Friday, July 02, 2010

Fat Wallet Cash Back

I have seen lots of points programs in my time. Most of them seem like a waste of time because it would take so long to accumulate enough points to actually get something out of it. There are a few that I use regularly, only because it doesn't cost me anything. Mypoints for example sends me emails daily that allows me to earn points just by clicking through the email. I would say I get one $25 gift certificate to Target about every 6 months. Not bad for following a few links. I recently discovered Swagbucks and like that too because I don't have to shell out any money to earn points. I just do my regular web searches and badda bing badda boom, you earn points. Recently however, I've discovered FatWallet cash back and LOVE it.

Normally the problem with these points programs is that they don't offer points for retailers that I frequent often and you have to accumulate a lot of points before you get anything. FatWallet on the other hand gives cash back for practically everything on the net (except for Amazon sadly). They even give you 1% off for Ebay! Another great thing is that you can request to receive your cash back at anytime through Paypal so there is no waiting until you have accumulated 50,000 points to reap your rewards. Another bonus is that they link to any coupons or sales that are currently offered by that retailer. Right now there seems to be tons of sales and I just haven't been able to resist the great deals. "Really? I'll get the 70% off clearance sale plus 5% cashback?" It is truly a shopper's paradise. Plus you can find lots of great deals and freebies in the "Best Deals" section of the site. Here are some of their tops deals right now:

Free Philosophy Facial Cleansing Cloths
10% off Best Buy coupon
$5 1-Year Subscription to Popular Science Magazine
Vans Shoe Sale: Up to 79% off + 4.0% Cash Back
Free Sample of Nivea Happy Sensation Daily Lotion

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Earn money for doing what you already do

I discovered Swagbucks a couple weeks ago and I have already redeemed my points for a $5 gift card and I am well on my way to redeeming another one. This site gives you points just by searching the internet, participating in daily polls, and completely surveys. I was surprised at how quickly the points rack up! You'll earn 30 SwagBucks just for signing up for the program! It only takes 450 Swag Bucks to get a $5 Amazon gift card. Here are some tips in racking up points in no time:

1. Do all of your routine searches through Swagbucks. I set the Swagbucks search page as my home page and every time I do a search I use their search engine. You randomly earn anywhere from 5-15 SB just for doing these searches. I would say I earn about 50 SB a day just by doing normal searching. Think about it: after just 9 days you can earn $5 in gift cards just by doing something you normally would be doing anyways! There is the potential to earn hundreds of Swagbucks, but I haven't been that lucky yet. You can also download the toolbar so that you can do your searches without having to go directly to their site. You'll also get 1 SB per day for having the toolbar installed.

2. Participate in the daily polls. You only get 1 SB for answering the poll question but they are kind of fun and super fast!

3. Search for codes. If you become a super dedicated Swagster, you can find codes throughout the day on their Facebook site, their blog, and on their Twitter page. These range from anywhere to 4 SB - 30 SB.

4. Participate in surveys. You can earn hundreds of Swagbucks just by answering surveys (that is if you qualify). I have not qualified for any of the surveys yet, but I have earned hundreds just by filling out my profile. Plus, every day you get 1 SB just for checking to see if you have any more surveys available.

5. Invite your friends. When you refer your friends, you earn Swagbucks every time your referrals earn Swagbucks. I imagine this can add up super quickly!

I have heard of lots of people using these Swagbucks to pay for all of their Christmas shopping. Personally, I know I have a lot of books on my Amazon wishlist that I am looking to buy! So what are you waiting for? Sign up now!

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Free Tomato Seeds from Campbell's

It's no secret that I love gardening. I've already started my garden for this year with mixed success. I started my seedlings in a seed starter and got lots of tomato, cucumber, corn, and various herb seedlings. I decided to try using old tires as planters and lovingly transplanted my seedlings. Last year I had lots of trouble with the squirrels so I built an enclosure of plastic mesh strung on some bamboo stakes. It worked for a couple days but alas, the squirrels have already eaten all of the seedlings that I have planted down there. :( Luckily, I am also planting in the old garden spot and the squirrels have not found their way in there yet and I have a nice set of corn, tomatoes, and even potatoes growing there.

