"what should grown-ups spend their money on"

 

Children are so insightful! I asked my eight-year-old soon-to-be step-daughter if she had any questions about money, and her very first question was “what should grown-ups spend money on?”. Isn’t that a great question? Tons of adults I know don’t even know what grown-ups should spend money on!

What should grown-ups spend money on vs. what grown-ups do spend money on

To answer the question “what should grown-ups spend money on”, we first must find out what grown-ups actually spend money on. Sometimes we spend money how we are supposed to, but more often than not we don’t. Grown-ups make mistakes just like you! Who would have thought?

What do Grown Ups Spend money on?

There’s a ton of research that shows what the average grown up American spends their money on, and you can read about it here.  But to make it simple, let’s do percentages and put it in a pie chart!

"what grown-ups spend money on"

As you can see, grown-ups spend most of their money on their houses, cars, food, and insurance/healthcare.

What Should Grown-Ups Spend Money on?

Do you think people are spending money how they should be? Or do you think they are spending too much money some things? There’s one majorly important item that I don’t even see in the chart! Can you figure out what it is?

Personal Savings!

Personal savings is the one thing that is very noticeably missing from the chart above, and it’s one of the most important things that grown-ups should be spending money on.

Why are Personal Savings Important?

It’s important for grown-ups to spend money on saving for lots of different reasons! First, emergencies happen. Cars break down, pets get sick, people have to do to the doctor. It’s important to have money saved up in case these things happen, so we can take care of them right away.

Second, most grown-ups don’t want to work forever. It’s important to save money so that we don’t have to. If you start making saving a habit now, you won’t have to work forever! You could get on the early retirement train! I wish I had started when I was a kid, I could be done working by now. But it’s not too late for you – start saving as soon as possible so you don’t have to spend your entire life working.

How can we Fix it?

So how can we fix it so that grown ups spend money on what they should be spending money on? We need to figure out what grown ups are spending too much money on.

What do Grown-Ups Spend too much money on?

Grown ups spend way too much money on cars. Instead of buying a brand-new car every few years, grown-ups should buy used cars and keep them longer. A new car is just a pride thing, most of us don’t really need it. Grown ups shouldn’t spend more than 10% of their income on their cars.

Grown ups also spend too much money on housing. We shouldn’t spend more than 30% of our income there, but we are spending 33%! That’s harder to bring down, but there are options. You could get a roommate, chose a home further away from the city, or chose a smaller home.

I failed at this -I spent ALL my money on a house!

We should all also cut back on entertainment, clothing, and alcohol and cigarettes. If we all cut back just a little bit on these things, we could easily afford to put 15% into savings!

After cutting these costs, the chart should look more like this:

"what should grown ups spend money on"

This final chart shows what grown ups should spend money on. I know it’s not always realistic for every situation, but it’s a great model for what you should strive for!

Good Luck on your quest to spend money correctly!

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"Money saving tips"

Real Money Saving Tips for Real People

I’ve read tons personal finance articles, many of which promise easy tips on how to save money every month. The problem is, most of these so called “tips” aren’t very easy or convenient. For example, one of the most widely touted “money saving tips” is to downgrade your cell phone. Ditch the minutes and the dates plan! Be happy with a bare bones basic phone- It’s so easy!

That’s not very realistic though. Granted, we don’t need to be connected to everything at every time, but it sure is convenient. It’s also way easier to apply for jobs and follow up if you have access to your email on your cell phone.

I also hate the one about driving to 6 different stores to get the best deals on each item. How is that easy? And after you factor in the gas and your wasted time, is it really saving you money?

So instead, here’s a list of money saving tips you can do that are way easier and way more realistic (for the most part). Keep in mind, all of the total monthly savings amounts are based on a single person. Making these changes for multiple people will lead to even greater savings!

Money Saving Tips for the Grocery Store

I know we already covered how to save money at the grocery store, but I can’t leave it off of a post on how to save money! So I’m just going to list my three favorites from that post here, and if you want more tips on how to save on groceries, head over to “10 Great Ways to Save Money on Groceries

 

1Buy Generic

This is my all time favorite money saving tip. People get suckered into buying the name brand way too often. Gotta give those crafty marketers credit, they are good at what they do! But most generic products are exactly the same as their name brand counterparts. I can buy brand name corn flakes for $4, or I can buy the store brand for 99 cents. They taste exactly the same. Other items that are pretty much the same:

milk, bread, eggs, sugar, flour, spices, canned goods, noodles, packaged mixes, frozen vegetables, pre-packaged deli items, peanut butter, crackers, and most cleaning supplies.

I agree that not everything is the same though! I dedicated an entire blog post to things I won’t buy generic, so I understand that not all things are created equally. However, even swapping out just a few items per week can save you money. You can save between 50 cents and $2 per item by switching to generic. If you swap out just 10 items on our weekly shopping list for the generic brand, you can save an average of $10 per week. 

Total monthly savings: $40

 

2. Use the Rewards Card

Most grocery stores offer weekly deals that you can only receive if you are a member of their rewards club. It is free and easy to sign up for, so I never understood why someone would pass this up. I mean, I get that it’s just a marketing ploy to collect your information, but I give that up to Facebook for free, so what do I care if Giant gets it? I can usually save between $5 and $10 per trip just by using this card.

