Archive for the ‘ Ways to Save ’ Category

8 Best Money Saving (and money making!) Apps

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

I recently told you how we save well over $250 a year by switching to Ting for our cellphone provider and as a result felt like we could finally justify getting me a smartphone.  Well, I’ve been very happy to discover how that little phone can also save me a bundle of money.  In fact, some months the amount that I’ve saved and earned has been enough to cover the cost of our inexpensive cell phone bill!  And I find that pretty exciting!

Here are my top 8 money saving (and in some cases money making) apps.

(Tip: In order to save on data cost and usage, use your own wireless network or tap into free networks whenever possible.)

1.  Ibotta
This is an easy way to save on items you already plan to purchase at grocery stores and places like Walmart and Target.  Ibotta’s offers change frequently but recently there have been several offers where you can save on any brand of milk or laundry detergent.  Who can’t use that? They also started offering earnings for restaurants and Lowe’s and Home depot too!

How does Ibotta work?  Before you shop, go to the Ibotta app and choose the offers you want to buy and earn cash for.  Then when you get home simply verify your purchases by scanning the item’s bar code and taking a picture of your receipt.  Submit them and wait for the money to be deposited into your account.

2. Swagucks TV Mobile
You will first need to sign up for a Swagbucks account if you don’t have one.  Once you are signed up you can download the Swagbucks TV mobile app and then earn up to 50 Swagbucks a day by simply playing videos on your phone.  The videos play continuously, although occasionally there may be an ad that pops up that you have to exit out of.  It’s a pretty painless way to help those Swagbucks add up faster.  Since I’ve started using the Swagbucks mobile app I’ve been able to earn enough Swagbucks to cash out for a $5 Amazon gift card almost every week!

Want to know other ways to earn with Swagbucks?  Check out my 9 Tips for Earning More with Swagbucks.

3.  Target Cartwheel
With Cartwheel you can save up to 30% on items that you purchase at Target.  This includes grocery, household, clothing, health and beauty, baby items, office supplies and well, pretty much any category of items that Target sells!  The great thing is that it works on top of coupons, sales and your Target REDcard savings allowing you to combine these things and really maximize your savings.  I’ve been really loving this app!

4.  Amazon Kindle
While I would be thrilled to own a Kindle, so far I haven’t felt like I can justify the expense.  But I really enjoy using the Kindle app on my smartphone.  The great thing is, there are hundreds of books that you can download for free!  And often even top sellers will have promotional periods where they are offered for free or for $0.99, meaning you really don’t have to spend much if anything to enjoy some good reads.

5.  Shopkick
One of the most used shopping apps available, Shopkick rewards you for simply walking into your favorite stores and opening the app- you don’t even need to buy anything!  You can also scan specific items at some stores for more “kicks”.   Once you earn enough “kicks” you can redeem them for gift cards.  Shopkick works at places like Target, Toys R Us, Old Navy, Best Buy, JCPenney, Macy’s and lots more!

6.  ShopSavvy
Use this app to scan the bar code of any item and find the lowest price at other local stores and also online.

7.  Gas Buddy
Make sure you are getting the lowest price on gas by using this app to check the current price at gas stations near you.

8.  Target Mobile Coupons
While not exactly an app, it’s a great way to use your phone to save some money.  Sign up for Target mobile coupons by texting OFFERS to 827438.  Your coupons will arrive via text and you will receive up to 5 messages a month.  These mobile coupons can also be combined with paper manufacturer coupons, again allowing you to maximize savings!

Lately they have had coupons for $1 off fresh fruit, $1 off fresh vegetables and $1 off any frozen item.  If you use these coupons on items that cost just over $1 you can get a real bargain!

9.  Saving Star eCoupons
And here’s a bonus one!  I love Saving Star and have accessed it for a long time via my computer.  But when a reader mentioned how much she loves the app I thought I should add it here too in case you can only access the internet from your smartphone.

Saving Star is an eCoupon website.  Basically you link up your grocery and drugstore loyalty cards, then click on the eCoupons that you want to add to them.  Whenever you shop in the store, any eCoupons that you added to your card will automatically be flagged and the savings will be added to your account.  Once you get $5 in your account, you can cash it out via Paypal or for an Amazon gift card. If you don’t use the coupon before it expires, you’ve lost nothing.  The great thing about Saving Star eCoupons is that they can be used in addition to both store AND manufacturer coupons.  So essentially you can save 3 different ways on one product, which is rather awesome!

Checkout 51 Offers

10.  Checkout 51 
Okay, here’s another bonus one.  I learned about this one several months after writing this post and it’s just too good not to add! You can actually use Checkout 51 from your computer but they also have an app which in my opinion, is a bit easier to use.

