The following is a guest post from Christina at Northern Cheapskate.

Rebates can be a great way to score freebies and discounts on products you use everyday. You can find them in your Sunday newspaper, in magazines, online, and attached to the very products you buy.

Rebates usually come in one of the following forms:

Try Me Free offers. These are my favorite because it means that you get to try a full-sized product for free once you send in the rebate.

Money-back guarantees. If you’re not satisfied with a product, you will be able to get your money back on your purchase with these special offers. While you may be tempted to treat this like a “Try Me Free” offer, please don’t. When you abuse programs like these, everyone ends up paying more for the products.  Only take advantage of this freebie if you truly are unhappy with the product.

Rewards programs. These programs require you to collect codes from inside product packages or UPCs in order to earn coupons or merchandise. The key to success with rewards rebates is to use coupons to get the best deal possible on the programs you frequently buy.

Getting rebates isn’t all that difficult if you pay attention to the details.

Read the fine print closely. This will ensure that you are buying the right products and following all of the procedures for claiming your rebate. Pay close attention to when your purchase must be made by as well as the deadline for the rebate form submission.

Get an original receipt and keep the packaging. Companies almost always require an original sales receipt so be sure to get one. If you’re buying items for more than one rebate offer in a shopping trip, be sure to break them into separate transactions so you’ll have a receipt for each rebate. You may also want to keep the packaging in case an additional proof of purchase is required.

Stay organized. Write when rebates are due on your calendar so that you don’t forget to send them in. Make copies of everything before you mail in the rebate. If a rebate claim is denied, you’ll have copies of the documentation you sent them to help argue your case.

Don’t buy things just because there is a rebate. Use rebates to get deals on the things that you use. Remember that it can take several weeks or even months to get your rebate, so if you don’t have the money in your budget to wait that long, skip the deal.

Christina writes about coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas at Northern Cheapskate. Be sure to check out her latest list of her favorite 25 mail-in rebates that are currently available.