Total monthly savings: $40

 

3. Chop Your Own Fruits & Veggies

Yes, I know its time consuming. Its way easier to buy processed carrot mush (baby carrots) than it is to peel and cut fresh carrots. But a bag of fresh carrots costs only fifty cents, and a bag of processed carrot mush costs over two bucks. I’d much rather go with fresh carrots.

Other pre-cut fruits and veggies aren’t as gross, but you’re still paying for all that processing. Sure it’s convenient, but I’d rather save money and spend twenty minutes cutting my own veggies. If you buy carrots, green peppers, pineapples, and apples every week, you are looking at an extra $5 and $10 per week for pre-cut foods!

Total Monthly Savings: $40

 

money saving tips for work

 

4. Sack Lunch It

Ok, so pretty much every single article about how to save money includes this tip. However, I will break down the cost for you:

Everyday for lunch, I have a sandwich, a little baggie of chips, and maybe a snack cake or cut veggies. The sandwich has bread (99 cents a week for a loaf of wheat bread at Walmart), Meat (pre-packaged turkey for $3), cheese ($3 for 10 slices, which lasts me two weeks; so $1.50 a week) and mayo (the jar is $5, and lasts me a little over a month; so let’s call it $1 per week). The chips cost $4 for a big bag that lasts me the week, and the veggies or snack cakes are usually around $2. The total cost for my lunches for the week: $8.5

Now let us assume that you eat out 5 days a week, at a cost of $10 per day. Weekly cost: $50

Total monthly savings: $166

 

5. Coffee

Yes, this one is in every advice article too. However, I have a better suggestion than either giving up coffee (not likely) or making it at home (too much work too early in the morning). Invest in a keurig. It takes about 10 seconds to make a fresh cup of coffee each morning. The K-Cups are not very expensive; I can get an 80 pack for a little over 40 bucks on Amazon, so it’s about 50 cents per cup. I also buy one bottle of creamer per week for $2, and a bag of sugar every 3-4 weeks for $4, which amounts to about $1 per week.  My total weekly coffee costs are about $5.5. I can spend that much at Starbucks in one day! But assuming you buy a cheaper option at the coffee shop and only spend $3 per day, you are still saving about $10 a week.

Oh, and I know that K-cups are horrible for the environment. That’s why I only buy the compostable kind! And I still save money on my daily coffee!

Total monthly savings: $40

"10 money saving tips"
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money saving tips for home

 

6. Cut out the pop

Yes, it does sound like a sacrifice. Everyone loves pop. Its cold, its tasty, its refreshing, but it really isn’t necessary. It is bad for your teeth, and it packs on the calories. It also stealthily robs your bank account. A 6 pack of name brand pop costs about $3. Most people who drink it tend to drink 2-3 cans per day. This can be up to $9 per week. Water is free, healthier, and honestly it is much more refreshing.

 Total monthly savings: $36

 

7. Stop Smoking

Yet another one that appears on every list. I know this one cannot be considered easy, but I couldn’t pass it up. Everyone knows the long-term health risks associated with smoking, and there have been numerous articles that showcase the cost. But in case you didn’t see those, assuming you smoke a pack a day, cigarettes will cost you $28 per week assuming the average price of $4/pack. 

Total monthly savings: $102

 

8. Cut Cable

I used to love cable. I thought I would never be able to live without it. But guess what? I cut my cable cord almost a year ago, and I haven’t missed it. I was paying an extra $100 per month to watch two freaking shows. How stupid is that? I can wait for the episodes to appear on Netflix for that! You may be able to save more or less, depending on what cable company and plan you are currently on, but it is definitely something that’s worth looking into to!

Total monthly savings: $100

I will also add here to make sure that you fill your dishwasher and washer for every load. I cannot begin to calculate the savings based on water and electricity usage (I like math, but not that much!), but every little bit helps.

 

money saving tips At the Restaurant

 

9. Skip the Appetizers, or Order One as your Meal

Appetizers at most restaurants cost about the same amount as a regular meal. In addition, they have enough calories to actually be a full meal. Ordering both an appetizer and an entree is bad for both your belt line and your pocket book. If you absolutely must have the appetizer, ask for it as your main dish. If you eat out once a week, this could save you $10 per week. 

Total monthly savings: $40

 

10. Drink Water

Alcoholic beverages are the items with the highest mark-up at restaurants. Why do you think waitstaff always asks you if they can get you anything from the bar? They are trained to try to sell alcoholic beverages. If you must have a drink, have a beer at home before going to the restaurant, and stick to water once you are there. In addition, pop and other non-alcoholic drinks are also incredibly marked up. They charge you $2-3 for about 12 ounces. Isn’t a can still about 50 cents in the machine? If you switch from pop to water during your one dinner a week you will save $2 per week (not a lot, but every little bit counts). If you like to drink at a restaurant, but switch to water, you can save about $10 on your weekly bill. 

