So Many Rewards Programs, So Little Time

In my Week In Review posts, I talk about a lot of freebies I’ve earned and deals I’ve scored with different apps and rewards programs. I participate in quite a few programs that involve points, whether it’s from an app, rewards program, taking surveys etc. (Some of my favorites: Bing Rewards, Shopkick, Cartwheel, Recyclebank, Ebates, My Starbucks Rewards, Purina Perks, credit card rewards.)

The thing is, there are a lot of programs out there. And while I participate in a bunch, I barely skim the surface. So how do you choose which programs to participate in and which to pass on? Here are my top three criteria:

  • I earn points, freebies, deals etc in a reasonable amount of time.
  • I can easily integrate it into my daily routine. (I don’t have to go out of my way to use it.)
  • It’s a good use of my time.

For me, the number one thing is about the value of my time. How much is my time worth? Take Shopkick for example; let’s put it to the test:

  • I earn a $5 Starbucks gift card every two weeks or so. That is reasonable to me, considering I don’t have to go out of my way to use this app.
  • I very easily build this into my routine. Remember to open the app before I walk into the store, and scan a few items as I walk around and browse. (Probably 99% of my Shopkick usage is at Target and I’m wandering around anyway, so it takes very minimal effort to scan things.) The thing is, I don’t go to stores solely to use Shopkick. The key is that I use this app at stores I would be going to regardless.
  • I consider it to be a good use of my time. The scanning maybe adds 5 minutes to my shopping trip. Say it takes about 3 Target visits to earn a $5 gift card. That means my “pay rate” would be $5 for 15 minutes of my time…or $20 per hour. Not bad. I’ll work for that.

To me, Shopkick is worth my time. I try to apply this criteria to each program I participate in. It’s about easily building it into my routine, keeping things simple, and not taking much of my time. If it takes me 5 hours to earn $5, then my hourly rate is only $1/hour. I won’t work for that, so that program is out. It’s not a good use of my time.

Some programs take longer than others to earn points, but it can still be worth it, if I literally don’t have to do anything to earn points. Take Bing Rewards for example. It may take me a two months to earn a $5 Amazon gift card, but I’m literally doing nothing extra to earn it. I signed up for the program, set Bing as my search engine, and go about my usual routine as the points rack up.

Here are my personal “No Go’s” for rewards programs:

  • I won’t go out of my way to use it. If I’m going to Target only to use Shopkick, and not to buy groceries, then it’s a waste of my time and gas and isn’t getting me ahead at all. (The only exception to this is if I’m at the mall, I may do a lap walking by stores to get walk-in points.)
  • If the app encourages me to spend more it’s a No Go. Every now and then Starbucks has a deal where if you buy a drink 5 or 7 days in a row you can get bonus stars. Nope, not going to do it. I don’t go there daily as it is, so extra visits are not going to help me get ahead.
  • I don’t use apps or programs that require me to pay to join or give out more information that I’m comfortable with.
  • I won’t participate in programs that give me an hourly rate lower than I’d work for.
  • I won’t alter my routine for an app or program. If it doesn’t fit in nicely, then I’m not interested. Sure, I may have to develop new habits (such as opening Shopkick before I walk into a store) but nothing extreme.
  • While credit card reward points are great, I won’t use my credit card if I know I can’t pay it off in full. Whatever freebies I earn are absolutely not worth the interest.
  • I won’t buy a particular brand just to earn rewards points. (Like Purina and their Perks program for example.) I will truly look for the best deal and value, but I will take earned points into mild consideration.

What works for one person, may not work for someone else since we all have different habits and routines. Just make sure it’s truly worth your time. What apps and rewards programs save or earn you the most money?


Successful Shopping Trip!

I had a successful little shopping trip at Target today! If you don’t want to read about my lady items, then stop reading now.

I scored $20.27 worth of stuff for only $9.45!

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Here’s how:

  • $2 Curel coupon for the lotion, which came from a (free) magazine subscription.
  • Mobile coupon for a $5 gift card with a $15 personal care purchase. (Get it here.)
  • Coupon for $1 off a $3 Up&Up item.
  • Coupon for free nail polish remover with an Up&Up cotton purchase.
  • Coupon for 75¢ off a shave item.
  • All items except the Curel lotion had Cartwheel discounts.
  • Plus 5¢ off for bringing my own bag.
  • Plus 5% off with my REDcard.

The key to these coupons and deals is to purchase things you use regularly. Everything I purchased is part of my regular purchase routine. Nothing “extra” or frivolous. Sure, coupons are a great time to try new products you’re curious about, but if you’re going to use them to stock up on things, the key is to purchase things you use regularly.

Have you scored any great deals lately? Comment below!


Target Deals This Week

There are a few fun deals at Target this week! Here are a few of my favorites:

Target: $5 gift card with $15 personal care purchase. Text CARE1 to 827438

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Target Cartwheel: 15% off all music, movies, and books!

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Target Cartwheel: 10% off make up and nail polish!

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Week In Review: 10/12-10/18

Not a lot to report this week at all….

