People always ask me about the time it takes me to plan and prepare for big shopping trips, and my best answer is that it gets faster the more you do it.
It did take me some time to learn the tips and tricks, and some ways I save or earn money take a little longer than others. Of course, if it takes you an hour to plan and you only save a buck, it’s not worth it. But if it takes you an hour and you can save $15 or more, that’s worth it to me.
Something I do that takes very little time is use my favorite apps, like Target Cartwheel and Ibotta. Just this week, I made a trip to Target and Walmart, and by just using Ibotta, I earned back about $14, and that really takes me very little time at all.
I’ve mentioned Ibotta in previous columns, but I thought I’d share really how easy it is. With everything from breakfast foods to produce to alcohol and household items, everyone can earn money back with Ibotta.
Browse before you go
If you’re headed shopping, open up the Ibotta app under find offers to see what is available at the store you are going to and add them to “my offers.” I browse the products before I leave and add everything I want, which might take me 10 minutes. I often find things that I don’t really need at that moment, but if it’s a good deal, I’ll take advantage to also help me reach a bonus offer (see below). Be willing to try different brands or new products because that’s where the best deals come in. Some offers require you to answer a quick question or watch a super short ad. One new item offered through Saturday at Target is for Mountain Dew Ice — an Ibotta offer for 75 cents cash back, paired with a 50 percent off Target Cartwheel offer making a 12-pack only $1.75. It’s new, so a great deal, and I figured it was worth trying out at that price.
Scan in store
If you forget to browse before you go, under find offers at the top, you can also scan a barcode to find out if an offer is available for your product. This feature is nice if you are looking for a specific brand and item, but it won’t tell you if there is a similar product available. Each offer has fine print to tell you what qualifies, but you can also click check product barcode to be sure your item qualifies and you can scan the barcode to be sure. While you’re checking the product, also look to see if you can buy more than one item and get cash back on each. I’ve seen “may be redeemed up to 5 times per receipt” on some offers. I did this with the Fage yogurt offer at Target. The yogurt is on sale for buy four, get one free. There are two different types offered in Ibotta, each with a limit of three, so you buy three of one kind and two of another, and get $3.75 back, making the yogurt 32 cents each, which is a pretty great deal.
Redeem at home
As soon as you get home and begin unloading your groceries, I’d recommend opening Ibotta and select “redeem” so that you ensure you do it before you forget or someone tosses the receipt or box with the barcode. You will need to take a picture(s) of your receipt (at Walmart, just the QR code on receipt), then it will find some offers automatically, but it does not often get them all, so make sure you double check and add other offers it missed. On most items, you will need to take a picture of the barcode. Once you have everything, you just submit and get your cash back within 24 hours; sometimes it is almost immediate. This only takes a couple minutes, and will be worth it when you get several bucks cash back. When you’ve made as little as $20 you can redeem for Paypal or various gift certificates.
Sharing is caring
If you connect your Ibotta app with Facebook, it will add your friends who also use Ibotta to your “team.” Each month there is some kind of bonus offer. The first July offer is that you have to redeem seven offers, and your team has to earn $8, and once that happens, you will get a 50-cent bonus, which is really just free money. Plus, if you invite friends to join using your referral link, you can earn $5 on that as well. So the more friends you have using Ibotta, the easier it is to make some bonuses. There are often other bonus offers as well; some are brand specific, but others are just a limited time offer, like right now there is a July Boost #1 available to redeem six offers for a bonus of $2 by July 15, and another boost will appear after that.
Saving money doesn’t have to take that much time. Find the apps that work for you because you’ll be surprised at how much you make back. I’ve made almost $600 with Ibotta, which certainly has been worth the little time I have spent on it.