Total monthly savings: $8-$40 (average of $24)

 

Total Savings

Money Saving Tip Approx. Monthly Savings
Buying Generic 40
Using Rewards Cards 40
Chop your own veggies 40
 

Bringing a Sack Lunch

166
Using a Coffee Maker 40
Giving up Pop 36
Quit Smoking 102
Cut Cable 100
Skipping the Appetizer 40
Drinking Water 24
Total 628

 

$628 a month!!! That is a lot of extra money. Even if you can only follow half of these tips, that is still $300 per month!! And like I said in the beginning, this is for a single person. A family who utilizes these tips can save even more! Some of these may be harder for you than others, but surely each person can make a few tiny sacrifices and follow a few of these. Good Luck!

What are you favorite money saving tips? How much does it save you every month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

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"spending all your savings on a house"

So I did a thing. I spent all of my savings on a house. I only have about 5k left for emergency situations. I’m a bit stressed out about this, but I think it was the right decision for me. Is spending all your savings on a house the right decision for you?

Spending all the savings on a house

Define Savings

Before everyone flips out on me, we need to define what I mean when I say that I spent all my savings on a house. To be clear, I did NOT wipe out any of my retirements accounts nor did I touch my investment accounts. When I say I spent all my savings on a house, I mean just my savings. That is, I spent pretty much all of my cash reserves.

That doesn’t make it a perfect decision though. I had over a year’s worth of living expenses saved up for an emergency. Now I’m down to a two-month emergency fund, which we can all agree is not enough.

Why was spending all my savings on a house a good idea?

I think that blowing all my cash reserves on a house was a great, albeit stressful idea. That’s because I was able to use the cash to pay for the house straight up – I have no mortgage payment. Huge win!!  I only have to pay $150 in property taxes and $130 in insurance each month to have this house. That’s freaking amazing. With my living expenses being so low, that 5K “emergency fund” can stretch a whole lot further. Also, I’ll be able to rebuild that savings rather quickly with out having a mortgage payment.

Why would it have been a bad idea?

If I wasn’t Mortgage Free

It definitely would have been a bad idea to spend all my savings on a house if I wasn’t going to be mortgage free. Spending all my cash reserves and then having a mortgage payment would stretch me way too thin. If you are in this position, you should wait and build your cash reserves to ensure that you will still have a decent emergency fund after paying for the house. A good way to do this is with separate accounts. Build an emergency fund in one account while building a housing fund in another, and buy the house when both are fully funded.

You could also look into programs that don’t require as much of a down payment. FHA loans only require 2.5%, whereas conventional loans tend to require a 20% down payment. However, if you chose the FHA loan option, you will also have to pay mortgage insurance to your lender, which will increase your monthly payment. Many states offer special programs for first time home buyers as well, so that is something you could look into.

If I had to cash out my investments

It also would have been a bad idea to cash out my investments (especially my retirement accounts!) to buy this house. First, the market it not in a good place right now. I would be selling low, which we all know is a bad idea. Sometimes you can’t help the timing of things, but I’d rather not sell when the market is down.

Second, robbing from future Melanie is never a good idea. My retirement accounts have another thirty years to grow. Why would I want to destroy that potential growth, especially during a time when my dividends are buying even more shares? In general, taking money from your retirement account is a bad idea.

I’m not going to pretend I never did it though. When I bought my first house, I took a 10K loan from my (paltry at that time) retirement account. It took me over five years to pay that money back. However, I do think it was a good decision, as I made over 100K on that house when I sold it (thank god for the California real estate market!).  If you have no other way to come up with a decent down payment and know that the real estate market will rise, it’s not a terrible option.

"Savings on a house"
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Is Spending all of your money on a house a good idea?

What works for me may not work for you. I will tell you that you shouldn’t spend every dime you have on a house, even to be mortgage free. Like I said above, I didn’t touch any of my retirement or investment accounts.

Your risk tolerance is also something that you should take into consideration. I’m not going to lie, it was extremely stressful to give up my giant bag of money, even though I knew it was a good decision. There’s a certain amount of comfort that comes with having a nice hunk of money in the bank.

 But we all know that money in the bank doesn’t really do much besides provide that comfort. The interest rates on savings accounts don’t beat inflation, so having your money sitting in a savings account is only a tad bit better than having it stored under your mattress. I decided to invest all my extra cash in real estate (yes, I’m living in the house right now, but long term we are going to fix it up and either sell for profit or rent it out), but you may be more comfortable investing in equities. The bonus of buying the house is that it gives us a place to live for a while, so I find that to be an extra measure of security (though we will always have to pay taxes…it’s a shame that nothing is ever truly ours).

Do you think we made a good decision?

So here’s the real question…do you think it was a good idea for us to spend all of our cash holdings on a house? Would you do the same? Let me know in the comments!

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"what is universal basic income"

 

Have you heard of Universal Basic Income? It’s a fringe idea that’s been generating a lot of discussion lately. But what does it actually mean? And who supports such a radical idea?

What is Universal Basic Income

The essential concept of Universal Basic Income is pretty simple. The government pays all of its citizens a monthly stipend. This money can be spent on whatever the individual wants with no oversight. Program advocates debate whether minors should receive a stipend. Some argue that parents should receive a smaller amount for each minor child while others argue that minors shouldn’t receive anything. Ultimately this detail would be up to the government implementing the program.

