Thursday, January 3, 2013

Saving Money

How do you save money?

Do you cut coupons?  Drive around and hit all the sales?  How much money are you really saving?

Cutting Coupons

Every week I overhear someone in the lunchroom at work talk about making an effort to use coupons.  Perhaps they saw one of those TV shows where people get hundreds of dollars’ worth of groceries for just a few dollars by cutting coupons.  Amazing?   Hmm, well, I would ask you to look at what kind of food they are buying.

I tried to use coupons too, but found that the only companies that can afford to offer coupons are the big mega-companies that have the brand names, that push the gmo-processed food.  If you want to live off chips, pizza, cookies, pop, and name brand cereal that is all very expensive ( and not good for you) – then couponing might be a good way to go.

I was taught by my mom to shop the perimeter of the grocery store – if I had to go to a grocery store at all.  This is where the fresh food is; fruits and vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, etc.  No name brands; I have never seen a coupon for organic apples or broccoli.

If I had to shop the aisles, I was taught to look up high, or down low, where the off brands are kept – not at eye level where the more expensive national brands are.  That was how we saved money.  We made cookies instead of buying them or buying the kind you slice and bake.  And for those who tell me they don’t have time, I was a single mom with four kids working full time, and I still managed to find time.  I also taught my kids, who all can cook and bake and are really excellent in the kitchen.

So back to saving money.

Do you read the weekly coupons and drive around and hit all the sales?  Well, sometimes that can work – especially if you have a freezer.  I also watch the news, the commodity prices – I know that with the drought this last year, corn and wheat will go up in price, which will put meat prices up also.  I already bought my pork on sale this fall when farmers where butchering, and have all that I will need for the next 6-8 months socked away in the freezer.  I have my canned and frozen veggies and fruit.  About all I really need to buy are dairy products, eggs, and fresh vegetables now that my garden is not supplying me everything.

So, how do I save money?

#1 – I keep a budget.  I figure out what I am going to use my money for every month, put some aside for long-term goals (even if it is only $5), and let the budget be the boss of my spending. 

#2 – my main credit card is one that I get cash back on.  I use this credit card just for paying my monthly bills, like phone, utilities, cable, etc.  So I pay my bills, and then pay off the credit card.  So on bills that I would have had to pay anyway, I get cash back.  I also put about 60% of my food money on this card.  And I don’t pay it off completely – companies get upset with you for doing that.  But even leaving on about $75 - $100 balance, I don’t pay that much in interest.  And I get back about $25 - $50 a month depending on what I paid that month.

#3 – I use ebates.  Now, I would never encourage someone to go and spend money just to buy stuff.  I think a lot of the stuff that people do buy they don’t need.  But, if you do have needs, why not save money on it if you have to buy it anyway?

I have been using ebates now for about 6 months.  I was skeptical at first – not thinking that I would get much back in rebates, because I didn’t think I spent that much outside of needed items every month.  I started using it when I was shopping for Christmas.  And was surprised how quickly the balance they owed me built up.  I started looking at the list of stores they are signed up with, and realized that a lot of the stores that I buy from anyway are listed through ebates – I had just been buying stuff from them without going through the ebates portal first.! 

A good example of this is my garden.  You see how much lumber I have used in my garden to build raised beds, right?  A lot of that lumber, and the fasteners, chicken wire, tools, etc., came from Home Depot.  Did you know that you can go online to Home Depot, place your order, pay for it, and then go pick it up at your local store?  I activated my ebates tracking ticket for that purchase, and got 5% cash back.  And, the order was already on a cart and ready to go for me when I got to the store.

Dear Robin:
Your Ebates account has been updated to reflect recent shopping activity. Please remember to start at every time you shop online.

DateStoreOrder NumberCash BackStatus
11/23/2012Home DepotW173600805$5.15Purchase

Next I found that two suppliers online I use all the time were also listed on ebates – one was Gardeners supply (where I get my garden fabric to cover the raised beds) and Puritans Pride – where I order about $75 worth of vitamins and herbs every other month.  I still am buying from these companies, I just go through ebates first, and then get cash back. 

Dear Robin:
Your Ebates account has been updated to reflect recent shopping activity. Please remember to start at every time you shop online.

DateStoreOrder NumberCash BackStatus
9/7/2012Puritan's Pride3450481$8.05Purchase

Dear Robin:
Your Ebates account has been updated to reflect recent shopping activity. Please remember to start at every time you shop online.

DateStoreOrder NumberCash BackStatus
 (The above was for a new saw I needed to purchase - ordered it online and then went to will call desk at store)

One of my favorite new stores is  I went there because I was looking for a less expensive place to buy one of my daughter’s supplements that is pretty expensive – about $25 for a thirty-day supply.  I found it at - $27.99 for a sixty-day supply.  And they not only offered a 12% cash back through ebates, but you get Drugstore “dollars” to spend the next quarter.

You'll earn $5.66 in dollars™ when this order ships.
(This total may change, as it doesn't reflect any credit used to purchase your order.)
You can redeem the dollars™ you earn today between March 31 - April 30, 2013

 Now, if I need something, I get it through one of these stores, either going through ebates, or using the toolbar app that I installed.  That way, if I am surfing the web and come across something I am interested in, if it is listed with ebates, a little ebates sign shows up to notify me.  That is how I found out that I could get cash back on my Carbonite purchase (a program that backs up your computer). 

And I am careful to put all the ebate purchase on my credit card that I get cash back on – so each purchase I am getting money back from someone.

My first ebates cash back check was for a little over $60.  My next one will be around $70  I estimate – I keep finding things that I could purchase locally, but can instead get online – and with many sites, like, you get free shipping if it is over $25.  A lot of the generic products are what you would get at Walgreen’s, so I am all stocked up on stuff for the cold and flu season,  buy from them everything from toothpaste to soap, and it all comes within a couple of days – their shipping is incredibly fast.

Account Info

This is what I have earned since starting in August 

Ebates is free – the companies that are signed up probably write off the cost like advertising or coupons.  You don’t have to enter any credit card number – just your name and address so they know where to send the check.  And you can even use ebates for Groupon and LivingSocial!

I never wanted to run a bunch of ads on my blog – because those are just annoying.  However, I am so convinced and so excited about the money you can save by using ebates, that I don’t feel bad sharing a link to it.

I am currently putting all my ebate checks in my savings account to go toward a big screen TV for us – something that I normally could not afford, but may be able to next fall.  And, I will get cash back on that purchase as well.

Have fun browsing the shops – there are some there that you can save a lot of money on items you would need anyway (Zulily, the lego store, toys r us, Home Depot and Lowes, Puritans Pride, Gardener supply co., etc).  So have fun doing your monthly shopping and knowing that you are going to get some money back!
So here is the link to click on for signing up - and I will also put it in the sidebar: