Follow me on Facebook and Twitter
 
There are two great money saving apps that I want to share with you today.  The great thing about both of these apps is that the offers are given as cash back *after* the purchase so you can still use coupons (manufacturer, store, other discounts) during the purchase.  You can cash out using Paypal once you reach the required amount (I think it's $5 for both but not sure, I usually just cash out when they send me reminders that I have money in there lol).

First: Ibotta.  I have used this one for a while for many different offers.  If you stay away from processed foods and store bought cleaners, you might not find a lot of offers off the bat.  There are times when I go two or three weeks without seeing anything that I would use.  Don't give up though, try back once a week or so.  They not only put up specific brand offers but sometimes they will have offers like "$.50 back on a dozen of any brand eggs" or "$1 back when you buy a 20oz or larger loaf of any brand bread."  In fact, if you are a dairy user, they have a $.50 back on a gallon of any brand milk right now.  They have had that several times within the past month.  Sometimes the amounts are very nominal but occasionally they will have a very high amount.  In the past, I have used the $2.50 back on the new container of Cottonelle wipes and there was a $2 off peelie coupon on the package.  I ended up getting paid for it in the end.  To get the offers, they have different things that you do (all take just a couple seconds) like "reading" (I don't actually read it, I just click it) a fact about the brand or posting to facebook (I have ibotta set up so that anything I post through this app is visible to "only me" so that I don't fill up my friends' newsfeeds).  You must submit a receipt within 7 days. When you sign up, I get a referral bonus but I wouldn't recommend it unless I used it myself.  If you do join and redeem an offer within 10 days, you get a $2 sign up bonus.  Http://ibotta.com/r/wBZcQ 

Second: Checkout 51.  This is a new one to me but I am liking it already.  Unlike Ibotta, Checkout 51 is on a set schedule.  Their deals run from Thursday to Wednesday like some grocery ads.  You have to submit your receipt within the cycle as well. This week, the two offers that caught my eye were not brand specific they were "$.50 back on a dozen egg, any brand" and "$.25 back on a container of fresh blueberries."  Sometimes you might even be able to double up on offers.  Right now for example, Checkout 51 has a $1 back on Belvita soft baked biscuits and Ibotta has a $.75 back on the same item.  I don't normally buy these but they are $2.19 right now at my local store and I saw $1 off peelies on the box.  When I go next time, I will see if they still have the peelies because then I would pay $1.19 then get $1.75 back through the apps. 

Tips:  
-Save your receipts until they are approved just in case they were not able to read it.  This usually happens within a couple hours but might take up to a day or two.  There are some receipt scanning apps that let you build up points for rewards just for scanning them but I haven't decided if any of the ones that I have tried are worth it or not.  I generally forget to do it so I don't have enough for any rewards yet so I usually  just do my Ibotta and Checkout 51.  If anybody has any recommendations on those apps (I think I have them all just don't commit to them), let me know and I'll have to give them a better try.
-If you are like me and don't have a Smartphone (I know, it's probably just me) and use these apps on an ipod touch, these apps do not work without wifi.  So if you are about to go shopping, you should screen print the offers that you were interested in before you go that way you have size/type info when in the store.  
-Flatten your receipt and take the photo in good lighting so your receipt is accepted the first time (saving you time from rescanning). 
 
 
Picture
This is just a sampling of the items that I have received from BzzAgent over the years.
A program that I have mentioned many times and holds a special place in my thrifty heart is BzzAgent so it's about time (or very past due... either way) that I do a proper write up on it.  I have been a BzzAgent since 2007.

