I’m not the master of frugal living by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not really willing to spend a lot of time and energy on it – not like the woman I spotted at the grocery store recently who trailed along after her cart-pushing husband with a huge 3-ring binder filled with coupons and a checklist in hand! But since money is tight, now more so than ever, I do try to live frugally. In addition to cutting back on all sorts of things, I look for deals and ways to stretch the money we do have. Some of the deals are ones my mom used – such as clipping coupons from the Sunday newspaper (which my youngest daughter loves to do) and shopping at yard sales and thrift stores. Others are more 21st Century and these cyber deals are the ones I want to discuss today. The deals I use most frequently can be grouped into Earning Points, Cyber Coupons, and Purchasing Deals.
My Points (www.mypoints.com) : At My Points you earn points by reading emails, searching the web, shopping, answering surveys, playing games and booking travel. Then you can redeem those points for gift cards for stores, restaurants, gas or travel. You can also earn points by referring your friends (unfortunately they don’t have a way to link sign ups through my blog – friends have to be specifically referred). Like Groupon, My Points also has limited time, limited quantity deals you can purchase. The neat thing about their deals is you can save money purchasing the deal (for example $50 worth of food at a local restaurant for only $20) and earn points at the same time. I’ve been a My Points member for 4 years, during which time I’ve earned 68,000 points, redeeming them for gift cards. I’ll admit I earned most of those points back in the day when I shopped online frequently – these days I earn points reading emails and answering surveys (5 to 75 points each) so it takes longer to build up my point balance. I tend to get gas gift cards when I redeem points these days. Gift cards are sent free of shipping charges and tend to take 2-3 weeks to arrive.
SwagBucks (www.swagbucks.com) : A reader mentioned SwagBucks (SB) to me recently and when I went to check it out I discovered I’d signed up for an account sometime previously but never used it. Like My Points, SwagBucks is all about earning (bucks instead of points) by doing things you might already do online – like search the web, shop, answer surveys, play games and watch TV. In addition SB has random winners, swagbuck codes you can find and enter, and allows you to connect on FaceBook to earn more bucks. You may have noticed the SB widget on my blog page – I haven’t tried it out but I think you can join SwagBucks through that portal and we’ll both earn bucks! Unlike My Points SB allows you to redeem your earnings for more than just gift cards. You can purchase merchandise (jewelry, apparel, appliances, makeup, trading cards), download songs, digital wallpaper or E-Books, get gift cards (even gift cards for Paypal which is one way of turning your swagbucks into really money) or buy chances in sweepstakes. I haven’t earned enough bucks to redeem them for rewards so I can’t tell you how easy it is.
I use a service called Shortcuts.com (www.shortcuts.com) to electronically load coupons on my grocery store club cards. You just create an account, register your club cards and then select the coupons you want. When you purchase the item at the grocery store and swipe your card, the coupon savings is applied. I find this a super easy way to ‘clip’ coupons. The downside is that unless I print a list of the coupons I’m likely to forget which coupons I have. Like paper coupons (which you can also download and print from the Shortcuts website) these expire by a certain date. And some of the coupons are only good at one store or another adding to the record keeping you need to do to get the most benefit from the service. Shortcuts also has a cash back savings section with links to online merchants offering cash back (between 1 to 7 percent). I haven’t used that service as I don’t do much online shopping and when I do I prefer to earn points through My Points.
Groupon.com (www.groupon.com): Groupon provides limited time, limited quantity deals that you can personalize by providing information about yourself (age, gender, zip code). Frequently these deals are for discounted services, sometimes for merchandise. You purchase the deal and then are emailed the coupon or code that you need to redeem it. Here’s how they describe it; “Groupon negotiates huge discounts—usually 50-90% off—with popular businesses. We send the deals to thousands of subscribers in our free daily email, and we send the businesses a ton of new customers.” I have used Groupon a couple times – once for a 50% discount at a bookstore and another time for a similar discount at a clothing store. Aside from the store clerks having some difficulty figuring out how to key in the discount in their computers it worked as advertised.
In addition to these types of cyber deals I look for local deals on Craigslist. I wish you could set up a search alert with Craigslist so that I didn’t have to search it as often (I’m looking for jobs, and a new trailer or other housing situation). I’ve tried Freecycle and I know some people love it but I didn’t really ever find anything I wanted, or have much success in giving away the things I had. I’ve read about NeighborGoods – a site that helps you connect up with folks in your neighborhood who have things to loan or that they want to borrow, but haven’t tried it because it isn’t established in my neighborhood as yet. If you live in a big city it might be available to you.
What Cyber Deals do you use?