Universal Basic Income and Social Programs

Whether Universal Basic Income would replace or be in addition to the social programs that we already have is another huge topic of debate. Many argue that it should completely replace all of the social welfare programs that thousands of people rely upon. Why would people need food assistance, housing waivers, Medicaid, etc. if they are getting a guaranteed monthly stipend? Others argue that the stipend won’t always be enough to cover these essentials. They argue that we need to maintain some of these programs to ensure that no one is lives in poverty. 

How would we pay for Universal Basic Income?

And here’s where the idea gets incredibly unpopular! The number one source of income for most government’s is taxes, so increased tax revenue is the most popular choice for funding the program. People on the high ends of the income scale would probably pay more than their stipend in taxes to support the program. No one wants to pay more in taxes.

Other ideas for funding the program have been discussed as well. These include raising corporate taxes while closing some of the loopholes in the corporate tax code or raising tariffs. The main arguments against these ideas is that corporations would pass the costs along to the consumer, and higher operating costs would stifle innovation and potentially cost jobs.

"universal basic income"
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What are the arguments for and against Universal Basic Income?

There are tons of arguments both in favor of and against the program, and there is a lot of nuance in between. Therefore, I’m just going to lay out the basics.

For It

Proponents of Universal Basic Income argue that wages are too low and jobs are too scarce for people to lift themselves out of poverty. The argument is that if people were able to cover their basic needs (food and shelter) they would be more productive and have the time to develop in demand skills. People would also be more innovative and creative if they weren’t trapped in soul-sucking jobs. This would mean that we would have more art and more people pursuing their passions. A final argument in favor of universal basic income is that people would have more power to decline unfair wages and working conditions. This would force businesses to pay fair wages in order to be competitive. 

Against it

Opponents of the program argue that giving people free money will lead to a dependent society where nobody will actually want to work. Another aspect of this is that people would refuse to work menial jobs for minimum wage, so companies wouldn’t be able to find workers and would potentially be forced out of business, leading to less competition. Opponents also argue that it’s unfair for the people who do work to support those that do not. A major argument of this position is that it is way too expensive to pay every citizen something.  Those that work would be taxed an outrageous amount to support everyone else.

Related: What Are Family Values?

Is Universal Basic Income being used anywhere?

Some countries are actually toying with the idea of Universal Basic Income. Finland was the first country to do a trial run on the program. They selected 2000 unemployed Fins who then received a monthly stipend for two years. Although the final results of the study have not been published yet, initial reports from 2018 imply that the program wasn’t ambitious enough to work.

Individual cities and states are also testing out types of Universal Basic Income programs. Alaska gives all of its citizens a yearly payout of its oils and gas revenues. Though this was never actually considered a Universal Basic Income program, it has a lot of similarities.

 Hamilton, Ontario, is testing a program to determine if basic income is more effective at reducing poverty than existing social programs. Barcelona began testing their B-Mincome program in 2017. This program  provides a monthly stipend to residents in the poorest area of the city. Most of these pilots are still in progress, so it’s unclear what the final verdict will be.

Who Supports Universal Basic Income?

There are actually a few big-name proponents of the program. Most notably are billionaire entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson. In all fairness, it would be impossible to list all the people who don’t support it, because there are so many. 

What are your thoughts on Universal Basic Income?

I’ve tried my best to not interject my opinion in this post (that’s for a different day!) but I’d love to know what your thoughts on the program are! Are you for or against it? And why?

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"you need acorns for investing"

Have you tried using the app Acorns for investing yet? I just downloaded it, and I don’t know why I waited so long! Acorns is a great way for regular folks to start an investment portfolio – it’s straightforward and you don’t have to put up thousands of dollars. So, let’s see how it works!

Using Acorns for investing

Free Five Bucks Just to Start

In order to start using Acorns for investing,  you need to get the app. If you use my referral code, we can both get five extra bucks! What are you waiting for? Download it here! Then, you can refer your own friends and everyone can get five bucks. That’s a super easy way to get free money into your portfolio!

After you download acorns, it will ask you a series of questions about your risk tolerance and your investment time frame. The app will choose a balanced investment portfolio for you based on your answers.

Next you need to link a bank account. You won’t be able to set reoccurring investments or round up investments without one. If you have multiple bank accounts, you can link all of them to really maximize your round ups.

Acorns asset allocations

Acorns may not be so great for skilled investors who really like to do their own research and want to know exactly what all of their holdings are. Acorns doesn’t provide that information.

What Acorns does tell you is your allocation between small caps, large caps, emerging markets, real estate, international stocks, and bonds (both corporate and government). This is great for novices, you don’t have to do tons of research on stocks or mutual funds to decide which to invest in. The app does it for you. And it shows you a fancy graph of your allocations!

"Acorns for investing"

Types of accounts

There are two different types of Acorns accounts, and you can set up both if you would like. There is the Acorns core account, which is the one you will automatically get when you sign up for Acorns, and then there is the Acorns Later account, which is basically an IRA (Individual Retirement Account). I think it’s awesome that Acorns decided to offer an IRA feature; since so many people don’t have access to 401Ks through their employers, and don’t have enough money to start investing in traditional IRAs.

Ways to Invest

A great thing about Acorns is that they have tons of different ways for you to invest. Whether you are a shopper or a saver, an auto-pilot investor or an active investor, Acorns has an option for you.

