Since I launched a No Spend Challenge this summer, I’ve been using cash-back apps and browsing deal sites to find the lowest prices on needed items.
This post, “Are Rebate and Deal Sites Worth It?” by The Picky Pincher inspired me to write a response. TPP is of the opinion that “deal sites and money-saving apps” aren’t worth it, and she gives three reasons why. The post is excellent and worth a read.
Here are my thoughts on deal sites and apps.
Deal sites can be a trap if you’re the type of person who loves to spend money and is looking for a way to do so with less guilt. If you love the thrill of the chase and shopping is fun for you, deal sites may hurt your financial goals.
It comes down to “Know Thyself”.
I visit deal sites only when I need to search for a deal on a specific item. They don’t “encourage consumption” for me at all.
For example, yesterday when two of the bathrooms in the house were out of toothpaste, I hit up a deal site and within seconds, found a deal in which I acquired 2 large tubes of toothpaste, paying $3.80 out of pocket, getting back $3 in register rewards which spend like cash. I’ll “flip” those into another scenario (probably toothpaste!).
Was that “worth it”? Absolutely, considering I saved several dollars for a couple of minutes of time spent.
The author makes a valid point about deal apps: they collect your data and use it to fine-tune marketing. I don’t mind this, because I think it’s nearly impossible to avoid these days. Any time you browse the internet, websites are collecting your data. (That’s why ads for nursing bras will show up for me on a website about car parts. Because Google and Amazon know what I was last searching for.)
Again, you need to know yourself. If you’re going to go nuts buying overpriced-in-the-first-place shampoo just because you have a .25 coupon, you’re not “saving” anything. Buy Suave for .99 and call it a day!
But for those of us who find it painful to part with money, these apps can and do save us dough. (As an example, the time I “bought” two bottles of shampoo that I needed, used a coupon plus store sale, making my out-of-pocket spending $0, plus I got $3 cash back using an app.)
I only search for deals when I truly need something. I don’t go hunting for ways to spend my money.
And that is the difference.
To date, I’ve gotten over $150 from money saving apps, but some of that was from referring other people. I will say that both Checkout51, SavingStar and Mobisave offer coupons on generic items. With ibotta and ShopKick, you have to buy a particular brand at a particular store. ShopKick even give you points (redeemable for cash) for walking into a store and scanning products.
Cash-back sites like ebates are valuable if you shop online. It gives you a cash back rebate when you shop at their partner retailers (plenty of big names in there such as Old Navy, eBay, etc). You can also use Coupon Sherpa to find promo codes for Kohl’s and other popular stores.
So far nobody has come up with a cash-back app for thrift stores, yard sales, and consignment shops. However, I buy online often enough that I have cash in my ebates account at the moment. You can add a browser extension so it’s easy to simply click on the ebates icon before heading to whatever online retailer you plan on using.
I use the Swagbucks browser add-on to search and passively earn swagbucks which I trade in for Amazon gift cards.
I also totally agree with the author about earning money doing surveys. Probably a total waste of time. If you want to earn money from home, there are FAR better ways of doing it than trading clicks for pennies! Write an ebook on an area of expertise. Start a blog. Offer your services online or in the community. Walk dogs. Babysit, clean houses, freelance, telecommute, get a job offering customer service from home – these are all legitimate and will give you a much better hourly wage. More ideas in my ebook The Temporary Tightwad.
Finally, working scenarios and coupon deals can be stressful. This is why I stopped doing them years ago and only recently tiptoed back in. I shop at ALDI (they don’t accept coupons) precisely because they’re still cheaper than working coupon scenarios and the limited selection allows my brain to rest so I can use my willpower on more important things.
What say you? Deal (apps) or no deal (apps)?
The TL; DR:
- Money saving and cash-back apps can save you money if you use them to get deals on things you would have purchased anyway.
- A few apps I’ve used to get cash back and/or coupons:
- iBotta – get $10 free when you sign up
- eBates – get $10 free when you sign up