The Main Program:
BzzAgent is a word of mouth (WOM) product testing program.  They send you a product (often full size) or a coupon to get the product free in store in your "BzzKit".  You try the product then spread your honest opinion online and in person.  Sometimes your kit comes with samples or coupons to pass out to friends, family, or even strangers.  After doing this, you report back on how you spread the word.  The methods of doing this seem to change every few months.  It used to be that you would just do a BzzReport.  You would explain how you shared and what was said.  Those are still available but there are other ways of sharing that vary from campaign to campaign.  Some campaigns have the options to post a photo or write a review or tweet about it on Twitter.  This sounds more time consuming and laborsome than it actually is.  The reporting/sharing is not work at all as you are usually so excited to share that you got the item free that you want to talk about it.  The actions that follow take anywhere from a minute to about ten.  My husband actually joined during 2013 and joined at a great time for guys because they were the target demographic for several campaigns in a row.  He got to test razors (free razors are never turned down by a military man), Dr. Scholls, some toys for the kids, etc.  

Rewards:
Your BzzKit is the main reward and point of the program.  I have gotten anything from three packs of gum (5 gum was one of my first campaigns) to an $179 Sonicare toothbrush for free!  If you are near a Kroger (or affiliate) store, you are VERY lucky as they do Kroger exclusive campaigns frequently.  Unfortunately I am no longer near one :( 
When certain actions are approved or when you take certain surveys, you get points for the Mypoints program.  This site I have been through even longer than BzzAgent.  The points that you earn can be turned in for gift cards for many different stores, restaurants, and more.  While I don't shop through MyPoints (I use Shopathome almost exclusively as explained here), it is an option.  You can also earn points for surveys (I usually don't bother on this site), taking quick polls, printing and using coupons, and "reading" (really just clicking the link) emails.  I have gotten many restaurant gift cards to treat the family to a night out.

Tips:
--Patience is key with this program!  You might get lucky and get a campaign offer within a week.  You also might have to wait a few months to get picked.  It's worth the wait.  You don't do much while you are waiting.  Make sure your surveys are up to date (once you get through the ones that are there when you join, there are very few throughout the year) as this is what they use to pick people.  Even after you work your BzzScore up to a high number, you can have some months where you have multiple simultaneous campaigns, then go several months without any invitations.
--Quality over quantity when you are doing the actions.  A few actions scored "excellent" is better than many marked "fair".  Do try to do at least 2-3 actions per campaign though.
--Your actions expire after one year.  This will affect your overall BzzScore so if it drops and you check that all of your surveys are done, there is nothing to worry about.  
--While most campaigns are free, there are occasionally ones that are just for discounts.  You do NOT ever have to accept a campaign that you do not want to do (no matter the reason).  It will not affect your future eligibility (as long as you didn't accept it then not do anything for it).
--You really are encouraged to be honest.  Your job is not to sell the product, it is to spread the word and provide useful feedback.  You will not become ineligible for future campaigns by providing negative feedback.  The only personal tip I have is to do it in a tactful way.  Instead of saying "I hated product Z and would never buy it!", you might find something you liked about it as well or something that they could change to make you like it.  For example, "While I liked the size and shape of product Z, it's performance did not live up to my expectations because of ____" or "I did not like how product Z performed but I think that if they made the lid wider, it would have produced better results". 
--Along with keeping up with your surveys, make sure that you link up your shopper reward cards for any grocery stores that they offer like Kroger, Ralph's, etc.  It expands your chances of campaigns. 
 
 
While I am not in love with Crowdtap anymore, they have been trying to butter me (well not me but all of the disgruntled members) up with new offers.  My newest was a sample for Hershey's new chocolate spreads.  They come in three flavors: chocolate, chocolate with hazelnut, and chocolate with almond.  Of course they sent me the one I was hoping I wouldn't get... the one with almonds.  I don't mind almonds but they certainly are not my favorite.  Nevertheless, it IS chocolate.  Our duty was to try the spread with many different items.  The shipments were very delayed so I haven't tried it with many things but its pretty good with cookies (especially Pepperidge Farm's Sausalito) and fruit.  The next time I make waffles, I would love to try making sandwiches with this and sliced banana.  I've done it before with peanut butter and it is soooo good.  The spread is very cream and spreads like a dream.  It's not good for you.  At all.  Not even a little bit.  Use sparingly especially if pairing it with other junk like above ;)
 
