Want freebies? Drink some soda
Trade in My Coke Rewards points for movie tickets, magazines, gift cards, electronics and other goodies. Or just get more soda.
Here's how a frugalist does it:
- Collect points, mostly from other sources (more on that later).
- Trade them in for a "free 12-pack" voucher (two of them, if I have enough points).
- Watch for a "buy two 12-packs, get three free" sale.
- Cash in, and drink up.
Yes, I know sodas aren't great for me. (Boy, do I know it: My sister is a dental hygienist.) But what's life without a little sin? Especially if you brush your teeth afterward? (Post continues after video.)
Each bottle cap from a Coca-Cola product -- including Powerade, Nestea, Minute Maid bottled juices and some varieties of Dasani water -- has a code worth three points. Multipacks bear codes worth 10 to 25 points.
Since a 12-pack voucher costs 250 points, that could mean a lot of soda drinking. But I've got a frugal hack for that, too.
No lids? No problem!
Friends, relatives and an employee at my favorite teriyaki joint save codes for me. I'm a cheerful scavenger who picks up caps and boxes when she sees them, either on the ground or in the trash.
I'm more of a Dumpster wader than a Dumpster diver. But if a 12- or 24-pack is within reach I'll get it, remove the code and put the rest of the box in the recycle bin where it belongs.
My most reliable source, though, is a nearby university. Its library recycle bins bristle with empties, and campus trash cans have separate sections for bottles and cans. When a soda or juice bottle is visible, I remove the tops.
Hey, it's stenciled right there on the bins: "No lids." By scavenging the caps, I'm actually doing a good deed.
Maybe you're thinking, "Take a box out of the trash? Pick a soda cap up off the sidewalk? Disgusting!"
Then don't do it. Leave them for us scavengers. Over the years I've heard from other My Coke Rewards fans, including the lucky stiffs who get not only points for the cap but 5-cent deposits for returning the bottles. (I wish.)
Is it worth it?
Six years ago, when I was really broke, I redeemed single movie ticket/soda combos and put them in my daughter's Christmas stocking. The deal cost fewer points back then; as I recall, it I was 330, compared with 485 points now.
These days I regularly send codes to her and my son-in-law. (You can have one account per person, and as many as five per household.) Their preferred premium is the pair of AMC movie tickets, plus two sodas and a large popcorn. Since that costs 1,100 points, they're glad to accept my extras.
You're allowed to enter up to 120 points per week. Thus, in about a month you can get a single ticket and drink -- frugal fun when money is tight. (For another option, see "Go to the movies for free.")
Obviously, this tactic isn't for everyone. But when tickets cost $10 or more, it starts to sound more worthwhile.
One more tip: Give the recycling bin a tap before reaching in. Otherwise you might be unpleasantly surprised by a wasp attracted to the sweet smell of Vanilla Coke.
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WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
The popular online program lets you earn Amazon cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Casual dining restaurant chains have jumped on the happy hour train with deals on drinks and snacks -- maybe enough for dinner.