You know who’s smart? Jonathan Hood, a doctoral student in Auburn’s computer science and software engineering program. (He’s totally in your computer. And maybe your WiFi.)
He’s also taken thriftiness to an art form, which has earned the attention of Yahoo! and Business Insider ( He has this thing, you see, for shopping for rebates, and making those small gift cards pay off:
Ten years ago, at age 15, Hood tagged along with his father on a mission to score Black Friday deals on a few video games.
“I haven’t made a payment on my T-Mobile bill without using a rebate debit card for probably two years now.”
But last month came his thrift de résistance: Paying almost a semester’s worth of his Auburn tuition with rebates:
“Tuition for this semester was $4,500,” he said. “I paid over $2,500 of it with prepaid debit cards [from rebates] and a little over $1,000 of it with rebate checks.”
He estimates he entered between 200 and 250 prepaid debit cards into the University’s online bill pay system. After all the rebates were counted, he was left with less than $1,000 to pay out of pocket.
It takes time and dedication and patience. But then dealing with tuition always has. This might be worth it, you macaroni and cheese eating students:
Here’s how the math adds up, per Hood’s calculations:
“My average rebate takes 11 minutes to fill out and cash, and is for $40. My envelopes and pens were free after rebate, so their cost is negligible. For this $40 rebate, I use a 2% cash-back credit card to purchase the item ($0.80 profit) and receive anywhere from 0-5% using FatCash from Fatwallet or a similar service. Stamp price is $0.45. Then, I turn around and sell the item on eBay for an average profit of $11.91 after shipping and taxes per item.”
Not a bad pursuit. We’re only disappointed he didn’t work a “War Damn Rebate” into the story.
h/t John Gray, @IAM4AU.
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The folks on Ebay that are famous for paying too much for an item are who makes this work! Bravo, Mr. Hood!