extra money to add to their budget if needed, or splurge on a little something for themselves!

Make Multiple Transactions. If you are purchasing specific items for a rebate (for example, $10 of salty snacks) remember that the price that you will circle on your receipt is before coupons. If you plan to play rebate fairy to a friend, make sure you separate your purchases (for example, $10 of salty snacks on one receipt, $10 on another) as receipt copies are not acceptable for rebate use.

Do the Research. Looking to purchase a high ticket item like a vacuum, appliance, or yard equipment? Take a minute to search your item+rebate offers. You'll be amazed at what you can find. I even found a rebate on grass seed last summer!

So you've found your rebate and made your purchases. Now what?

  • Fill out the rebate form completely and neatly.
  • Make copies of rebate form and receipts.
  • File copies in a folder or binder. When you receive a rebate check, remove the appropriate copies.
  • If it's been awhile and you haven't received a check, look up the rebate information and follow up by phone, email or letter. My personal experience is that companies make good on their rebates. I have only missed out on one rebate in a year which was the result of an addition error on my part.

It's a new year! Take the time now to create a rebate folder and rack up additional savings in 2012 with rebates! It makes going through the mail so much fun!

This has been a guest post by Elizabeth from Lynchburg, VA
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More Money in Your Pocket: How to Save Big with Rebates