  • I earned a free drink at Starbucks through My Starbucks Rewards. I enjoyed it on my lunch break one day this week where it beautiful and in the 70s! Perfect day sit outside with a book and enjoy some free coffee!

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  • I’m working on switching my Roth IRA contributions to $450/month instead of $300. I want to get closer to maxing it out.
  • Because of the Roth switch, I’m reducing my 457b contributions to $100 per pay check for now. I’m hoping to increase it again once I pay off my car.
  • I changed around some of the causes that I donate to regularly. I struggle with this. I want to donate on a regular basis, but there are so many causes that I care about. I need to really settle on one or two and focus on them. Otherwise I don’t feel like I’ve made an impact when I change it all the time. So basically, I’m fine-tuning my donations right now.
  • I got a free download of the Enrique Iglesias Greatest Hits album! I love his song Bailando lately!
  • I redeemed some credit card rewards points for a $25 Amazon gift card.

That’s really all there is unfortunately. I’m hoping for a lot more activity in a few weeks. My next pay check is an “extra” one this month, so no car payment or mortgage. I’m going to use it to pay off my credit card (I have a small balance right now due to Max’s vet visit last week) and then put the rest towards my auto loan.

Have a great weekend!


Two Year Homeowner Anniversary

Two years ago today I closed on my first home! I remember before buying my house many people discouraged me from buying a house alone because of the upkeep of mowing the grass and snow removal. Well I’ve survived two summers and two winters just fine! The grass was cut and the snow removed.

Last year I wrote about my first year as a homeowner and the different projects I’d tackled. Year Two is not as exciting. Nonetheless, here is the list!

  • My fence was repaired. It leaned severely into my neighbor’s yard and was an eyesore. I can’t take credit for this one as my neighbor did most of the work, but it looks so much better now and it only cost me about $65. ($15 for my half of the supplies and a $50 gift card to thank him)
  • My awesome friends Rich and Jan gave me a gazebo! It has transformed my deck into an outdoor oasis. Amazing how something like mesh walls and a canvas ceiling can make you feel so cozy. I’ve spent hours out there working on the blog or reading with the dog.

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  • I upgraded to a stainless steel fridge. When I bought the house I knew I wanted a stainless steel kitchen eventually and now the transformation is complete! There’s really no affordable way to buy a new fridge, but I got a decent price by purchasing it from an open box place. There are a few imperfections but I am probably the only one who knows they are there.

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  • My friend Rich helped me build a shed! I have a two-car garage and only one car, but I am slightly OCD about my garage and wanted to be able store some clutter in a shed. (I was surprised by this garage obsession when I became a homeowner. Wasn’t expecting that!) I did have a little incident where right after I built the shed I lost the key and couldn’t get into it for two months until my friend brought over some lock cutters…but we won’t get into that…

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  • I splurged on a Tempurpedic mattress but it has been worth every penny. I love catching up with my chiropractor, but I’ve hardly seen her since I bought this thing. It’s helped my back and my sleep so much!
  • Along with the mattress, I redid my bedroom. It went from the dark feeling of red and black décor, to sunny tan and blue! I found great deals on curtains and bedding and it was an easy transformation!

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  • I did have a little incident where my garage door broke. That was expensive, but that’s what emergency funds are for.
  • Aside from those few larger projects, this year was really about small improvements and touch ups; a fresh coat of paint on a dingy door, new dusk to dawn automated light bulbs outside, finally getting the grout in my bathroom looking good, doing some craft projects to improve the décor, putting some new organizational systems in place etc.

Other than the garage door, all of these things were wants, not needs. So far I’ve been very fortunate in that way with this house. (Knock on wood.) At this point I feel entirely settled in and just maintaining and making small improvements when I’m feeling inspired. Again, I’m very thankful for the friends who have helped me out along the way!

Cheers to another year!


Starbucks Rewards: Bonus Star at Target

Starbucks Rewards members: buy any Starbucks beverage at Target 10/17-10/19 and get a bonus star!


DIY Bottle Cap Coasters

I’ve seen so many cute DIY coaster ideas lately! They’d all make great gifts too! A few months ago I made some wine cork coasters for a friend’s birthday. This week I came across some bottle cap coasters. Just hot glue 9 each to some wood or cork board!

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FREE Enrique Iglesias Greatest Hits Album

Right now you can get Enrique Iglesias’ album Greatest Hits for FREE from Google Play! Get it here! If you’re new to Google Play, you may have to enter credit/debit card information, but your card will not be charged.

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Infographic: Save Money With Technology

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Laundry Room Makeover

My friend Laura recently made over her laundry room. She posted some awesome pictures on Facebook and agreed to let me share on Simply Save. Here’s the before and after:

Before

Before

After

After

She said she purchased cheap paint, since the room is not high traffic. Her hubby made the shelves, which saved a lot! She made the little pictures herself and decorated with things she already had around the house. And check out how fast the spare change adds up in the coin jar!

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Super cute! I might have to borrow some of these fun, thrifty ideas! Thanks for sharing Laura!


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