If you're interested in starting your own garden this year head on over to Help Grow Your Own Soup to request your free packet of tomato seeds. All you need is a code from one of Campbell's condensed soups. In addition to sending you a packet of seeds, Campbell's is also donating seeds to local FFA chapters for every click that they receive on their website. So what are you waiting for? Go get some seeds!

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Lucky Pennies!

Have you seen any pennies lying around lately? Well, pick them up! Not only will you be a penny richer, but you may win some free stuff from CiCi's Pizza. In an interesting promotion that is a sure sign-o-the-recession-times, CiCi's will be scattering 1 million (imagine Austin Power's voice here) special pennies that can be redeemed for prizes at their restaurant. Here is how they describe it:

As part of its new Penny Picker Upper promotional campaign, CiCi’s Pizza is honoring savings-savvy Americans by dropping one million pennies in public places around their restaurants. But these are no ordinary pennies. The backs of each of these specially stickered pennies will list prizes like a free meal at a CiCi’s endless pizza buffet, a free drink, and a buy one pizza get one free deal that can be redeemed at local CiCi’s locations. It’s essentially rewarding you for being thrifty.

To make the deal even sweeter, CiCi's will be donating each of the returned pennies to the Big Brothers Big Sisters Club of America. You can check them out at their Facebook page for more info. Happy change hunting!

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

How to Make a Budget

With the New Year comes new resolutions and this year with the world in an economic downturn, there is no doubt that people will be resolving to better their financial situation. Whether your resolution is to save six months of living expenses, to pay off your credit cards, or to simply save more money, the first step you should take is to make a budget to guide you along your way. Here's how to get started.

1. Start a money journal.

For one month, track every penny that you spend. Make sure you track everything from your housing expenses to a pack of gum. There are many ways you can do this but the easiest way I find is to use Mint online. It is an online service similar to Quicken that tracks all of your accounts (savings, checking, loans, investments, etc) and compiles the information into one place. I use my credit card for every purchase I can, even the smallest transaction. That way I can not only track where my money is going but I earn cash back on everything (I use a Chase Freedom credit card).

If you're not comfortable using an online service, or if you are more partial to cash, you can always just keep a written journal of all of your spending.

2. Review

After you have tracked your expenses for 1 month, go back and look at where your money is going. Mint and other personal finance software have features that will automatically create trend reports to show you how much you spend in each category, but don't just stop there. Go through each and every purchase you made and circle anything that you think you could have done without. Notice if you are spending more than you thought in any one area such as dining, entertainment, clothing, etc.

3. Take inventory

Now that you know where your money is going, make a list of all of your essential fixed expenses. These are expenses that occur monthly and are about the same amount every month (rent/mortgage, auto insurance, car payment, taxes, student loans, etc). There may also be fixed expenses that are non-essential such as cable TV, Netflix, Tivo, and so on. List these in a separate column.

You'll also have variable expenses that will change depending on your consumption. These can also be essential and non-essential. Examples of essential variable expenses are water, electricity, gas, groceries and so on. List these as an average of your monthly expense. The non-essential variable expenses will be categories such as dining, entertainment, clothing, shopping, and so on. We'll get back to these later.

As an example, this is what you might end up with.

Essential Fixed Expenses:

Rent: $1,000
Student loans: $150
Auto Insurance: $120
Health insurance: $100
Prescriptions: $20

Total Essential Fixed Expenses: $1390

Non-Essential Fixed Expenses

Netflix: $22
Cell phone: $50

Total Non-Essential Fixed Expenses: $72

Essential Variable Expenses

Electricity: $35
Water: $20
Gas (Home): $25
Groceries: $150
Gas (Auto): $120

Total Essential Variable Expenses: $350

Total: $1812

4. Determine what you have and what you want to have

Let's say that in the above example your take home pay (after taxes) is $2,500. Subtract your total above (in the example $1812) and you are left with the money in your budget for everything else. In the example we are left with $688. The first thing you should divvy out your money to is your savings or money towards paying off debts.

