While money is not the source of happiness, having enough definitely helps and certainly makes life a lot easier. And knowing I’m spending a little less than I would otherwise is a good feeling. No doubt, knowing ways to spend less is a very good thing.
I was thinking today about how glad I am that I’m aware of a few tricks that help me save money (well, technically spend less) with almost no effort on my part.
When my oldest was a baby, I tried couponing. While that did work, it also took quite a bit of time and effort. Because of that, I didn’t keep it up. (Although I did gain some better shopping skills, like stocking up on staples when the price is low, so that’s cool.)
Unlike the couponing, here are three simple and almost effortless ways to hang on to your money.
1. Use a Rewards Debit Card.
You know how every time you check out at certain stores, they ask if you want to open a credit account with them? Well, a few months ago I finally listened as a very helpful and nice cashier at Target told me all about their rewards debit card. (I honestly didn’t even realize they had that!)
This woman was amazing. She shared why it’s so awesome, and answered questions I had (without me asking them) in a friendly and helpful way. She used it herself, and she knew from personal experience how well it worked, so that came through in what she shared about it.
Basically, you do apply for it (although it was way simpler than any credit card application I’ve ever filled out), but since it’s a debit card, they just take the money out of your checking account. (I really like that it’s not a credit card. I didn’t want any more credit cards.)
The main benefit is that every time you use at Target, you get a 5% discount.
So, that’s $5 in my pocket for every $100 I spend. And all I have to do is remember to use that card instead of my regular debit card. I love it.
Another perk is that you get free shipping on all Target online purchases. That comes in handy especially for lower dollar amount purchases that wouldn’t make sense if I had to pay for shipping.
2. Buy Gas at the Grocery Store.
For years I’ve been getting gas at Kroger (where I shop for groceries), using my Kroger Rewards card.
Basically, for every $100 you spend in groceries at Kroger, you get 10 cents off per gallon. The last time I filled up there, I got 30 cents off per gallon!
It definitely adds up, and I shop at Kroger anyway, so it just makes sense.
If your grocery store doesn’t have a fuel rewards program, I found this option online, aptly called Fuel Rewards. After joining, you link your credit or debit cards to the program, and then when you shop at their affiliate stores and restaurants, you earn points that lead to cents off per gallon at participating gas stations, which seem to be largely Shell stations.
While I haven’t tried this program, it sounds like it’s worth checking out. You can read more about it at www.fuelrewards.com.
3. Use Ebates for Online Shopping.
I Heart Ebates!!!
If you’re not yet familiar with Ebates (or similar sites such as Fat Wallet), this is how it works: Let’s say you want to buy something at Amazon, such as Camaron Brooks’ wonderful book, Reporting Live from Studio B.
2. Search for Amazon on Ebates, and click on the link. It will tell you how much of a rebate you’ll get and if there are any coupons/special offers.
Amazon rotates its categories that have a rebate. At the moment of this writing, they have a 3% rebate on clothing and several other categories, and even 7% on Home Services. (I didn’t even realize Amazon had Home Services!)
3. Click the link that says Shop Now, and you’re on your way. That’s it. You’ll be automatically redirected to Amazon’s website, and you just shop on Amazon as you normally would.
And that’s it! You just go about your business, while the cash adds up in your Ebates account as you shop online.
So, how do you actually Get Paid, you ask?
Once a quarter, they send you a Big Fat Check. That’s really what they call it. I think it’s cute.
If you want, you can choose to be paid via PayPal, but I like getting an actual check in the mail.
I’ve been a member since May 6, 2008, and in that time, they have sent me $392.50. !!! And all I had to do was shop how I normally do, but make sure to access the online store from their link on Ebates.
It’s ridiculously easy. Totally free money! I love it.
Smart Shopping for the Best Price
Ebates regularly has specials, where certain companies offer double cash back for a limited time. I honestly don’t keep tabs on that, because I don’t believe in trying find ways to spend money in order to save money (you know what I mean?). :)
But, on the other hand, if it is possible to buy what you are already looking for at a number of different stores, then it makes sense to quickly do a bit of comparison shopping:
- Price (Including Shipping)
- Online Coupon Code
- Ebates Rebate
When I’m looking for a specific item to buy, this is how I like to go about it:
1. Consult the oracle, aka, Google: Search for the retailer with the lowest price (including shipping!).
2. Once you find the store that has the lowest price, Google that store name plus coupon codes or go to Retailmenot.com to see if there are coupons available for a price reduction and/or free shipping. (You might also search this for prices that are close but higher, because a good coupon code can really make the difference.)
3. Click on Ebates and check the stores where you’ve found the item at a good price and see how the rebate amount would factor in to the equation. (You can also search Ebates for coupons for stores that are connected to Ebates.)
I just added their extension to Google Chrome, and I think that will work well. I know it will be a handy reminder, because sometimes I actually forget to use Ebates and that’s a bummer.
How to Find the Highest Rebates on Ebates
If you’re curious about which stores are offering the highest rebates at any given time, or you want to check it out now, here’s how…
1. Visit the Ebates website and click on All Stores on the left side of the upper menu. You’ll see a table with all the stores in alphabetical order with the rebate amount listed.
2. To order them by rebate amount, just click Cash Back at the top of the rebate column. They will reorder.
Remember that rebate amounts change a lot, so one day it might be 2% and then next week it might be 4%. So if you’re into finding the highest amounts, keep that amount and use that search feature.
So, what are the drawbacks, you ask?
Honestly, the only drawback I can think of is that not every store is on there.
And some stores I shop at don’t have the highest rebates, but hey! Even 1 or 2% is better than nothing. It all adds up.
And last, you have to actually remember to shop through their website.
I often wait until right before I’m ready to check out, then I leave the store’s website, go to Ebates, and then click on the store link. Thanks to cookies, my shopping cart is usually still filled with my items.
However, while writing this article I just installed their app for Chrome. I can already tell it’s going to make it even easier since I don’t have to try to remember to even go to Ebates. It automatically connects to Ebates. Hooray!
Some of My Favorite Shops on Ebates
Boden is one of my very favorite stores, and while I can’t afford to shop there as much as I’d like, when I do, I search for coupons and try to remember to use the Ebate link.
Right now I searched for Boden on Ebates, and it shows a coupon code for 20% off plus free shipping, PLUS the 4% rebate. I love it. I’ll catch you all later. I’m going to go search for beautiful clothes… (Just kidding!)
I’m woefully behind on getting photos printed, but when I do, I use my Snapfish account. Snapfish is on Ebates, and their rebate amount is 10% :) Very good… They are always having sales, too, which I like. Oh, and I just noticed that when friends use your link to sign up, they get 40% off their order, and you get $10 added to your account credit. That’s great!
I have bought shoes a good bit from ShoeBuy, and they have great rebates AND great coupons and sales. Right now their rebate percentage is 6%!
Shoebuy is great for buying additional or replacement pairs of shoes you know work well for you or your family members.
If you’re looking for a new, untried pair of shoes, you might want to shop for that pair in person. On the other hand, I love Shoebuy’s easy exchange and returns, so if you have the patience for it, they’re great.
I am all about super easy, effortless ways to save money and spend less, and all of these fit the bill.
While money isn’t something I have written about before, I just really love to share things that have helped me, and I hope you find something helpful in here.
And maybe you can use some of the money you save to buy yourself a treat! Hmmm…. dark chocolate? A good book?
Over to You
If you have any comments, questions, or other ways to spend less and save more money without too much thought or effort, I’d love to hear about it! Just leave a comment below.
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In my next article I’ll be back with more self-care goodness, and hopefully that one will be here soon.
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