The rebate life: Save as you spend using the internets

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We all have different ways of saving money. Personally, I try to imprison my cash in my wallet. I avoid eating out, buy generic brands, scour thrift stores, steal food, fight pigeons for breadcrumbs, swipe candy from small children...you get the picture.

My wife, on the other hand, cruises sales, discount bins, and rebates like a traveling businessman on the Vegas strip. While I work on not spending money, she works on getting the most for every dollar she puts out there. I respect her money saving method, she respects mine, and we both put our small change in a big jar. Hey, it adds up.

One of my wife's favorite sites is Ebates.com, a company that gives her rebates on much of her online shopping. Basically, here's how it works:

1. Sign up at Ebates.com. This is completely free, does not require a credit card, and takes about ten seconds.

2. Scan the Ebates site. You will notice that a lot of common, well-known retailers have links off the site. If you click on the links, you will be directed to the retailer's site, where your transactions will be tracked. You will be given a rebate (generally somewhere around 3%) on all your purchases. This rebate applies to all transactions, even items on clearance.

3. You might especially check out the magazine subscriptions, as these can be particularly good deals. Some of the sellers give massive discounts, which they then pair with rebates of up to 25%. Best of all, there are dozens of companies listed on the site, which means that there's a lot of room for comparison shopping.

4. If you refer a friend who later purchases something through the site, you will get a $5 referral fee.

5. Your rebate checks will be mailed to your home quarterly, or you can collect your refunds through PayPal.

Admittedly, the rebates aren't all that huge. Still, if you were planning to buy a sweater at Nordstrom's anyway, it doesn't hurt to pay 3% less. And if you, like my wife, are a magazine junkie, this can save you a lot of money.

Bruce Watson is a former English instructor, sometime writer, and all-around cheapskate. A co-author of Military Lessons of the Gulf War and A Chronology of the Cold War at Sea, his work has appeared in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy, The Roanoker, The Brush Mountain Review, The Eccentric Monthly, The Best of Times, and College Daze. He currently blogs on Crankster.


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