 
Picture
Considering it was shopping I was going to do anyway, this is a great chunk of change to get back (there were some other checks back from other sites but this is the main one I use).
As a thrifty online shopper, utilizing a cash back site is a must.  Every time you shop, you earn money back.  My favorite site to use is ShopAtHome.  In fact, I use it almost exclusively.  The only time I don't use it is if the store I am shopping at is not available on ShopAtHome or if I am joining a new cash back site to get the new member bonus.  All of the sites that I have seen (and I am a member of several) have rules about using coupons not listed on their sites (so if you use one, they don't have to give you the cash back) but I have never had a problem getting the cash back from ShopAtHome.  

Another thing I love about the site is that they often have one of the highest cash back percentages but when they don't, they have a 110% guarantee.  This means that if you find a better offer from another free (so not one of the credit card ones like Discover), they will match and surpass it.  So if they offer 9% on Store A and Ebates is offering 10% on Store A, you copy Ebates' Store A page and paste it in the guarantee.  ShopAtHome will then give you 11%.  This sounds like a complicated process to search different sites but luckily there is a shortcut.  A site called Cash Reporter (no registration necessary) allows you to search multiple cash back sites at once.  You go there (bookmark it), type "Store A" in the search bar and click on the highest link.  It will have a popup ask you if you are a  member of that site.  Click "yes" whether you are or not (otherwise it won't take you to Store A's page, it will take you to a sign up page).  This process is a bit tricky at first but after doing it a few times, it will be very quick and second nature.   Once you reach $20, they automatically send you a check in the mail.  I actually just got one this week from my pre- Black Friday sale shopping. 

Add this process to searching for a coupon code on retailmenot and you will save a pretty penny.  If you would like to join ShopAtHome, you can click here (this is my referral link which earns me a bonus, you may go to the main site if you don't feel comfortable). When you join and make your first purchase within 30 days, we both get $5 bonus.
 
 
Another program that I use is called SheSpeaks.  The program has gone through some major changes (moving from more of a product testing site to a discussion site) so I don't use it that much anymore.  I do occasionally log in to see if I have any good offers to apply for. I have gotten tests from frozen potatoes to makeup to this neat kit of P&G products.  The reason I bring up the program now is because they have a sweepstakes going on now.  Every time somebody signs up using my referral link, we are both entered to win the Philips Airfryer (shown above) which supposedly results in crisp food without the use of oil (retails for $299).  It sounds great so if you would like to enter to win, the link is here. And if you do win, come back and let me know so I can be jealous, I mean happy for you ;) 
 
 
So today did not start out very well.  I am not a morning person to begin with.  I'd rather stay up two hours later than normal than wake up 15 minutes earlier.  This morning my oldest son was dragging his butt to get ready for school.  I kept telling him to hurry up and leave.  He did leave at at time that would get him to the bus stop on time but we prefer to have him leave a couple minutes early in case it comes early.  Guess what happened today?  Of course it was early.  Of course.  And my son who sometimes surprises me with his lack of common sense didn't realize that "no kids at the bus stop" + "leaving about 2 minutes later than normal" = "you missed the bus!" until a whopping 15 minutes later.  When he walked in 10 minutes before school was set to start (which is a 15 minute drive) I was none too pleased.  Little one was in the bathroom so I quickly packed his lunch into his bag because we would be missing his bus (and really hoping to even have him to his school closer to the house on time) while taking the oldest to school.  Once he ... finished up and threw some clothes on we headed out the door.  I was in my pajamas still but had no time to change.  Then I see the frost on the windshield... of course.  My husband took my ice scraper out of my car a few months ago and never put it back in.  So I scraped it off with an old gift card that I had in my car.  Then we were stuck traffic.  It was awesome (not!) running into the school to sign my son in with pajamas and messy hair especially since I also saw two parents I know... fantastic, really.  We barely got to my youngest's school on time (technically I think he was 1-2 minutes late but I didn't get out and he said they let him to class without going to the office).  I got home and was cold and cranky but went about my day.  As the time went on, I wanted something warm to beat the cold.  

