There's a new guy store on the Kansas side of KC down in Olathe, and those of you in Johnson County who don't get it yet might need a quick tutorial.

Menards shares two very important characteristics with Kohl's. They were both started in Wisconsin and they both use special deals to get you in the door. With Kohl's, it's about stackable coupons and Kohl's Cash. Menards is more about the rebates, which turn into store credit. Menards also runs a lot of sales, unlike most of the competition, including the 11% paper bag sale, which pays for sales tax in Johnson County. If you get to know the system at Menards, you will be happy with the results.

Free Items

Everyone gets excited about the “free” after rebate items, but a savvy shopper needs to factor in tax, time, and postage. You pay sales tax on the free item, though I believe (at least in Wisconsin) that tax is later taken off your store credit purchase. Anyhow, you need to pay it up front, along with the actual cost of the item. If you are buying the maximum allowed and the normal price of the item is fairly high, then you have to be ready to pay upfront in order to make the system work.

Postage and time are major factors when your rebate is small. For example, if you are getting a $2 rebate on one free item, you'll have to spend nearly that much in postage, envelope, and transportation costs, not to mention the added time of filling out the form and waiting on your credit. That's why I generally try to get multiple rebates at once or buy items I can give as gifts so that I'm buying the maximum number allowed. Five $2 items, four of which you give away, make the rebate more worthwhile.

Other Rebates

Menards often beats competitor prices by quite a lot with other rebate offers. I've gotten rebates of $20 or more on big-ticket items. The people who buy these items are probably a little different from the typical Menards deal hunter, and I bet there's a fairly decent percentage who don't bother to send the rebates in. You have to remember that rebates need to be mailed in usually within a month, but my experience is that if I don't do it as soon as I empty the bag, it never happens. Your goal, especially on these bigger rebates, is to mail the rebate form in the day of the purchase.

Using Your Rebate Credit

Menards is hoping that if you actually bother to send in your rebate form that you will neglect to use the credit when it finally arrives. Don't expect it in a week or even a month. And don't expect to really need anything when you get it. I've visited stores several times with large credits in my pocket, refusing to settle for stuff I did not really need, but that's not easy.

The best way to use your rebate credit is during one of the big 11% sales or on other rebate items. I am sure I will get my latest batch of rebate credit right after the current paper bag sale is over. The question is whether I can wait for what I want to purchase to either have a rebate, a good sale price, or to be part of another storewide sale. Delayed gratification is tough, and impulse buying is just as prevalent in men as in women. Remember, it's still money that you spent in order to get the rebate, so if you refuse to treat it like free money, you'll probably make better choices. Just imagine how glorious it will be when you use your $50 credit to buy $50 in free-after-rebate items instead of another ratchet set.

11% or 15% Sales

These come in two flavors, (instant paper bag sale and rebate sale) and they can both be great depending on what you need. For example, I needed some batteries after Christmas, and the 15% at the register was a lot better than mailing an 11% rebate in. However, when I needed to put a new roof on my house, I would have only been able to fit the nails in the shopping bag, so I was much happier to get $250 back in store credit. Another trick to keep in mind is that while you are limited to what fits in a bag for the bag sale, you don't really have to remember the bag. I just went to Menards during the sale and got my batteries for 15% off because I mentioned the sale (I saw one person in the store with a bag). Cashiers have always let me do this, but I'll usually try to play the game and bring or find the bag.

Sales

Prices at Menards tend to be competitive, but you can see sales by tag color. White tags are normal prices, while blue, red, and green are various sale prices. There might be more colors, too, but the point is that some color other than white is what you're looking for. If you are as bold about being cheap as me, then you can slide the sale tag to the side in order to see the regular price, since most sale tags do not provide this information. These sales are really all over the place, and you might save less than 5% or more than 20%. If you want to know more, study the weekly flyer.

Menards always has clearance bins, but beware. I have seen items in the clearance bin that are not a better deal than what’s on sale or has a rebate elsewhere. That said, I have picked up some pretty good deals in the clearance area, so always take a gander.

Conclusion

That’s about it. I have probably saved big money at Menards, mainly because I am willing to play the game. It’s gotten so much easier over the years, since rebates no longer require upc codes cut off items. And you can now send multiple rebates in the same envelope (my highest count was five), which saves some postage. Just remember that if it’s too convenient, everyone would do it, which would mean fewer rebate sales, so rejoice in the laziness of your fellow man at Menards. It's worth the trip from Overland Park, Lenexa, Shawnee, Prairie Village, Mission, and more, even if Home Depot and Lowes may not agree.

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