Basically, Checkout 51 is a lot like Ibotta in that you choose the offers that you want to buy and then you earn cash for purchasing them.  In order to earn the cash you must take a picture of your receipt before the expiration date.  Checkout 51 offers change every Thursday.

The really awesome thing about Checkout 51 is that you can purchase the offers at any store that carries the product.  They’ve had various offers for $0.50 off milk or $0.50 off eggs and you can purchase those things at discount stores like Aldi or Save-A-Lot and it will qualify!

Want to know more?  Read my post explaining Checkout 51 more thoroughly.

What are your favorite money saving apps?  How do you use your smartphone to save?

Linking up at Clean and Scentsible, A Night Owl Blog, Six Sisters Stuff, Shaken Together LifePractically Functional, Mostly Homemade Mom and Feeding Big.

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Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology
Setting Limits on Technology

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Ting: Inexpensive Cell Phone Plan (saves us well over $250 a year!)

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

I’m always looking for ways to save money, so when I heard about Ting earlier this year I knew that it was the perfect solution for us to use to save on our cell phone bill!

4 Reasons Why I love Ting:

1.  A lot less expensive!
We pay less for two phones with Ting than what we had been paying for one phone on a very inexpensive, basic plan with AT&T.  Most months we pay just under $30 total for both of our phones and that includes taxes and regulatory fees.

2. We could afford a phone for my husband.
Because of the low cost, we finally felt like we could justify getting my husband a cell phone.  He had never had one but due to some new circumstances it was feeling like a definite need!

3. I got a smartphone and still pay less than before!
I’ve wanted a smartphone for a long time and I love that with Ting, I could get one and still pay less than what I did for my old flip phone plan.  Plus, I’m able to use various free apps on my smartphone and save money too!  In fact, this month, the money I saved via apps will cover the cost of our bill!

(Curious about how I do that?  Stay tuned for a post about my favorite money saving apps and how they work.  I plan to post it soon.)

4. We only pay for the minutes/texts/data we use.
I can’t tell you how much I love this!  It’s just so, so simple.


4 Basics About Ting

Ting is hosted by the Sprint Network which simply means that they use Sprint’s towers.  If you have decent Sprint coverage in your area, then I think you’ll be happy with Ting.

Ting implements a pay-for-what-you-use method of billing. They have “buckets” of voice minutes, texts and data that come in different sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL, and XXL).  At the end of the month you pay for however much you used in each category plus a $6 per device fee.

This means you have control over how much you pay.  If you are getting close to using all your minutes one month, have plenty of texts left and don’t want to hit the next “bucket”, just use your texts instead!

Here’s a chart that shows you the various “buckets” and how the billing system works:

I’ve been super impressed with Ting’s customer service.  I was pretty confused when I was trying to bring my phone over to Ting and when I contacted customer service they were prompt and super helpful.  I’ve had to contact them several times since and have always had prompt, thorough help.  In fact, get this: when you call them you will actually get to talk to a real, live person instead of a computerized system!  How awesome is that?

Oh, and one month I used 1 megabyte of data (and actually this was accidental).  I didn’t even contact Ting to explain what had happened, but on their own, Ting was awesome enough not to even charge me for it!  Also, when my husband joined Ting several months after me, he joined part way through the billing cycle.  So instead of charging him the full $6 device fee for the month, they only charged him $4.80 which reflected the amount of days that he was actually with Ting.  You can see both of those things in the image below.


* Alerts
You can set up an alert to let you know via email or text when you hit a certain limit of usage.  This is a great way to keep yourself from spending more than you want to spend!

You can also just log into your Ting account online at anytime and see your usage- it appears as an easy to read chart like you see above.

* Devices
Ting allows you to use almost any Sprint device on their network.  While you can purchase your phone through Ting, when I was looking for our phones I found that it was cheaper to buy them through Ebay.  We went with a very basic flip-phone that cost us about $40 for my husband.  And for myself we got a used HTC EVO 4G smartphone for less than $100.  It’s been simple to use and I’ve been extremely happy with it!

Interested in giving Ting a try?  Sign up today and get a $25 credit that you can use for either your device or towards your service cost!

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4 Tips to Begin Reducing Your Grocery Spending

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Mare left this comment yesterday here on my blog:

I just stumbled on to your article and I have to say your tips are so helpful! I have no clue how to shop for food on a budget and looking at my monthly food bill I spend about 800. 00 a month for two adults and a 15 year old daughter. The go without is my new motto.thank you ! I am planning this weeks breakfast lunch and dinner for the next 5 days which means I can only spend 40.00 !! ?? Is that really possible? I will check back in and let you know how I did. Pulling recipes and food list. Btw I live in CA where most people spend over 60 percent of their take home pay on housing!!!!!

I get this kind of comment/question frequently here at The Thrifty Frugal Mom and thought it might be helpful if I just replied to her comment in the form of a blog post so everyone could benefit.