I got this free sample of Gevalia Mocha Latte in the mail last week. It is not something that I had to do a write up on but I decided to share since I was trying it for the first time anyway.  I was always an anti-coffee person.  Not only did I HATE coffee, I could taste the slightest bit in a recipe that claimed you couldn't taste it.  Over the years I have tried some of the heavily flavored/sweetened coffees since the smelled so wonderful but still hated it.  This year it changed.  I now like the heavily flavored/sweetened coffee drinks like mocha fraps, pumpkin spice latte (with some extra sweetener), etc.  My favorite so far is the English Toffee cappuccino from Wawa... so delicious.  Don't tell me how many calories are in them because I don't want to know but I do only have them every once in a while like a liquid dessert.  So back to the sample.  These at home lattes come in two parts.  You pour the packet in the mug first then brew the k-cup in your Keurig like normal.  As it drips, you can see the packet mix start to foam up instantly.  The bottom middle photo is the latte before stirring but after it was done brewing.  It sounded kind of like Pop Rocks as it foamed up.  When I tried it, it tasted too much like coffee for me... shocking right?  I added a squeeze of hot fudge and it made it mocha enough for me.  I'm not sure how much these cost to buy but it wasn't bad so if they aren't too expensive, they would make a nice treat.  I could probably get the same effect using a hand blender and some milk but I've never tried it.  

I get free K-cup samples frequently by following deal blogs on facebook.  They are a "hot" deal so they are posted all over otherwise I would just miss it.  Just in the past month or two I have received a couple packs (2-4 cups each except this latte which just had one) that included a couple different kinds of Lipton tea, Green Mountain coffee, etc.  Since I don't drink coffee or hot tea often, this is a few month's worth for me.  They almost always come with coupons as well.  Some blogs to follow (I follow a ton but these are good to start with) would be Swaggrabber and Moneysavingmom.  And if you like the fancy beverages but not paying full price for them, Starbucks has their holiday drinks for BOGO from today through the 17th 2-5pm.
 
 
When Smiley offered me a campaign for the kids that was a healthy snack, I accepted right away.  I have seen these types of applesauce pouches before but never bought them.  This is mainly because they are so pricey (even the cheap brands) and seem wasteful as far as the thick pouches plus box.  I haven't ever seen this particular brand GoGo Squeez at the store I usually shop so I can't comment properly on availability.  According to the website, they are sold at Target and CVS which I do shop at frequently. ***Edit: I happened to find them at Walmart while looking at canned veggies and they carried about 4-5 flavors!

Pros:
--They are 100% fruit so no added sugar.  This is how I like applesauce in general.  It is sweet enough, why ruin the nutrition with extra sugar.
--It comes in 11! different flavors according to the information they sent me.  They sent us the "appleapple" flavor which is just regular applesauce but the applepeach really sounds yummy.
--It is convenient.  This would be the reason these things are so popular (and pricey).  You can take them anywhere, they do not have to be refrigerated, and the lid is resealable (if for some reason you can't finish a 3oz pouch?). A spoon is also unnecessary which is good if your little one often forgets.
--If your child is in a "nut-free" classroom (this would be my youngest's situation for the last two years), applesauce cups and pouches are on most of the "approved snacks" lists.  
--It is non-GMO, no added colors or flavors

Cons:
--The packaging.  While it's BPA-free so not a health issue, I try to be as green as I can without putting in too much extra effort in.  For snacks away from the home, I prefer to send fresh fruit or use a reusable container to send dry snacks.
--The price.  For the cost of one 4-pack, I could buy two medium jars of applesauce and give my kids a loooot of 3oz bowls of applesauce.  If I really wanted pouches, they do even sell reusable ones now.  These are cheaper than some of the other brands though at about $2.50 (Walmart) per four-pack.  Like I said above, I'd really just rather send fruit or dry snacks and leave the applesauce for at home though.  

