Sunday, April 27, 2014

School Supplies for Free

Our church is going to collect school supplies for our four local elementary schools so I thought I would share a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago about getting school supplies for free (or at least very cheap! Now is a great time to start buying supplies to donate once school starts!

School Supplies for Free
Yes, I said free. You can get school supplies for free (or very cheap!) just by shopping at the right time, at the right stores and being smart about it!

A little over a year ago I started couponing (not extreme, just normal) and I’m amazed at the amount of money that I can save when I shop smart. I’m not a fanatic about it. I only shop a couple of stores and if I don’t have time I just don’t worry about it. But when I do have time I save quite a bit.
Anyway, back to the school supplies. Staples and Office Depot (local chain office supply stores) both offer rewards programs and rebates that often allow you to get stuff for free or very cheap! I’m completely stocked up on pens, printer paper, printer toner, photo paper, and other miscellaneous items! (I really don’t think I’ll run out of paper for at least another year!)

First, let me give credit to the website where I get my shopping info, Southern Savers. She reviews the ads each week and basically makes your list for you. You just go through and check off the things you want to purchase and go to the store and do the shopping. She makes it VERY EASY. (No paid endorsement. I just love the site!)

Sign up the for the rewards program…
You’ll need to sign up for the store’s rewards program. Staples is called Staples Rewards and Office Depot is called Work Life Rewards. You’ll get a membership # but the stores can look it up by your phone number. You can also store it in your iPhone using the KeyRing app. When you check out you’ll need to give them your membership # or phone number. That way your purchase counts toward your reward.
How the rewards work…

You will see items in the ad and on Southern Savers marked “100% rewards back.” That means you’ll get 100% of the purchase price back as a reward. The reward will come to you in the form of an in-store credit that you can use to purchase other items at the store later. Every two to three months you’ll receive an email informing you of earned rewards. You go on the website, print your reward certificate and take it to the store and spend it on items you need and would have purchased anyway like printer ink, toner, computer accessories, etc.

Important thing to remember…
At both Staples and Office Depot you WILL NOT earn rewards for items that you also use rewards to purchase. So if you use your reward certificate to purchase something that says “100% rewards back” you won’t get a reward for that item.

Most of you have probably submitted a rebate for something before so you probably already know how it works. You pay for the item in the store* and mail in your receipt and proof of purchase and receive a check for some or all of the purchase price. It works the same way at Office Depot and Staples. And they make it very easy for you by printing out extra “Rebate Receipts” to mail back in. Staples makes it even easier by allowing you to submit your rebates online at Staples Rebates. My rule is to try to submit rebates (online and in the mail) as soon as I get home from making my purchases. That way I don’t forget and miss the deadline! I usually receive my rebate check(s) 4-6 weeks after submitting them.

*You can use rewards to purchase rebate items. It should not affect your rebate and is an easy way to turn your reward(s) back into cash!

You do have to spend some money out of pocket to get these items but you eventually get it back in the form of an in-store credit or rebate check.

What if the “free” items aren’t things I need?
Could your child’s teacher use them? If it’s something totally silly, don’t buy it because it’s free. I always tell people I don’t buy cat litter when I can get it for free because I don’t have a cat! Be smart. But also think about places you can donate the items like a church, school, shelter, etc.

I’m an example person so I’ll give you a quick overview of what might be on sale. Southern Savers does most of the work for me and helps me make my list. I check my local ad to see if our prices are the same. They usually are.

Bic Round Stic Pens $.01 with a $5 min purchase
Scotch Super Glue Gel FREE with $1.30 instant savings and $2.99 rebate
Staples Multipurpose Paper $.25 with a $6.49 rebate
HP Photo Paper $.50 with $.50 instant savings and $8.99 rebate
Bic Great Erase Dry erase markers $.50
Sharpie Markers $1
2014 Desktop Calendar FREE with $4.99 rebate

Office Depot
(All items are 100% Back in Rewards)
Avery Index Clear Label Dividers
Post It Super Sticky Pop Up Notes
Post It Pop Up Notes Dispenser
Mr. Sketch Markers
Uniball Gel Pens 12 pack
Sharpie Markers 12 pack
Clean Seal Security Envelopes

Questions? Leave them in a comment and I’ll try to answer! And be sure to check out Southern Savers for great deals. (Again this isn’t a paid endorsement. I just love the site!)

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