I am a major penny pincher. Some even might call me cheap, and while I will accept that, I prefer to call myself frugal 😉 Pinching pennies has saved our budget many times over, particularly during two seasons of unemployment, but also just in general, as we have spent almost the entirety of our marriage toward the lower end of the earning spectrum. As online shopping has become more and more the norm for us, I have discovered a few ways that have helped us to save, and in some cases, actually earn money, while buying the things we need. I know many of you out there are always looking for ways to save money also, so here are my best secrets. Some of these options have affiliate links, which means if you sign up through my link, I will get a small credit for your signup, and I really appreciate that, as it helps me to keep this website going 🙂
1. I try to use a cashback/rebate site to earn back a percentage of my purchase amount every time I shop.
My favorite is Ebates! You simply sign up for an account, and then each time you are shopping online, you click through the Ebates site to the particular store of your choice. Once you have made your purchase, Ebates will give you cash back in your account, which they will pay out to you in the form of a Big Fat Check–easy peasy. There are no rebate forms to fill out or mail in. They simply credit your account, and send checks out every 3 months for what you’ve earned during that time. Each store has a different percentage that has been negotiated, but most of the stores I shop at regularly are on their list, and the percentages are decent. They also give you a list of the best coupons and deals for those sites, so you can use both when you check out. Ebates has also recently added a few brick-and-mortar stores to their list as well, which is really nice! It’s really a no-brainer to use this site. It’s easy, free, and hello–cash back!!
*Right now, when you sign up, you can get $10 cash back when you make purchases through their site totaling $25 or more in the first 3 months that you are a member. Free money for buying what you would be anyway? YES, PLEASE! If you want to sign up for an account, you can click on this link right here: SIGN UP WITH EBATES!
There are a couple of other cashback/point earning sites that I sometimes use instead of Ebates. I basically compare to see where I can get the better deal, and although I use Ebates most frequently, I have gotten some nice gift cards for earning points on these sites, so I definitely think they are worth mentioning. One is MyPoints. I just cashed in points for a $50 gift card to Cheesecake Factory, and thanks to that, we’ll be taking my son there to eat for his birthday for FREE. With MyPoints, you can sign up to receive their emails, many of which offer an option to earn points just for clicking through the email. The point values are small (usually just 5 points for emails), but they do add up if you have the time to click through them. Another site I have used in the past and still use occasionally is SwagBucks. Both Swagbucks and MyPoints offer options to shop through their sites, print and use coupons, watch videos, play games, take surveys/polls, and use their search engines to earn points. You can make one of their sites your home page to make it easier, especially if you’re using their search engines, or they both have the browser buttons you can add as well. I have not done a major comparison between their search engines and other big search engines, but it seems they are pretty similar, at least when it comes to normal, everyday searches. Both MyPoints and SwagBucks offer a few different payout options, so you have some flexibility there too. You can sign up for MyPoints here: SIGN UP WITH MYPOINTS! If you would like to start earning SwagBucks, you can click here: SIGN UP WITH SWAGBUCKS!
2. I always look for a coupon or deal when I am shopping online.
One way to do this is to get on the email lists for the shopping sites you frequent, so that they will send you deals and coupons. I have done this for several sites that I shop at all the time, and they are constantly sending me really great coupons so that I am always able to take advantage of some kind of discount when I shop there. Vitacost is one of those, and they send coupon deals just about every week. It does help to know where to shop when you’re wanting a deal. For example, I know that Hobby Lobby and Michael’s always have a 40% off coupon for non-sale items every week, and I can also most always get a 20% off coupon for Bed Bath and Beyond at any given time. JoAnn Fabrics always has great coupon deals on their site also. So anytime I find something on Amazon or another site that I can get at one of those places, I always compare the price with the coupon (and any cashback deals from Ebates) to see which is the better deal. (Don’t forget to factor in shipping costs too.)
If you are using Ebates, they will have a pretty extensive and up-to-date list of the coupons and deals available for the store where you are shopping. So it’s like 2-in-1 when you use their site. That is super helpful!
The best coupon site I’ve found to check for online coupons is Retailmenot.com. They have a great list of coupons/coupon codes for each store, and often you can find the one that best fits your needs from their list. It’s free to use, and you don’t have to sign up for an account, although that is an option on their site. I check them every time I shop, and compare their coupons to what Ebates recommends. Usually they are the same, but I always like to make sure I’m not missing something. 😉 PinchingYourPennies.com is another great site to check for deals. You can subscribe to their emails to get the most up-to-date deals sent to your inbox.
3. I always use a credit card that has a cash back option or a rewards option when I am shopping online.
Some credit cards offer better rewards than others for certain kinds of purchases, and some even offer deals for certain merchants when you use their card to make purchases there. Depending on how many other purchases you make on the card (we actually pay for all our gas and even some of our household bills with our cash back credit cards), the earnings can really add up. You just want to be careful to always pay off your credit card balance every month, or you’ll end up with fees that will negate your cash back or rewards earnings and cost you money! You definitely don’t want to do that! Bonus: Using and paying credit cards off each month is a good way to build your credit score!
One of the cards I use regularly for online purchases is my Discover Card. They offer 1% cash back on all purchases (which is pretty standard), and usually have special offers throughout the year where they give more cash back for purchases at different kinds of merchants. I have also been able to use the accumulated cash back from my Discover Card to either entirely pay for, or almost entirely pay for some of my Amazon shopping. Amazon has a way that you can link many rewards cards and apply your cashback amount to your purchase total at checkout, and that makes saving money even easier! If you’re new to Discover, and sign up through my link between now and the end of the year, you and I can both get a $50 Cashback Bonus when you make a purchase in the first 3 months of signing up. Pretty sweet deal! You can apply for a Discover Card here: SIGN UP FOR A DISCOVER CARD!
4. I always stack these deals when I can to get the most I can out of them! What is great is that if you go through a cash back or point-earning site when you shop, use a coupon deal, and then pay with your cash back credit card, that’s a triple whammy of savings/earning potential! When we bought our washing machine earlier this year, we went to several brick-and-mortar stores and looked at the different models. When we settled on one we liked, I was able to find the same model at a store online for the same price, PLUS a better coupon deal than they were offering in the store (thanks to Retailmenot!), PLUS free delivery (the store was going to charge us!) I went through Ebates, used my coupons, and my cash back credit card and VOILA–we ended up with a substantial savings on the washer and had it delivered directly to our door! SCORE!
I would love to hear any of your ideas, advice, and secrets to saving and earning money when you shop! And if you try any of these great methods I’ve shared here, I would love to hear about your savings, and celebrate that with you! Please do share!