First of all, I love Mare’s attitude!  She is determined to make a change and having a good attitude is at least half of what is going to make this successful.  I also like the way she is starting a menu plan.  While that is not absolutely necessary to trim your budget it is definitely incredibly helpful.  If you know what you need to buy to make the meals you want to make, it will help you keep from spending extra on things that you don’t really need.  Even better, if you can plan your meals around things that you already have on hand or on things that are on sale you’ll find yourself saving even more!

Here are 4 other tips that I’d recommend following if you want to successfully begin to reduce your grocery spending.

1.  Start Slow
It’s easy to get overly excited and want to try to cut your spending in half immediately.  While it’s good to be motivated, you have to remember that it takes time to implement a new way of thinking/spending.  If you try to reduce your grocery budget too fast, chances are you’ll run out of steam and become discouraged.  Give yourself time, start slow and you’ll have a better chance at being successful at changing your spending long term.

2.  Be Realistic
In order to not get discouraged, it is important that you set a realistic goal for how you can improve your grocery budget.  (And yes, you really do need to set a grocery budget in order to decrease your spending!)  If you are spending $800/mo. now, try to see if you can shave off $50 to $100 this month just by being mindful of what you purchase.  If that goes well, then next month you can try to reduce it some more and eventually you’ll get to the amount that works well for you.

Looking for some specific ways to shave that $50 to $100/mo. off your budget?  Check out these posts:

3.  Extend Grace to Yourself
As you are learning what works for you in trimming your grocery budget, you are bound to make mistakes.  You might even fail miserably and not save a dollar!  Extend grace to yourself.  It’s okay if you mess up- it’s part of the learning process!  And while it might be disappointing and even frustrating to not have your budget work out like you had hoped, it’s really not the end of the world.  Keep a good attitude.  Keep trying.  Don’t give up!  You can do this!

4.  Find a Coupon Match-ups Blog
A lot of people think that couponing isn’t worth their time, but I beg to differ!  The first 6 months of this year alone I saved over $800 with coupons!  Obviously I spend more than a couple of minutes a week focused on couponing to get that kind of savings, but with just a few minutes a week you can easily save at least several dollars.

I recommend finding a good blog that does coupon match-ups for the stores you shop at.  This will make it easy for you to find the best deals without spending a lot of time doing it.  To find a blog, simply Google something like “coupon match-ups and the store name”.  Then before you do your grocery shopping, check out the coupon match-ups to see what things you can get at rock bottom prices, print any coupons you want to use and then enjoy saving!

What have you found helpful in reducing your grocery spending?

You also might enjoy:

How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget
How to Buy Baby Food on a Budget

Image Source: Shutterstock

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Household Tip: Reuse Tortilla Bags

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

I was getting ready to throw a resealable tortilla bag in the trash one day several month ago when I suddenly had this epiphany:  Why not reuse it?  And honestly it was such a simple, obvious thing that I almost laughed at not thinking of it sooner.  But maybe I’m not alone and you never thought about it before either…

Reuse the resealable plastic bags that you get tortillas in as you would Ziploc bags…for sandwiches, cookies, snacks, whatever!  (Just a note, I’ve not used them in the freezer and I doubt they’d work as well as freezer bags do since they are made of more lightweight plastic.  But for short term needs, they work wonderfully!)

Why I recommend it:
It’s an easy way to save a little bit of money and reduce waste too!  And if you are weird like me and feel guilty if you don’t wash Ziploc bags and reuse them, this will help ease your conscience too.  Since these are more lightweight and since I’d be throwing them out anyway, I don’t really feel bad just using them once.  :)

How much will it save me?:
Well, this quite obviously depends how often you use tortillas and how much you use Ziploc bags.  But I’m going to guess that the average person could save at least the cost of one box of Ziploc type bags a year.  No, the savings won’t make you rich, but then it’s the little things that add up, right?

Do you have a creative use for tortilla bags or other “trash”?  

Linking up at Feeding Big and Mostly Homemade Mom .

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6 Reasons I Shop at Aldi (and think you should too!)

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I love Aldi.  The other day as I was trying to take a nap my mind was racing.  I remembered that I needed to run to Aldi to get a few things and started thinking about all the reasons I love that place.  Suddenly, I realized that I needed to share with you all just why I think Aldi is so awesome!  :)

If you have an Aldi in your area, you really should check it out.  (Not sure if you do?  Use their store locator to find out.)

Here are 6 reasons that I love Aldi…and think you should shop their too.

1.  AWESOME Prices
Aldi’s prices pretty much always beat other store prices unless you always shop on sale and use lots of coupons.  Even then, I’ve found that many of their prices are better than what I’d pay otherwise.

