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Ibotta Grocery App

Right after Troy and I moved to Los Angeles, I met a girl named Kristina at work. We had the same role in the company, but other than that we seemed to have little in common. She was from the South, and I was from the Pacific Northwest. She loved to work out, and I would rather do almost anything besides that. She was short with dark hair, and I am…not.

As a hater of traffic, and someone who has always been an early riser, I used to go and do all my errands at 7:15 am on Saturday mornings. Grocery store, Target, Trader Joes, and Costco in that order, simply based on their opening times. The crowds in Los Angeles are no joke, and I found that getting to Target a few minutes before it opened meant I would be able to have a tiny bit of elbow space in the aisles.

While I stood outside of the Culver City Target holding my coupon book, I locked eyes with a short dark-haired girl who was also waiting for the store to open. As we looked at each other, I glanced and saw a coupon book grasped in her hands. It was at that moment, Kristina and I became inseparable.  We quickly bonded over our love of saving money, early morning rising, dark and super gross potty humor, and our distrust of the Culver City Target, which was so junky we started to refer to it as “Targhetto”.

Kristina is a frugal saving fiend. She once taped a receipt to my Christmas present to show me how big of a discount she got on it. We used to send photos to each other of receipts bragging about the “you saved this much on this trip” amounts. We still share deals and steals to this day. She turned me on to ebates, and has helped me navigate the murky waters of how to save through that awesome site.

A few months ago, I learned about the grocery app ibotta. The more I read about it, the more I seemed to be the last person on earth who hadn’t heard of it. Assuming Kristina knew exactly what it was, I asked her about it. Turns out she hadn’t heard of it either. If the two of us didn’t know about it, I’m assuming that there are some of you out there who aren’t familiar either!

Let me start this next section by saying, I’m not an expert by any means with this app. I’ve used it, found it simple, and am so far a fan of it. It won’t be for everyone, but it seems to be a pretty decent way to get a few bucks back. My hope for this post is to gleam information from you, dear readers, about how you use the app. I’m sure there are loads of things I’m not thinking about when I use it!

  1. ibotta is an app that gives you “cash back” for certain purchases. They have a huge range of stores that qualify, so chances are a grocery store near you is part of it. They also have some retail stores like Joann Fabrics and some clothing stores.
  2. They list “deals” by store, and if you see something you like, you “unlock” that deal by doing any number of things. Sometimes I have to take a one-question survey, watch a 15 second video, or other little mundane things like that. Once the deal is unlocked, you need to purchase that item within seven days.
  3. After you purchase that item, you verify your purchase via the app by taking a picture of the UPC of the item and then your receipt. Items such as produce generally don’t have a UPC, but somehow it just verified it for me anyway. Within a few days, that item will be verified and that money will be in your account.
  4. Once you hit $20 in your account, you can withdraw the funds via Paypal, or in the form of giftcards. Once you download the app, if you verify a purchase in the first seven days, they give you a $10 bonus. After you receive that $10 bonus, you’re eligible for another $5 bonus if additional purchases are made in the next few days. Apparently there are teams you can join, so if you are super competitive, you can battle them for savings domination.
  5. It seems like bananas and other common produce are always a staple on ibotta. A gallon of milk (any brand) seems to be standard as well. Many of the rebates are not brand specific.
  6. You can still receive your “cash back” amount even if you use a coupon or the item is on clearance. For example, let’s say I have a $1 off coupon for my favorite cheese – Tillamook Medium Cheddar. And perhaps ibotta is offering $.50 cash back for any brand two pound loaf of cheese. And as I am strolling through the store and see that this one brick of cheese is on clearance because it is going to expire in about two weeks. So, maybe it was $7.99 to start with, but is now discounted to $2.99. I can use my $1 off coupon and only pay $1.99 for it. Once I verify the purchase through ibotta, I still get the $.50 cashback, bringing that cheese down to $1.49 overall.
  7. There are random bonuses throughout the week. I haven’t really nailed down how often they come out or when, but I see them occasionally.

Now, here is where I think this can go wrong for some people. Having to occasionally answer survey questions might be too personal. Knowing that you are uploading your receipts to a clearinghouse may be giving away info you’re not comfortable with. Given that I put my life out on the internet, it didn’t give me pause, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.

