Free Apps and Tools I Use to Save Money
My friend Kristina and I like to text each other pictures of the portions of receipts where it shows how much money was saved during that shopping trip. I have been known to put receipts with huge savings up on the fridge for a few weeks, just to make myself giddy all over again. Finding the right tools and combination of tricks to save some cash is a huge thrill for me. During parts of our adult lives, it has been absolutely essential for us to find ways to bring our bills down. As our income has ebbed and flowed, lowering our spending has remained constant, because why not save some dough?
Today I am sharing some of my favorite apps and tools that I use all the time to save cash. All of them are totally free to you, and don’t require a paid membership or anything like that. For full disclosure, a few are affiliates, but all are used and loved by our family.
- The Target Red (Debit) Card. I believe they have a credit card version of this, but I use the debit card version. It is exactly the same as using your own debit card at the store, but you get 5% off your total bill. Red Card holders get free shipping on most online orders, and there are occasionally coupons mailed and emailed. Around Christmas last year, I was treated to many “Save $10 off any purchase” coupons. The bottom of your receipt will show your savings for each trip, and an accumulation of the whole year. Additionally, Target notoriously has a crappy return policy. If you purchased an item with your Red Card, they can simply look it up based on your card number. No receipt required. They carry a brand of kids clothing called Cat and Jack, and they guarantee they will last a year. Jack blew out a pair of knees (of course) in some pants a few months ago, and they simply found the purchase on my Red Card, and allowed me to get a new pair.
- Ibotta. This grocery app has been really fun to use, because the stores that qualify are so broad. I can find discounts at my favorite grocery store, Costco, Target, and even Joann fabrics. They offer cashback rebates on hotels, clothing stores, and even online flower purchases. For me, many of the grocery deals aren’t things I personally buy, but I can usually find something to use. They often have generic rebates like “get $.50 cashback on any gallon of milk” or “get $.25 cashback on any purchase of bananas”, and I tend to use those more often than deals on the processed items. If you buy alcohol at all, there are huge savings on certain brands. Where it has really paid off for me is the Joann’s rebates. When I opened my Etsy shop, fabric and ribbon were constant purchases for me. At times Ibotta has offered $5 cashback on a $30 purchase, and recently they have been offering 10% cashback on any Joann’s purchase. Those rebates are in addition to all the coupons I can use at Joann’s. I signed up for Ibotta in January, and have banked $106.47 in cashback. I’m waiting to withdraw it until fall. I plan to use half of the total for Christmas presents for our family, and half for Christmas presents for the Angel/Giving trees that we support at church and Jack’s school.
- Joann’s coupons and apps. If you find yourself at the craft store often, it makes sense to never be without a coupon. Joann’s is essentially my frenemy – I rely on their sales and deals for my crafting, but shopping at the store makes my blood boil. There are never enough people working, so you’re constantly standing in lines to get fabric cut, or check out. I doubt Joann has ever actually shopped at her own store. You can sign up for their email and text coupons, and also download the app. Additionally, they mail hard copy flyers to your home. Each of those coupons can be used independently of each other on items in one purchase. During many in-store purchases, they also give you coupons to use at a future time. I always use the Ibotta app for rebates on my overall purchases. Let’s say my total pre-coupon purchase is $76. With four 50% off one item coupons (text, email, hard copy, and app), let’s say I can bring my total down to $37. I can then use the Joann’s”$5 off a purchase of $35 or more” coupon, bringing my total down to $32. With Ibotta, I can often get a $5 rebate for that purchase, bringing my $76 fabric purchase down to $27. Also, I recently discovered that you can place a fabric order online at Joann’s, and pick it up in store. If you know what fabric you need, you simply request that specific yardage and can skip the stupid Mad Max Thunderdome style cut counter. You can use the coupons for the online purchase, and pick up your purchase directly at the checkout counter. After standing in line for 45 minutes of course while the one freaking cashier works her way through 39 people.
- Ebates. My friend Kristina told me about ebates, and I’m sad I didn’t know of it years ago. Basically, you go through their website landing page when doing online shopping, and many stores will give you cashback for your purchase. They have thousands of stores they partner with, and the cashback amounts will change depending on the time of year and store. They were recently celebrating their birthday, so a ton of stores were offering 15% cashback. I have accumulated only a small amount of cashback on ebates, simply because I don’t do that much online shopping, excluding Amazon (which occasionally qualifies for ebates). If you shop often online, you’ll likely bank a crap ton of cashback. Ebates often offers cashback on Groupon purchases as well. The drawback to ebates is most only qualify if you make your purchase via a computer; not tablet or phone.
- Checkout 51. This grocery app was recommended by many of you! I find it easier to redeem purchases compared with Ibotta, but I find the user interface harder to use when looking for deals. Unlike Ibotta, I can’t just search for an item I’m looking for. You have to scroll through lists and categories to see if something has a rebate. You also can’t sort by store, so I often see rebates that are offered exclusively at stores I don’t frequent. My cashback has been much smaller than Ibotta, but free money is still free money! One thing I like about it is that I can get a rebate for an item which I have also earned a rebate for via Ibotta. My grocery store will often discount the expensive organic whole milk baby yogurt if it is within two weeks of expiration. A six pack will go from $4.99, to $2.29. My grocery store has their own app (see #7 below), and often has a $1.00 off coupon. Ibotta and Checkout 51 usually each have a $.75 rebate for this yogurt. Even though my out of pocket cost for that discounted yogurt is $1.29 (with coupon), I still can collect the $1.50 combined rebates from Ibotta and Checkout 51.
- Cartwheel. This is the Target app that has discounts and coupons for items at Target. Since the coupons are Target coupons, you can also stack them with a manufacturer’s coupon for additional savings. One feature I love about Cartwheel is that you can scan items in your cart from the app, and see if there are any discounts within Cartwheel for that product. It saves you from searching by hand through every discount. If you order through Cartwheel on a computer, you can also earn at least 1% cashback through ebates.
- Fred Meyer app. This is a grocery/home store in the Pacific Northwest that pretty much rules. Their app has 300-500 coupons loaded on it at all times. Many are things I would never buy, but they usually have discounts of tons of organic products, including $.60 off organic salad, etc. Additionally, every Friday they have a “freebie” item. As long as you download the freebie from the app on Friday, you can redeem it any time in the next 15(ish) days. We stuffed Jack’s stocking last Christmas with free candy and gum from the app. We donate items to our church food pantry if there is something we don’t want, and Troy often takes some of the snackier items to work with him. It is a good day when the freebie item also has an Ibotta rebate. Not only am I getting the item for free, but then I also get cashback from Ibotta.
- Amazon Prime. Yes, this does cost money. Yes, I promised all this stuff was free. But for those who don’t already have Amazon Prime, they offer a free 30 day Prime trial. You can test it out to see if you like it, or just cancel it. We pay for Prime every year and I would never have it any other way. Free two-day shipping on most items, free photo storage and music streaming, a free Kindle book a month, and loads of free movies and TV. We don’t have cable, and have used a combination of Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Hulu on our Roku for the last five years for our TV watching.
- Swagbucks. I wrote about Swagbucks years ago in this post, and everything pretty much still holds true. You randomly earn points for using their search engine while online. You could even use their engine to search for Google. Every year I redeem $20-50 in Amazon giftcards through Swagbucks and use them for Christmas presents.
While I love sharing ideas with you, my favorite part about these posts are what I learn from you! What kinds of apps/tools/websites do you use to save money and even earn cashback?