Unfortunately, I haven’t found a way (yet) to in source all of my needs. There are times when it is necessary to spend some money. With every purchase I make, I make sure to maximize money by getting the most out of my dollars. Sometimes it requires a little more effort, but here are several strategies I use to stretch my money.
Note: These strategies only work if you are already have a purchased planned. Do not use any of these strategies just for the “rewards.” Very rarely will the rewards be more than the initial outlay. Just like you should use a $1 coupon on a product you wouldn’t ordinarily buy, you should buy a product just because you might get a point for rewards.
Making the Most
Credit card rewards
I put every purchase on a credit card. For me, it’s the easiest way to track my spending and make sure I stay on budget. I find that if I have cash it usually will end up in a vending machine. On Cheezits. Definitely not the best use of a dollar. Another reason I use a credit card for all purchases is because of the cash back rewards.
My preferred card (USAA) gives me 1.5% cash back. That’s not enough to make me rich, but it is a nice chunk of change at the end of the month. This strategy only works if I pay the bill in full every month. I think my APR is 15.99%, so not paying in full completely negates the cash back savings.
Signing Up for Rewards
This one is a mixed bag. I hate that my shopping habits are stored and analyzed to be able to entice me to spend more money than I would otherwise want (and send me weird offers in the mail to congratulate me on my pregnancy-even though I’ve never been pregnant.) But…I also like lower prices and rewards for things I am already planning on buying. So, I sign up for the grocery rewards card that also gives me cents off each gallon of gas I buy. I sign up for the the apps that give me a free whatever when I buy 10 whatevers first. I don’t go out of my way to purchase those whatevers, but if I know that eventually I will rack up the number necessary to get the reward, I go for it.
Use Cash Back Portals for Online Purchases
I am not a big online shopper. But, I will scour the online ads to see if I can find the best price for something I need. When shopping online, I also take into account cashback from TopCashBack and Ebates. There is a lot of overlap between the two sites, but they generally work the same. If you log into your cashback account, and use their portal to get to the merchant’s website they will give you a percentage of what you spent back.
Of course there are a couple catches. With Ebates you have to earn at least $5 before you can cash out and they only pay out 4 times a year. With TopCashBack it can take up to 12 weeks for your cashback to be available for pay out. But when it is, there are a variety of methods for redeeming it-direct deposit, gift cards, etc.
Both sites offer additional coupons you can apply to your order, further lowering your total.
Discounted Gift Cards
Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard I look, there just aren’t deals to be had. Or, I don’t have a ton of time to wait for a sale. One way to lower the cost of those planned purchases is to purchase discounted gift cards for the merchant. Raise.com has loads of gift cards you can buy (or sell) at a discount. Beware: all merchants aren’t always in stock, and the more popular the merchant the lower the discount. But saving 2% is better than saving no percent.
Did you know that there are several apps that will give rebates for purchasing certain items? Ibotta, Checkout 51, BerryCart, SavingStar and MobiSave are free apps that give you rebates mostly for grocery purchases, but sometimes for other retail stores as well.
They all work basically the same.You “unlock” a rebate by clicking on it, then you purchase the item, and when you get home you scan the bar code on the item and the receipt and within 24 hours your account is credited.
Things to remember: MobiSave makes you “unlock” the rebates before your shopping trip. Checkout51 and Ibotta each have a $20 threshold before you can cash out.
I always take my receipts at the end of a shopping transaction. Not only does it help with budgeting, but I can also earn points by submitting them to apps. ReceiptHog and ReceiptPal are two apps you can use to collect points to eventually cash out for money in your paypal account. It won’t make you rich, but it only takes a few seconds.
Shopkick is yet another app that allows you to earn points to exchange for gift cards or money in your paypal account. While shopping, you open the app to get “walk in” kicks-points just for being in a particular store. You can scan items for additional kicks, and if you buy certain items you can get even more kicks. I have never purchased an items for kicks since they haven’t been for things I’ve needed, but I have scanned items in the store.
With the renovation taking longer than expected, we haven’t had a kitchen. For 4 months. And it’s getting get old trying to cook on induction cook plates in our living room. We’ve been eating out a lot more often than I would like. But one of the ways we’ve maximized our eating out dollars is by shopping deals. Swagbucks Local is an app where you register your credit card number, and every time you use that credit card to pay at a participating restaurant, you get cash back in the form of SBs.
The cash back will never be enough to justify the cost of the meal, so only use it if you’re already going to the restaurant. Luckily for us, in our area there are two restaurants and they are moderately priced.
Note: Not already signed up with Swagbucks? If you sign up with this link and earn 300SBs before the end of the month, you’ll get (and so will I) a 300 SB bonus-which translates to about $3. Nothing to retire on, but a nice bonus if you are already interested.
I talk about mystery shopping. A Lot. I won’t go into it in more detail here, only to say that I mystery shop to buy things I already need. Like groceries, gas and restaurant meals (okay, I don’t need to eat out but I sure do like it a lot!)
And here’s where things go crazy.
I listed several ways that I “double dip” with my money-somehow getting more out of my purchase than the item I buy. But sometimes I triple, quadruple, quintuple dip.
This month we bought a new kitchen appliance set from Best Buy. The total was pretty exorbitant, but we got the appliances we wanted within the budget we set for ourselves. Before the transaction was complete, I pulled out my smart phone, loaded the Ibotta app and had the cashier scan it for 2% back. A couple days later $68.16 was deposited in my Ibotta account. As a Best Buy Rewards member I earned .5 points for each dollar I spent, which I can redeem for a $5 gift card once I earned 250 points. I also used my Best Buy Rewards Credit Card which got me 5% cash back in the form of a gift card. Between the Credit Card and the rewards I earned $160. I am also now have elite status for spending so much in a single year. We also got a $100 gift card for just purchasing the set.
Again, all of this isn’t enough to go out and buy a new kitchen set, but for something we were already planning on buying it was a great extra.
We haven’t quite decided how we want to spend the rewards but we’ve discussed getting a new grill, a GoPro or a new laptop for me.
Triple Dip Twice
When we had a couple weekends without a working bathroom, we needed to book a hotel to stay in. I logged into my TopCashBack account and clicked through to Raise.com. From there I bought gift cards for Hotels.com on my cash back credit card. I got cash back through TopCashBack for the gift card purchase, I received a discounted gift card, and I also got cash back from my credit card.
Then, I went through Hotels.com through TopCashBack to book the hotel. I used my gift cards to pay. Because I didn’t want to have leftover money on the gift cards (I naively thought we would only need to stay in a hotel once) I needed to cover a little bit with my credit card. I received cash back from both TopCashBack and my credit card, and earned punches towards a free night at Hotels.com.
Sextuple My Money
I frequently mystery shop at a grocery store. While I am there I open my Shopkick App to get my walkin Kicks and see if there are any items to scan. My purchases are covered up to $14 or $17 dollars, normally. For each dollar I spent at the grocery store, I get a fuel point. Once I get 100 points, I get 10 cents off per gallon of gas I buy. I put all of my purchases on my credit card, getting me 1.5% cash back. Then, I go home and submit rebates from Ibotta and Checkout51 (and sometimes Mobisave) earning me more money back. Lastly, I submit my receipts to ReceiptPal and ReceiptHog. Right there I just sextupled my money (well, that sounds dirty…)
Making my money work harder for me does take a few extra steps. Sometimes it doesn’t take much time or effort (whipping out my iPhone to scan an app at the register.) Sometimes it takes more of a committment (shopping through cash back portal twice-once for gift card, once to book the hotel.) It’s up to you to decide how far you want to take the double dipping.