Any time you get excited about something like ibotta or another method of saving, you may find yourself tempted to buy items you don’t really want just to get the savings. Resist that urge! Getting $.25 back to beat your friend that you’re competing with is not worth spending $3.50 on mustard that you will never use.

I’m going to keep feeling this app out to see if it something I see myself using long-term. In the end if it isn’t my jam, I at least have $20 I can withdraw later this year and put towards Christmas presents, or something like that.

What I would like to hear from you ibotta devotees is how do you use this? What am I missing? Is there a way to maximize strategy? Also, how quickly do you think I can eat those Justin’s Peanut Butter cups???

Disclosure time: if you sign up for the app using my referral, I get a small kick back so to speak. This post is not sponsored in any part by ibotta.

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18 comments on “Ibotta Grocery App”

  1. Hey Sarah! Do you have a referral code for Ibotta?

    • Yep! If you click on any of the green “Ibottas” in the post, it should link you directly. If you want to enter it in by hand, the code is: jbdvdhk

  2. I like checkout 51 better. All you have to do is scan your receipts. I tried ibotta and was not a fan. Checkout 51 is so much easier than having to unlock things and scan bar codes. You should try it. Also, saving star is super easy. Just activate the items you might buy in the future swipe your grocery card at the store viola money in the bank. You can also submit receipts for those stores that don’t have cards (Shaw’s).

    • I’ve heard other readers who liked Checkout 51 and Savings Star. Someone on FB said you can use them all in combination with ibotta, so I’ll check it out. Thanks!

      • I saved about $50 between the two in about 6 months. Not a lot of money but I will take it! I used it towards the purchase of a new recliner for our living room. I love to save!

  3. I was using it a fair amount in 2015 for fresh items like milk, cheese, etc. I then got super busy and out of the habit of checking it. Apparently if you don’t use the app for a set period of time, they deduct some of the balance you have built up (administrative fee kind of thing). I think if I had gone into the app and just unlocked items, that would have prevented them deducting from my account. This happened in 2016 so now I can’t remember if it was $5 or $10 they deducted. So… make sure you go into the app on a semi-regular basis or you can lose some of your “savings”.

  4. I’ve been using Ibotta for about 7 months now. The way I use it , is I just go into the app after I go grocery shopping, and then see if I bought anything that qualifies. That way I don’t buy unnecessary items just to get a deal. I don’t always make a lot of it because I do buy so many store brand things but I’ve made about $25 off it so far so not too bad. Would love if they had more fresh fruit and veggies though!

  5. Hi FBC, I love that you are able to save and use this app, however, I live on an Island in the middle of the Pacific (I know, I am fortunate). However, we are getting ripped off on a constant basis due to no choices here except for two grocery stores in the town I live and even the USPS rips us off constantly ….. oh well, I envy you, but I am sure you envy me when the weather is cold and miserable in the Northwest…..I love reading your blogs and such, so don’t think I am complaining …. keep up the good work, aloha, stephanie

  6. I do like a bargain, but must confess I do not have a smart phone so don’t have any apps. I do have a cell phone, which costs me $100 a year total, so I guess that fits in the frugal category. I just got $160 in gift cards from Sears by using my Sears credit card and already got 2 sauce pans and 2 blouses for free with the cards. So count me in as frugal.

  7. Love this! Now Poppy gets to hear all of my savings stories when we go to Target. I’m shocked her first word wasn’t “pon”.

  8. I LOVE ibotta, and I love ebates too!! I have tons of apps I use, and I just found a new one (to me) called TopCashBack- it’s like ebates-only better!!! you might want to check it out…. it is incredible!! Carole 🙂 p.s. it would really be worth it to you to post it in your blog – the referral is $10. Don’t know if there is a limit or not, but what the heck?!

  9. I’ve been using Ibotta for a little over a year. I save the money up and use it for Christmas shopping as well. When I first started using it, I always had something in there that I purchased. The last few shopping trips I’ve had nothing though! I buy almost no processed food and the staples such as bread, fruit, milk, and eggs that used to always be available aren’t there anymore. Hopefully it’s just cycling through and the good deals will show up again.

  10. If you like Ibotta, you should check out Checkout 51 and Find and Save. Similar. I’ve had better luck recently with Checkout 51 than Ibotta. Good luck!