If you would like to try them out for yourself, click here for a $.75 off coupon. 
 
 
Remember how I promised to share my new favorite program after announcing that I no longer recommend Crowdtap?  Well here it is.  Expo is a great program that earns rewards quickly

The main program:
The main point of the program is to provide short 1-2 minute video reviews.  When you go to your "dashboard", there are two different places you can look to see what videos they are looking for at the time.  One is "Invitations" and the other is "Most Wanted" on the right.  For both of them, there is a little "see all ___" on the top right of the column that you can click on to see more.  Points vary from 300 points to a few thousand (usually those are for specific models of more expensive items but hey, you never know, you might have the item) that you turn in for rewards.  Most videos are reviews of products (some are very specific model numbers, others are "any ___ product" types) but they do have some that are asking you questions.  Recent examples of that type would be "what is your favorite thing about the fall?" or "how does your schedule change for back to school?" Occasionally there will be a quick survey in the invitations section that will give you points (I recently took one on solar panels for 50 points that was very short).

Rewards:
There are many rewards to choose from but the one I always go for no matter the program is the gift card section.  For Expo there is a "Gift cards" section, an "e-gift certificate" section that will be emailed to you, and an "Amazon e-gift certificate" section.  Applebees $5 gift cards start at 550 points, printable $5 Brinker (Chili's, On The Border, etc) e-gift certificates start at 563 points, and $5 Amazon gift certificates start at 600 points just to give you an idea of the value and how quickly they add up.  You get 500 bonus points for your first approved video so even if you do a video that is only 300 points, that is 800 points right off the bat.  There are many other rewards as well from movie tickets to electronics to household items.

Tips for video approval:
--The video *must* be horizontal or it will upload sideways.  I use and ipod Touch so I had trouble with this at first because I am used to holding it vertically.  Even if it autocorrects on your device, it will still load sideways to the site.
--Don't forget that you must be in the video and if it is a product review video, the product must be shown as well.
--Write down on a sticky note the information that you will need so you won't forget when shooting the video.  You must state the brand name, product (or model) name, and model number if applicable, as well as any info that particular video might ask for.  I had a small appliance that I just stated the model name but not the actual number and it was not approved so don't forget all of those details.
--Have somebody else hold the camera or prop it on something so that it is steady, they do not like shaky videos.
--Don't know what to say to fill the time?  After stating the above info, you can say how long you have had it, what color/pattern you chose, what you like about it, what you dislike about it, where you bought it, what you would change about the product if you could, etc.  If it's not something really loud (or with copyrights for things like dvds), you can demonstrate how it works as well.
--Smile, have fun.  I have only done a couple videos and was stiff and nervous in them.  They still get approved (as long as they follow the above, my first couple did get rejected because I forgot things here an there) but it's kind of painful to watch your own boring videos.     

Other ways to earn:
--Referrals.  When you refer a friend AND they upload their first video, you get 200 points.  The link I posted below IS my referral link.  If you don't feel comfortable, you can always just go to ExpoTv's main site to join.
--Surveys.  They have a survey panel called Outlook Panel where you can take surveys for sweepstakes entries or for points.  I only do the ones for points and even though they have a separate sign up for this part of the site, the points still go to your Expo account.  I used the same email but not sure if that is required.
--Tryology.  Tryology is their product testing program.  There is not a separate signup, it is part of the Expo program.  Every once in a while they will have a Tryology program where they will send out a free product in exchange for a video review of it.  When you have an invitation to apply, it will appear in the Tryology column on your dashboard right above Invitations.  If it is something that you would like to try, you fill out a short screener.  You get 10 points just for filling out the screener (they are very quick) and if accepted, you'll find out a while later, usually a couple weeks.  They will mail you the product, you try it out, then make the video.  Sometimes the product has not been released to the general public yet so you will have to sign a confidentiality agreement saying that you won't talk about the product (online or in person) until the product launches.  I have gotten a couple neat products from this program.  Since they want an honest review, you do not receive points for your video but a free product in exchange for a 1-2 minute video is still a great deal.

