Don't fall for rebates unless you're an organized shopper

rebate forms
rebate forms

I bought a new computer recently, and was pitched by the salesman to spend $100 for a "free" printer to go with it as a rebate. I declined, figuring that the $100 rebate wasn't worth the hassle of mailing back forms and receipts, then waiting at least a month for my money.

Whether just lazy or unwilling to deal with rebates, only half of the people who get rebates redeem them, according to research by Kimberly Palmer, author of Generation Earn. From free printers and smartphones to a few dollars off a bottle of scotch, unless consumers are ultra-organized and mail in the necessary forms immediately, it's better for them to stay away from the rebate offers, Palmer said.

"They should look at the price upfront, because actually that's the price they're going to pay," she said.

Retailers are counting on lazy shoppers to not redeem the rebates, which are most popular on electronic items. There are many roadblocks that stop people from redeeming, including losing forms, filling the forms out incorrectly, not following up when they don't get the money, forgetting about them in the average six to eight weeks it takes to receive a rebate, and even throwing the unopened rebate check in the trash because it looks like junk mail.