Round Ups

My favorite way to invest with Acorns is through their round ups feature. The funny thing about this is that I hesitated to use round ups because of it! I generally use cash for all of my purchases, so I didn’t think it would be useful. Oh how wrong I was!

You see, the round ups feature isn’t just for debit card purchases. Acorns can find round ups to invest from any purchase – I’ve rounded up my monthly internet, phone, and insurance bills to add money to my Acorns account! Another great thing about the Round ups feature is that you can chose whether or not to automate it. I’ve chosen to automate and round up all of my purchases, but you can manually choose which purchases to round up as well.

Reoccurring Investments

You can also set up a reoccurring investment from your bank account into your acorns account every week. The reoccurring investment can be as little as five dollars a week and as much as twenty dollars a week. This is an easy way to automate your investments.

One-time investment

If you don’t have the cash in your budget to set up a reoccurring weekly investment, you can also manually invest any amount over five dollars as a one-time investment. You can do this as little or as often as you’d like. It’s a great way to put part of that bonus or tax refund to work for you!

Investing by Shopping Online

A super cool feature of Acorns (that I don’t really use because I don’t do a lot of online shopping, but it’s really freaking awesome for those who do!) is that you can get cash back to invest from shopping online through certain retailers. It’s basically like E-bates, but instead of getting cash back in your pocket, the money gets put into your Acorns investment account. Tons of stores have partnered with Acorns to help you invest – Air B&B, Amazon, Express, Barnes & Noble, Bed, Bath & Beyond, World Market, E-bay, and way too many more to list. The offers vary by retailer, so you’ll have to log on to see if what your favorite store offers. You also have to shop through the Acorns app, so you can’t double dip with other cash back apps like E-bates.

Learning about Investing

Another great feature of Acorns is the “Grow your knowledge” feature. This feature not only gives you information on how to use the Acorns app, but there is also a wealth of articles about credit, debt, saving money, and investing basics. This feature also has a curated section of the trending news in investing. It’s a great way to learn more about investing, and can help turn the novice into a pro.

Fees

Nothing in this world is free, and acorns is no different. Acorns charges a monthly fee for its services. Most Acorns users will pay only one dollar a month for their account. Acorns Later (the IRA) users will pay two dollars a month.

Once your combined Acorns accounts reach one million dollars, the fee structure changes. Rather than pay one dollar, you will pay .01% of your portfolio value.

Is Acorns right for you?

Acorns isn’t right for everyone. If you aren’t going to invest regularly, either through roundups or through a reoccurring investment, the one-dollar monthly fee will eat away at your holdings rather quickly. However, it’s so easy to do one of those things that this shouldn’t be an issue for most people.

Acorns is the best way for people who don’t make a lot of money to start investing. It’s one of the only programs I’ve seen that allows you to start with as little as five dollars, and invest such small amounts. We all know how difficult it is to save up the three thousand dollars necessary for most mutual funds, and it’s awesome that there is a product available for regular people who may not be able to achieve that.

Get Acorns today

What are you waiting for? Get Acorns today and start investing now! And if you already have Acorns, I’d love to hear about your experience with it!

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"cash back apps"

Every time I turn around there are tons of new fancy cash back apps promising to save you time and make you money. There are so many of these cash back apps that’s it’s nearly impossible to test them all and find out which ones are really worthwhile. Well, I did my best, and I tested twenty cash back apps to figure out which ones (if any!) are actually worthwhile. Read on to find out which apps to download and which ones to skip. 

A quick word on referral links

I have included my referral link for the cash back apps that I highly recommend (if the app offers it). Some of the other cash back apps also have referral bonuses, but I didn’t include my link because I’m not a fan of the app. I’m not going to try to get rewards from having you download something that I don’t personally recommend! 

Download these cash back apps!

Ibotta

I’ve reviewed all twenty of these cash back apps and Ibotta is still my favorite. It’s easy to use and there are tons of offers available every week, on stuff that I actually buy. After about six weeks of using Ibotta, I’ve earned forty bucks cash back – on stuff that I was going to buy anyway. That’s a pretty big win. For more information, check out the Best Guide to Ibotta on the internet. If this short review is good enough for you, sign up using my referral code so we can both get some extra money!

Trunow

Trunow is the only cash back app that is exclusively for gas. The great thing about the app is that you don’t have to go to a specific gas station to reap the benefits – you get 1% cash back on all gas purchases. You just have to upload your receipt. Trunow does partner with some gas stations though, and you get 2% cash back on gas purchases with their partners.

Another great thing about Trunow is that it shows you all the gas prices in the area. There’s a little map that shows every gas station with their price per gallon. This will help you find the cheapest gas near you!

As a bonus, Trunow offers rewards on some gas station purchases, such as snacks, coffee, and cigarettes. These offers are only redeemable at certain partner gas stations, but it was cool to see these items thrown in the mix. Most other cash back apps don’t include gas purchase, and almost all of us need gas.

You also can get $1 for referring friends (you both get a $1!) so if you want to use Trunow, use my referral code so we each get a buck!

The one thing that annoys me about the app is that the stupid little location services icon wouldn’t go away from the top of my phone. I had to disable notifications from the app to get it to go away.