If you would like to join, you can click here.  I will be doing other write-ups like this on the other programs that I use as well in the near future so that you can see the pros and cons of each before making a decision to join or not.  


 
 
As you all know, one of my favorite programs ever has been Crowdtap.  Not only did I earn Amazon gift cards to use for Christmas shopping just by participating, but I earned some great sample shares and hosted parties.  My love for them has faded however and I can no longer recommend them.  Every few months as they have grown, they have made big changes to accommodate the growth.  They all stung a little.  The bigger problems started late last year.  They had a lot more people earning the gift cards through heavy participation but the number of gift cards did not seem to be increasing.  So they made a once per month redemption rule where there would be a huge rush at the two times that day for people to cash in.  They sold out quickly and people were mad.  They announced that they would be changing the system for the better and we held out hope.  Then in January, they sent out notice that they were DOUBLING the amount of points needed to cash in.  You would now need 40,000 points to get a $10 gift card instead of 20,000.  Crazy person say whaaaaat?!?  Do you know how much work it took to get 40,000 points?  Probably not.  I'll fill you in... a LOT.  The absolute worst part of that shady move?  It was effective for the February 1st redemption!  So it was not a "this is going to happen after this last chance" type thing.  Lots of people were justifiably angry.  A couple more months of redemptions then the new "improved" system came.  

The improvement?  That the whole reward system was changing to a drawing based system.  So you could spend hours and hours a week to win top awards on the discussions, dozens of quick hits, and going out of your way to participate in photo challenges and then still not win anything or maybe win $5 for the whole month.  The top 100 for the brand in the current month get a bonus amount of points but it was such a trivial amount that it did nothing.  I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt for a few months and see.  Results... AWFUL.  The most I won in one month was $10 and that was only once.  I was one of the few good tappers left that put thought into their submissions.  I almost always received stars for my posts and had several top awards (from back when there was stiff competition with a lot of great tappers).  Then you would go on the Crowdtap facebook page and see people with less than half of the entries, few top 100 finishes (or worse... none), and no top awards getting 5,6,7, even 8!! prizes.  We tried to show Crowdtap how flawed their new system was.  If they don't want to put the money into rewarding people how they were in the past, they needed to at least fix this type of system.  Some good suggestions were given like increasing the amount of points you get for time consuming things (like top awards, top 100 finishes, "excellent" rated reports, etc) by a very considerable amount or by matching top 100 finisher's points (for instance if they earned 7,000 points that month, they get a bonus 7,000 for the drawing), etc.  They always say they are listening but no changes for the better ever came.  

The absolute worst part?  No more OLD NAVY!!! :(  They pulled out of the program.  This was the one "crowd" that I was amazing enough for me to stay with Crowdtap no matter the rewards because the Sample Shares and hosted parties were that amazing and that frequent.  The amount of samples and parties has gone down in general (and the quality of the packages for the ones they do have, have gone down for most) so to take Old Navy out of the mix... not worth it anymore.  I am still a member and I will still go on once or twice a week (hey maybe I'll be one of those lucky "do little, get lucky and win" people, if not, I didn't waste a lot of time) but don't recommend it for others as most people don't have as much patience for these types of programs as I do.  Fear not though, there is another program that I have not blogged about yet that is actually my new favorite (reward wise not product wise) that I will be posting soon.  Stay tuned... it is definitely worth it :)
 
 
Remember how I told you I would be taking a three month break?  No?  Hmm.... Ok, well that would be because I didn't.  I didn't plan to be gone for so long.  This summer has been crazy.  Good, but crazy busy.  I have been testing out lots of things lately though and hope to get some new posts up soon so stay tuned :)