Retirement savings (3%): $125
Emergency fund savings: $200
Down payment savings: $100

Now you are left with $263 to divide among the non-essential variable expenses.

Shopping (household, clothing, personal care) : $100
Entertainment and Dining: $113
Beauty (haircuts, grooming): $50

And voila! You have a budget. The hard part will be sticking to it, but I guarantee that it will be worth it and you will be on track to achieving your New Year's financial resolutions.

Happy saving!

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Guilt Free Shopping

During my attempt to go 100 consecutive days of buying nothing new, I discovered this store called Savers. It's a thrift department store, kind of like the Goodwill, but better. The Goodwill always seemed to be overpriced to me - I know this sounds ridiculous - but I remember the days when clothes cost $1-$5 and books were $.25 each! Now, when you go to the Goodwill you are hard-pressed to find any clothes under $8.99 and books are $3! At that price I might as well go to Target and the library.

Well, Savers is like the good ol' days of thrift shopping. Everything is super cheap (it is used donated goods after all!) and to make it even better, if you bring a bag of donations, they give you a 20% off coupon for your entire purchase. It works out perfectly with the whole "one in, one out" philosophy.

So the other day I took my bag 'o' donations, got my coupon, and went buck wild. Mind you, I haven't bought new clothes in months, so I was itching for it. I stacked my arms with cute things and then panicked thinking I was spending hundreds. I whipped out my calculator and guess what? I didn't have more than $30 in my hands. Amazing! I decided to "splurge" and bought it all, along with a few pots for the garden and a jam jar (they only had one) for my cherry jam making adventures.

The whole thing wasn't more than $35 and I won't need to go shopping for a while. To make it even better, I don't have to worry about the environmental impact because everything was used and would've otherwise gone to the dump. All in all, it was guilt free shopping!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Update: Prosper Loans

About a month ago I decided to dabble with Prosper as a way to increase return on my savings. I was a little skeptical but I thought I would try it out with $300. I chose 5 different loans and divided my money between them (4 loans at $50 and 1 loan at $100). I decided to stay fairly conservative to reduce the chance that any of them would default - 3 of the loans had a "B" grade, 1 had an "A" grade, and another was "AA."

I'm happy to report that all of my loans made their first payment. I don't know why this shocks me, but I was pretty impressed. That doesn't mean I'm out of the woods yet. There are still 35 more payments to go! Currently, I'm earning an average of 11.25% so over the 3 years I should earn about $90 in interest (if they don't default). That's much better than the $30 I would earn if it was in a regular savings account.

The one thing that is annoying about Prosper is that once the money is paid back (you get a payment every month), it's nearly impossible to get back out until you have a balance of $25. You can't make a bid to reinvest the money unless you have $25 and you can't withdraw the money unless you have $25. Right now, I only have $11 so it's pretty much stuck in there not earning interest. I thought about transferring money into the account just so I could then withdraw the full amount, but even that takes time and while the money is in transit you are not earning any interest on it. I suppose the trick would be to have enough invested so that each month your payments total more than $25.

I also started my first investing adventures with my Sharebuilder account. I'm happy to report that the stock I chose, rose about 10% in the first month. Granted, this could change at any time but I think it was a pretty wise investment. I'm starting to think that investing is super fun, but then again I haven't suffered any losses yet. Let's hope this beginner's luck continues!

If you're interested in trying your luck, you can use the following promotions to jump start your investments!

$25 bonus for signing up with Sharebuilder

Earn $25-50 for signing up with Prosper

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