Coupons.com

I like coupons.com because it’s main focus is groceries, and that’s the thing I’m generally shopping for. It is very similar to Ibotta, but unfortunately there aren’t as many offers. One cool difference is that you can link your store loyalty card to your coupons.com account and earn rewards when you use that rather than uploading your receipts – but it still accepts receipts which is awesome. You earn cashback with coupons.com and get paid via paypal.

Coupons.com also offers printable coupons. I don’t like this because I’m not going to print coupons, but it’s a great feature for people who enjoy doing that. There are tons of grocery store coupons available for printing.

There are no referral bonuses for sending your friends to coupons.com. But now you know I’m not just supporting the apps that I get referral bonuses from!

Shopkick

Shopkick is slightly different from other cash back apps in that you don’t actually have to buy stuff to earn points. You can earn points by having a scavenger hunt in the store and scanning the items on your list. This is also a great option for parents. You can set your kids free in the store to do the scavenger hunt while you finish your shopping! It’s a win-win! But be sure your kids are old enough and behaved enough to explore a store on their own! I don’t want anyone telling me they lost their toddler because I told them to have their kids go scan stuff!

You can also earn points with Shopkick by simply walking into certain stores. But the best way to earn, like with most cash back apps, is to purchase the items on offer and scan the receipts. The downside to this is that there aren’t nearly as many offers on Shopkick as there are on Ibotta – or on coupons.com for that matter. Most of the stuff available on Shopkick is stuff that I don’t need (but your mileage may vary, we all need different things).

A disadvantage of shopkick is that you don’t earn cash back. You earn gift cards. This may be helpful for lots of people, but personally I prefer cash. The rewards system is pretty straight forward – you need 1250 points to earn a $5 gift card. You can get to that level fairly quickly if you buy the things they have offers on, but if you are just scanning items in stores it will take much longer.

Another disadvantage is that there are different rules for different stores. Some stores offer you rewards points if you shop there with a linked card, while others allow you to upload a receipt. There are also loads of stores on Shopkicks, but some of them only have a few offers. For example, Bed, Bath, and Beyond is on Shopkick, but only has offers for two very specific items.

If you want to try shopkick, use my referral code so we can both get 250 points towards rewards!

Spent Money App

Spent Money App is a great app for online shopping. There are tons of stores available and they offer 2-10% cash back. You can also get cash back at certain retailers by linking your bank card. Then, when you shop at that store with that card, you automatically get 1% to 2% cash back through the app. It’s very similar to Ebates in the way that you earn rewards.  

I prefer Spent Money to Ebates because it’s more than just a cash back app. It’s also a financial app! Spent Money is the only one of all these apps I tested that tracks your spending for you. It’s like a personal finance app and cash back app all in one! You do need to link your debit cards to the app in order for this feature to work though.

One limitation of the Spent Money app is that you can’t upload receipts, either for cash back or for tracking purposes. If they found a way to incorporate uploaded receipts into this app, it would be my absolute favorite.

Spent Money does not have any type of referral bonus, but it’s a cool app and you can check it out here

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Cash Back Apps that are Worthwhile if you shop a lot

Ebates

Ebates is probably the most popular cash back app on this list. Everyone has heard of Ebates, right? One huge advantage of Ebates is that it has tons of participating stores. I’ve seen offers from Macy’s, Kirklands, Big 5, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and way too many other stores to list. Another advantage of Ebates is that it offers a mix of cash back rewards and coupons.  This is a great cash back app for people who love to shop at major retailers.

One limitation of Ebates is that you can’t upload receipts. In order to get cash back when you shop at these retailers, you have to link your card to your account and play with that card at the store. This is great for people who use debit or credit cards for all of their purchases. However,  for people like me who prefer cash, there aren’t a lot of options for getting cash back.

Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is a little different because you earn points when you buy certain brands. This is kind of nice, because you don’t have to worry as much about getting the exact right item (that’s one issue with Ibotta: is this the right size of cereal?? But at least if give you the option to scan the barcode and check). There are a few items that are more specific though, so you do have to be careful.

Fetch Rewards isn’t exactly a cash back app. You don’t use your points to get cash, you use it to get gift cards. I prefer cash because I don’t want any limits on where I can spend my rewards. Fetch does offer Visa gift cards, but you need tons of points to get them. You need almost twelve thousand points for a ten-dollar Visa gift card. Store gift cards start at $1; and it comes out to about 1000 points per dollar.

A limitation to Fetch rewards is that you don’t know how many points you get for buying a certain brand until after you buy it. I had one item on my list and I only got 24 points for it. It definitely wouldn’t be worthwhile to switch brands for 24 measly points, but I was already buying that particular item so it wasn’t a big deal. It doesn’t hurt to check the brands you buy and try to get some points though.

Fetch rewards makes it really easy to start earning points, but harder and harder to earn them after that. You get 750 points for the first receipt you upload, but fewer and fewer points for each subsequent receipt. My second receipt only earned me 500 points, and my third will earn 250. I guess you can earn a one-dollar gift card just by uploading three receipts though, so that’s a bonus.

Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is very similar to Ibotta and Coupons.com; but it has fewer offers and rewards than those two apps. There are some offers that are available on both Ibotta and Checkout 51, and I haven’t seen anything that says you can’t double dip. I’ve also noticed that there are more offers on snacks with Checkout 51 than there are on the other two apps.

