Since I launched a No Spend Challenge this summer, I’ve been using cash back coupon apps and browsing deal sites to get the lowest prices on needed items. As a result, I’ve snagged disposable diapers, toilet paper and laundry detergent at rock-bottom prices.
Some people question whether cash back coupon apps are worth the trouble. Certainly a valid question. Picky Pincher wrote a post, “Are Rebate and Deal Sites Worth It?”, and I decided to write a response here.
Mrs. Picky Pincher is of the opinion that deal sites and cash back coupon apps aren’t worth it, and gives three reasons why. The post is excellent and worth a read. Here are my thoughts on deal sites and coupon apps.
Cash back coupon apps: are they worth it?
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. (You might enjoy this article: 10 things to do instead of shop.)
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 searched a deal site. Within seconds I 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 more 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 cash back coupon 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.) Cell phone companies are starting to do this as well.
Again, we need to know ourselves. 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 if you find it painful to part with money, cash back coupon apps can and do save you some dough. (As an example, the time I bought two bottles of shampoo. I used a coupon plus store sale, making my out-of-pocket spending $0, plus I got $3 cash back using an app. Meaning I got two bottles of shampoo and was $3 richer.)
Only search for deals on deal sites or cash back coupon apps when you truly need something.
Don’t go hunting for ways to spend your money and you’ll be fine with deal sites and apps.
To date, I’ve gotten over $170 from money saving apps, but some of that was from referring other people. Checkout51, SavingStar and Mobisave offer coupons on generic items. With ibotta and ShopKick, you have to buy a particular brand at a particular store (update: I am now seeing generic coupons with ibotta!). ShopKick gives you points (redeemable for cash) for walking into a store and scanning products.
Cash-back sites like ebates are valuable if you prefer to shop online. (I certainly do, as shopping with several kids in tow is stressful and usually leads to overspending. I “stick to the list” when I shop online.)
Ebates 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.
The Swagbucks browser add-on passively earns me swagbucks which I trade in for Amazon gift cards. I do not do anything to earn Swagbucks as I am convinced it has too low a rate of return.
I totally agree with the author about not trying to earn money doing surveys.
Likely a total waste of time, which is why I don’t recommend survey companies, even though I could get paid large commissions for doing so!
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, start a direct sales business. Clean houses, freelance, start an etsy business, telecommute, launch an Amazon FBA business, 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 coupon 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