I don’t think there’s anyone on this earth who wouldn’t mind a few extra dollars in their pocket. And while you can search for promo codes, print out coupons, and seek out sales, there are actually quite a few ways you can earn cash back and rewards for items you’re buying anyway. Some of these may be nothing new, but collectively they offer you a nice handful of “free money” for barely any extra effort:
Ebates is a great site that my mom recently introduced me to, and it’s my new favorite way to shop online. You simply log onto the site, then click the link to your favorite store and continue shopping as you normally would. You can earn 1-5% cash bank on average (sometimes more), and it is credited to your account almost instantly. They also offer their own deals at different stores and alert you to sales. Plus you get a $10 gift card to a choice of stores just for signing up. At the end of each quarter Ebates mails you a check. I used it to shop on Amazon over Christmas and got a nice bonus check by mid-January. Be sure to use it for Groupon deals, because you’ll earn 6%!
- Grocery Rebate Apps
I’ve just started using these, and they do require a bit of time, but I’ve gotten $12 back so far just from scanning grocery receipts and answering a few polls. Ibotta and SavingStar are the two I have installed on my phone. Both work essentially the same way: scan the rewards before you shop to see which redemptions are available, shop as you normally would, then scan the items and take a photo of your receipt. You can redeem your rewards through PayPal or through gift cards. The difference is that Ibotta asks you to answer quick polls or watch short videos in order to earn rewards, and SavingStar offers freebies and a weekly deal on a fresh food item (such as apples). In my opinion though, Ibotta offers rewards on better items, such as any brand of bread, cereal, eggs, and milk on occasion. And you can form teams to add bonuses – the larger your team, the more you can earn (if you’re interested in joining my team, enter the referral code “iewolqd”). Use both apps to bulk up savings.
- Price Match Savings
I’m not sure if other stores offer this, but Walmart recently debuted their Savings Catcher app and I’ve already collected over $30 back on a gift card. We get our groceries from their store in town primarily, so taking an extra minute to scan the receipt bar code is worth it. Even if you don’t shop there all the time, the savings are figured out automatically and you can redeem them at any point. Sometimes you don’t get any cash back, but sometimes you may also get $10-$15 from a single trip. All you have to do is scan, so you can set your savings in motion by the time you drive home.
- Credit Card Rewards
So I’ll preface this one with a caution: credit card rewards systems are great, as long as you’re responsible with them. That being said, there are several great options for rewards systems out there: flat rate cash back, 5% rewards, gas rewards, mileage rewards, and more. Research recommendations for the best cards, and choose the one that will benefit you the most. I love to use my points for airline tickets, because nothing beats saving up to take large chunks off that ticket price. I also know people who redeem the points for gift cards to their favorite stores and restaurants. If you’re routinely paying off your purchases at the end of the month, credit card rewards can give you a healthy boost.
- Airline Mile Programs & Partners
Speaking of airline miles, most major airlines offer mileage programs that reward you with for customer loyalty. Fly often enough and you can join their elite programs, earning you free bags, VIP boarding lines, and free upgrades (it’s not as hard as you think: flying United 5-6 times in a year can be enough to make you a “Silver Member”). Many airlines also have industry and corporate partners, where you can earn extra miles by flying partner airlines for other locations or purchasing certain products (ex. FTD has a deal with United Plus members). Do some research on the different airlines to see which programs offer the most bang for your buck.
- Rewards Cards
Most stores offer some form of a loyalty card, either in the form of a store credit card or a rewards card. I’m a fan of the latter. Kohl’s, CVS, Petco, Regal Cinemas, and others offer you cash back and freebies based on how often you shop with them (ex. 5% cash back, free popcorn). The best part is that most of them can simply look up your account via phone number, so you don’t have to worry if you leave your card at home. You can also stores cards on your phone with an assortment of “wallet” apps. Kohl’s is my favorite of these, as they sometimes reward you with $10 in Kohl’s Cash for every $50 you spend. And if you use CVS for prescriptions, don’t forget that you can apply them to your ExtraCare rewards.
- Amazon Smile
Okay, so this one won’t earn you extra cash, but it will donate that money to a charity of your choice. It functions the same way as Amazon’s standard site, but Amazon Smile automatically donates a portion of your purchase (0.5%) without you paying anything extra. While they do offer several spotlight charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Doctors Without Borders, you can also write in a charity of your own that you’d like to support. I think this is a great idea, and I highly recommend signing up; Amazon will even ask you if you’d like to switch sites once you sign on.
These programs have really helped my husband and me to save a bit of money on our purchases. Just last month we used Ebates with Groupon to get a San Diego ticket package worth $211 for only $90, including an instant $6 cash back (plus 90 credit card points).
Here are some tips I’ve found useful:
- Combine these programs/apps with coupons and sales for even better results.
- Focus on using these ideas for what you’re already planning to buy; don’t get distracted into shopping for items only because they offer a deal.
- Remember: all those nickels and dimes add up!
I hope this has given you some ideas for new ways to add some padding to your household budget. Have you tried any other ways to save on shopping? Please share below!