This post is a weeeee bit different than my normal. If you read The Minute Magazine, you may have read this in the current issue. The editor asked us to write a “how to” column to mesh with the issue’s theme. Over the last few years, I’ve had friends ask me about some of my “tricks of the trade.” So I thought you guys, along with readers of TMM, might enjoy hearing a few of them too!
Did you know there are some EASY ways you can earn quick cash right now? With just a little effort, you can easily put your purchases to work for you, generating rebates, loyalty points and even free products. Here are six easy ways to recognize additional financial resources right away!
- Online Rebate Programs
If you shop online and aren’t participating in an online rebate program, you are leaving money on the table. Sites such as CouponCabin and Ebates receive a commission from leading retailers for referring you to their website. Rather than pocket 100% of the commission, they share the commission with you, giving back a percentage of your total purchase. With Ebates, you can choose to get a quarterly check or Paypal deposit. HOWEVER, if you choose to load your rebate onto a gift card (i.e. Ulta, Amazon, Walmart, etc.), you will often get an additional bonus ON TOP OF the rebate you have already earned! Right now, if you sign up for Ebates, you’ll receive $10 FREE just for signing up! No strings attached. Here’s a custom (affiliate) link to get you started: https://tinyurl.com/minutemag
Reality TV has glamorized “couponing” and some DIE HARD couponers have it down to a science. But if you play your cards right, you can significantly save at some of your favorite retailers. CVS is GREAT place to coupon. If you have a CVS ExtraCare card, you receive 2% cash back on all your purchases (in the form of quarterly ExtraBucks). You can also stack CVS and manufacturer’s coupons for additional savings (adding up to free or greatly reduced items). And, be sure to watch for extra ExtraBucks on items where you are stacking CVS and manufacturer’s coupons. If you play your cards right, you can regularly coupon at CVS or other retailers and get items for free or nearly free.
- Loyalty Programs
Retailers want you to spend money on their brand. They WANT you to be loyal. Therefore, it makes perfect sense to reward you for spending your dollars with them (over a competitor). Oftentimes, retailers will provide an immediate incentive when you sign up for their loyalty program (i.e. an instant use coupon, a free item, etc.). Then, in turn for spending your money with them, you’re awarded points you can exchange for free products or discounted items. Some of my favorite loyalty retailers are Office Depot, Panera Bread, Johnny Carino’s, Jason’s Deli, Starbucks and Landry’s. These retailers all offer significant value in return for loyalty to their brand. It makes sense to shop with them, in exchange for small rewards as a thank you. The travel industry is no exception. Airlines and hotels want you to be loyal. Points earned can be exchanged for free flights and hotel stays. And don’t forget the VIP treatment you’ll receive as a loyal customer. Sometimes that’s worth more than any free item.
- Money Saving Apps
Never walk into a retailer without first checking for a coupon in the Coupon Sherpa app (free download). Most major retailers will have some type of coupon present within the Sherpa. You simply pull up the coupon and the cashier either scans it OR enters the code from the coupon into the register. And VOILA! Instant savings! Shopkick is another easy to use app that helps you save and earn money. Shopkick awards points for scanning barcodes of items (for market research purposes). They will even give you FREE points for simply walking into a retailer! You exchange the earned points for gift cards to your favorite retailers. That’s FREE money! Also, be sure to check out the Walmart Savings Catcher app or Ibotta for additional opportunities to save.
- Accumulate Credit Card Points
Whoa! Before you go all Dave Ramsey on me, hear me out. First and foremost, a credit card must be treated responsibly and MUST be paid off EVERY month. So this little trick, will only work if you are disciplined enough to do so. Most credit card companies entice you with a low or 0% interest rate for a set period of time. They also may extend bonus points at sign up. In addition, in order to keep you as a loyal customer, most will give you points (or a percentage back of your purchases) you can exchange for other goods or services. Personally, I use my credit card for almost every purchase I make. Anything from gasoline, to groceries, to utilities, to travel and even my tithe goes on my credit card. And at the end of the month, I pay it off in full without exception. In exchange, I rack up an enormous amount of points each year I usually redeem for free airplane tickets. Did you catch that? FREE! If you aren’t able to pay your card off in full every month, DO NOT DO THIS. Sure you may earn anywhere from 1%-3% back in cash or points, but if you are paying ANY interest at all, this is a lose-lose deal and you will not come out ahead. When you pay interest, you are actually paying for your rewards.
- Interest-Based Checking/Savings Accounts
Don’t allow banks to use your money for free! Make them pay you for the privilege of using your hard earned cash. Always think about how to put your money to work for you! Any checking or savings accounts you have should pay you SOMETHING for the use of your money. Granted rates are extremely low on these accounts, but a penny saved is a penny earned, no? Some money earned is better than NO money earned. Bankrate.com is excellent source to research and compare rates.
There are many other tips and tricks you can use to save money, but these six are some of my tried and true! What tips and tricks to you employ to get rebates, rewards and free money? PLEASE share in the comments below. I’d love to hear some of your favorites!