If you only want to deal with one receipt uploading app, I’d definitely go with Ibotta. But if you want to double dip and catch all of the available savings, you can use all three.

Coupon Sherpa

Coupon Sherpa is an app that collects coupons. This is a great app for restaurants, because you can use most of the restaurant coupon apps from the app itself. You just go to the restaurant and show the coupon form the app when paying.

Coupon Sherpa offers both in-store and online coupons. Whether an offer is available in the store or online is dependent on the retailers. Some have in store only coupons, while others have online only coupons. But most of the retailers offer both, which is nice.  A lot of the coupons available on Coupon Sherpa are for specific items, but large retailers do have some general “10-20% off entire purchase” coupons.

One disadvantage of Coupon Sherpa is that some of the coupons need to be printed. Most of the grocery store coupons fall in this category, and since that’s where I do most of my shopping, I’m not a fan.

Receipt hog

This is the only app that made me “request” to join. I wonder if they actually have eligibility criteria or if it’s a marketing ploy to trigger people’s Fear Of Missing Out. Either way, I was accepted immediately.

Receipt Hog is pretty straight forward with just wanting your data. In order to start using points, you have to take the survey that asks about your income and shopping habits. It wasn’t that invasive, and they gave me 30 coins for doing it.

One thing I don’t like about receipt hog is that you have to verify your device before you can even see the awards, and you can’t do that until you get to 300 coins. Also, you can only earn up to 100 coins per week for uploading receipts. I don’t like being limited. If I’m doing a lot of shopping so you can have my data, you should reward me for all of the shopping that I do! Am I wrong? But I digress. You can also earn a few extra coins by playing their little slot machine game, which is kind of fun. You earn pulls at the machine by uploading receipts.

I was able to find the rewards system with a google search, and it’s pretty similar to most of the other cash back apps. You need 1000 coins to earn $5, which can be redeemed via Amazon, Paypal, or Visa gift card. One bonus about receipt hog is that if you save your coins, you need a few fewer coins to earn greater rewards. You only need 2900 rather than 3000 to earn $15, and 4300 rather than 5000 to earn $25.

If you are going to use an app that just wants your data, I’d recommend this one over Receipt Pal (reviewed below). The rewards system is more-straight forward, the interface was more user friendly, and it was more fun to use.

Skip these Cash back apps

Receipt Pal

One cool thing about Receipt Pal is that you earn rewards with any receipt.  It’s not store or item specific. On the downside, you need to upload way too many receipts to earn rewards, and there aren’t a lot of options for using your rewards. The options are limited to Amazon gift cards, restaurant.com gift cards, and Visa gift cards.  

Unfortunately, receipts aren’t worth that many points, and it takes a lot of uploaded receipts to earn a gift card. You get 100 points for every four receipts that you upload. You need 400 points to cash out to a $1 Amazon gift card – so that means you have to upload 16 receipts to make just one dollar on the app. Visa gift cards cost even more points. You need 7500 points to get a $25 Visa gift card. That’s 300 receipts!! It’s just not worthwhile to me.  

I guess Receipt Pal realizes that the point system by itself is just not worthwhile, so they also have a sweepstakes feature. The sweepstakes feature offers you the chance to win extra points when you upload receipts. You are automatically entered into the weekly sweepstakes when you upload your first four receipts for the week. If you upload more than eight receipts, you can get multiple entries. Some people may enjoy having the opportunity to win, but I’m not going to waste my time giving companies my data for just the “chance” to win. It’s not worthwhile.

Savings Catcher

I tried the savings catcher app, and I was not a fan. First, it’s way too much work to get your savings when compared to the other cash backs apps on this list. You have to scan the item’s bar code and upload the receipt. Why can’t I just upload the receipt like on the other apps? Who knows.

Another issue I have with the savings catcher app is that there aren’t a lot of products available on offer. I guess that’s because it’s so much work to get your rewards for each item? You’d think that you’d get way more points or rewards for all this extra work; but that’s not the case. The rewards are pretty similar to the rewards you get from all the other apps.

A final issue I have with the Savings Catcher App is that a lot of the offers are only available if you spend a certain amount of money. It’s those “get five dollars when you spend thirty dollars” types of deals. This works if you were planning on spending that much in the first place, but stores often try to tempt you to buy more with deals like that.

Retail me Not

I wasn’t a fan of Retail Me Not. First, there weren’t any deals on groceries and I’m not a big shopper. But my main gripe against Retail me Not is that it’s basically just a collection of coupons that are eerily similar to the coupons you see in spammy circulars. There are lots of deals for percentages or cash off of purchases, and you can get cash back on certain items from certain retailers (but there aren’t a lot of cash back offers).

The one advantage to Retail Me Not is that there are tons of participating stores. There are coupons for Best Buy, Macy’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Home Depot, Lowes, and many more. But you don’t get cash back on most of the purchases from these stores, you basically just get the coupon. 