Oh and don’t tell me you shop at Walmart, so you don’t need Aldi.  Because guess what?  Aldi has Walmart easily beat in their prices (and in many other ways too!).

Here’s an example of that.  I rarely shop at Walmart but needed to go there recently to use up a gift card.  I was totally out of potatoes and realized that I was going to need them before I got to Aldi again so I decided to grab some at Walmart.  At Aldi a 5 lb. bag of red potatoes costs me $2.49.  Want to know what a 5 lb. bag of red potatoes cost me at Walmart?  $4.97!  Yes, a whopping $2.48 more!  And I’ve seen this same thing when I’ve done other price comparisons between Aldi and Walmart.

Just to give you an idea of Aldi’s prices, here’s the current prices of some of the typical items I buy at Aldi:

* Canola Oil $2.69
* Chocolate Chips $1.79 12 oz.
* Whipping Cream $1.89 16 oz.
* Saltines $0.99
* Brown Sugar $1.29 2 lb.
* Parmesan Cheese $2.39 8 oz.
* Potato Chips $1.49 (and they’re really good!)

2.  Great Quality
Some people don’t want to shop at Aldi because they don’t carry name brand products and they are scared that the Aldi brands will taste cheap and “generic”.  Well, let me tell you that I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.  At least I sure haven’t!

I can’t think of one Aldi product that I’ve tried that I’ve not liked, although there may have been one or two over the last 5 years that I have forgotten about.  On the contrary, I think many of their products taste just as good or are as good of quality as their name brand counterpart and a few of them I actually like better.  I personally prefer Aldi’s sour cream and saltines to other brands.  And we love their potato and corn chips and have frequently gotten comments about how good they are when we serve them to other people.  And if something doesn’t measure up?  No worries!  Because Aldi has a money back guarantee.

3.  Double Money Back Guarantee
Yup, that’s right.  Unlike any other store that I know Aldi has an amazing money back guarantee on their products.  If you are unsatisfied with any product for any reason they will not only refund you your money but also replace the product!

I’ve had Aldi honor this guarantee a handful of times for me.  Once I had bought a bag of spinach there, like I often do, and it started spoiling on me within the week….well before the “best by” date.  I returned it to the store and they happily stood by their guarantee.  More recently I had a bag of potatoes all go totally rotten on me in a little over a week!  The strange thing was that I had a few left from a bag that I had purchased several weeks before that and they were still fine.  I no longer had my receipt but I explained what happened to the manager and asked if they honor their guarantee on them.  (I was curious because the potatoes have no kind of date whatsoever on them.)  She said yes, they would honor their guarantee and though they wouldn’t refund my money since I didn’t have my receipt they would still give me another bag for free!  I was beyond impressed!

4.  Easy to Shop
Aldi stores are small but fresh and bright with wide aisles.  If they have displays out, they are located in such a way that it doesn’t typically hinder traffic flow.  I love not having to squeeze through tight aisles!  In our store at least there is plenty of room for two shopping carts to pass each other.

Also because they don’t have lots of different brands, shopping is simple.  No need to try to sort through 10 brands/varieties of peanut butter.  You’ll just find Aldi brand creamy or crunchy!  I find it refreshingly simple.

5.  Produce Specials
Not only does Aldi have great produce with decent everyday prices, they also have weekly produce specials that totally rock.  For example I recently got 8 oz. mushrooms and 1 lb. baby carrots for $0.69 each!  Bananas are regularly $0.44/lb.   And they even have started carrying some organic produce too!

6.  Fun Special Buys
One of my favorite aisles at Aldi is their special buys aisle.  You never know what you are going to find in this aisle and it changes every couple of weeks.  Sometimes they have small appliances, sometimes they have kid’s toys, sometimes they have home decor items.  Recently I got some really big cool sticker/activity books for $3.99 each.  They’ll be fun for my son to use when traveling and will make awesome additions to kid’s Christmas gifts.

Right now they have some really neat outdoor games like a 3 Hole Bean Bag toss for $17.99 or a Crane Washer Toss for $19.99.  I think that’s cheaper than my husband could make them!  They also have footballs and basketballs for $7.99.

If you are new to Aldi here are a couple of tips:

* Take a quarter.  One of the ways Aldi cuts costs is by making you “pay” a quarter to use a cart.  The good thing is, if you return the cart you’ll get your quarter back so it really doesn’t cost you anything!

* Take your own bags or use boxes from the store.  You’ll have to pay for bags at Aldi but you can take your own and save the cost.  Or you can simply find empty stock boxes on their shelves and use them to carry your items.  Again, this is a simple way that Aldi keeps their costs down.

* Bring cash or a debit card.  Aldi does not accept credit cards since it saves them money.  The good thing is that it also helps their consumers spend responsibly!

Do you shop at Aldi?  What do you love (or not love) about it?  If you don’t go there, why not?

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