Friday, February 18, 2011

The Nitty Gritty Details: Part 1

guest post by my mom

As promised last week, this is the first installment in a series of posts on how to maximize your results with various "points" programs online. Originally, I had planned for this to be a one-time post, but as I began writing, I realized that there was more to each program than was realistic to include in a single post. So, with that in mind, I will be discussing a few of the programs in which I personally participate, within each post.

Please don't feel like you need to participate in all of these programs, or even any of these programs. There may be other ones out there that are better suited to your lifestyle and current family/work/personal situation. This is just to give you ideas and encouragement: You really can have a significant impact on your budget through these little avenues. I don't mean to give you the impression that you'll be making a full-time income from home--not at all! But these are definitely a great way to stretch your budget dollars to help you get out of debt, stay out of debt, and reach big goals.

Ok, so let's get started!

The first program up is Ebates. You can click on that link to sign up. It's a quick process--just name, address, and sign in info. To be honest, I have no idea how Ebates makes their money. In fact, that applies to most of the programs I will be talking about. I'm sure it's some sort of involved marketing scheme, but the fact of the matter is it works and pays out. So, I am a happy camper. Ebates is also probably one of the most basic programs since it doesn't really require you to do much of anything extra. Once you've signed up with Ebates, you can see what stores they have to offer. At this point, any time you want to make an online purchase, you go to the Ebates website FIRST to check and see if the store you will be purchasing from is listed. When you find your store listed on the Ebates site, it will also say how much cash back you will receive for purchasing through their site. Once you click on the site, you will get a notification saying "You're on your way to getting cash back!", and it takes you to your shopping site. Let's do a practical example for clarification:

I want to buy boots. I have scoured the internet and have found that L.L. Bean has the best deal on boots. Instead of going straight to the L.L. Bean website, I go to Ebates first! I find L.L. Bean listed on the Ebates website and click. Then, I am taken to the L.L. Bean website where I shop as usual. My boots cost me $100 and so I just got $2 credited to my Ebates account since it was 2% cash back. Two dollars doesn't sound like much but as you make little purchases around the internet, they really add up. Do you buy photo books or prints online? Shutterfly is 8% cash back. Snapfish is 6.5% cash back. Kodak is 7.5% cash back.

Once you've opened your account and familiarized yourself with what stores are available, you can get creative. Were you going to buy a new printer, some printer paper, and cartridges from Staples? Instead of going to the store, purchase through Ebates and get 3% cash back. Then, choose "in store pickup" and you won't pay shipping! So, you've gotten your cash back, you get your items same day, and you didn't have the added cost of shipping. You can do the same thing with little items. I regularly use the photo department of Walmart or Target. You can upload your pictures to the site and do 1- hour pick up. If you order through Ebates and pay online, all you have to do is pick up and you've gotten your cash back. Walmart and Target are especially great for using the in-store pick up option.* You can apply the same idea to buying a gift off of a baby or wedding registry. Buying something off of Ebay? Use Ebates! You can even get cash back for buying gift cards from your favorite stores!

One thing to keep in mind is that you get paid on the total amount of your purchase before coupons. So, if you're making a photo book purchase from Shutterfly and you have a 20% off coupon, your cash back will reflect the total before any coupons were applied. Pretty nice, huh?

Ebates pays out approximately once every 3 months and you can choose whether to have your money delivered via PayPal or get a check in the mail. I really try to check if I can use Ebates before making any purchase. Even if I only make $0.03, every little bit adds up. In fact, I just got my most recent check yesterday!

What are you waiting for? Go sign up!

Stay tuned for Part 2: Pampers Gifts to Grow

*Please make sure that the store you are purchasing from allows for in-store pick up prior to making your purchase. As always, do your research first!

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