The coupons app

The coupons app was the hardest app to use on this entire list. I’m still not entirely sure if I got it right. From what I’ve figured out, it’s just a storage place for all the coupons you can find in the circulars (Similar to retail me not, but worse because I couldn’t find any cash back offers). The coupons aren’t exclusive, you can find them pretty much anywhere. One thing that I didn’t really like is that I couldn’t find a way to use the coupons at the retailers on mobile. The app wanted me to print the coupons. Why not just use the circulars if that’s the case?

One advantage of the Coupons app is that there are tons of stores and restaurants. There are also designer and outlet brands. I saw coupons for DKNY, Aldi, the Gap, and Express. Talk about a wide range of options!

Yowza

I found Yowza annoying. The app is built mainly for online shopping, which is not beneficial for me because I do most of my shopping in stores. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any in-store offers to use.  Another issue I had with it was that the pages took a long time to load. It could have been that my internet decided to stop working just when I was reviewing this app, but I didn’t have any issues with the other apps I tested that night.  

Another major issue I had with Yowza is that some of the offers didn’t even seem like legitimate offers. It seemed like companies just advertising on Yowza to try to get you to visit their website.

Yowza does have one cool feature that I didn’t see on any other app, and that was the local offers section. I think the point here was to get offers for smaller, locally owned shops and restaurants. Unfortunately, it needs a lot of work. I put in Savannah, Ga as my address, and I was shown offers for restaurants in Houston and in Michigan. I think the app just shows you all the smaller companies nationwide that are Yowza partners, but that makes it really difficult to use. I’d rather they just have a message stating that there are no local offers available in my area than show me cool restaurants in different states.

Krazy Coupon Lady

Krazy Coupon Lady seemed like a great cash back app at first glance. There were lots of coupons for household items and toys, which would be great for people shopping for gifts or specific items. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of coupons for necessities. I did find a coupon for Tide, which is the only laundry detergent that I’ll buy, but it had already expired two weeks ago! Why was it still on the app? I guess Krazy Coupon Lady doesn’t believe in updating regularly.

Another disadvantage to Krazy Coupon Lady is that it was difficult to search for a specific item at a specific store. I searched for Tide, but couldn’t search for Tide at Walmart. I don’t know about you, but I’m not going to five different stores to save a few bucks.

Grocery IQ

Groceries are the main thing that I shop for, so I was super excited to try Grocery IQ. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The only way to use coupons is to email them to yourself and print them out. That’s just not something I’m willing to do. I like saving money, but I don’t want to work that hard to save a few cents (have you noticed a theme here?).

One cool thing about grocery IQ is that you can write your grocery list inside the app. I’m old fashioned and I like my pencil and paper list, but I’m sure a lot of people would appreciate the ability to type everything in an app.

Punchcard

Punchcard had such a fun concept. You get to punch in rewards for every store that you visit like you would at a salon or local sandwich shop. You also get to spin a cool little wheel for rewards every time you upload a receipt. Pretty neat, huh?

Another advantage is that lots of stores participate, and some even give you awards for getting your six punches in! Subway offers you a free sandwich after you get your six punches. Not all stores offer these types of rewards though, and this is where Punchcard loses its appeal.

Punchcard acts like you will get points for uploading receipts and spinning the wheel. But when I went to the points screen to view my rewards, it was unavailable. Lots of the reviews stated that Punchcard discontinued the points system. Why the option to visit the page is still available is beyond me, maybe it’s a bug that Punchcard is working on fixing? I’m not entirely sure what the deal is, but without a points system cash back apps are pretty pointless. 

TopCashBack App

I still have questions about Top Cash Back App. It claims to have the best rewards of all the cash back apps, but it has terrible reviews on Google Play. Some people even claimed that it wouldn’t grant the cash back because it thought you already got rewards through a different app.

From what I saw of the app, it is very similar to Ebates. You earn most of the rewards through online purchases. A limitation to the app is that you can’t just browse a store, you have to browse categories. Walmart offers up to 5% cash back through the app, but you have to shop a specific category, such as sports, clothing, jewelry, etc. in order to get it. I’m not a fan of that limitation.

I also didn’t see a way for you to link your card to the app to earn rewards through in store shopping. Therefore, if you are looking for a cashback app on pretty much all of your online and in-store purchases, I’d stick with Ebates.

And a Bonus Specialty Cash Back App

Makeena

I love the concept of Makeena. It incentivizes healthy eating. Most of their offers are on organic products and produce, which tend to be more expensive than the less healthy options. The brands they support tend to be health conscious brands which I think is a great way to discover some of these products.

My issue with it is that some offers are limited to the “first 2000 shoppers” or something like that.  I guess the app is still small, so lots of users will get the offers, but if it continues to grow the app might not be useful to a lot of people. Also, how am I supposed to know if the offer is still available? I may choose organic broccoli over non-organic broccoli expecting the rebate only to be told that I’m shopper #2001, thus not eligible. I know it’s only a few cents, but I don’t like that kind of bait and switch.

Which Cash Back Apps do you Use?

Well, there you have it folks. An honest review of 20 cash back apps that you can use to decide how to earn rewards. I hope you find it useful!

Have you tried any of these apps? Which is your favorite and why? Do you know of one that isn’t on the list? We’d love to hear about it!

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5 things you shouldn't by generic

I’m frugal when I shop. In fact, buying generic was one of my top tips for saving money on groceries! However, even I know that there are some things that you shouldn’t buy generic, even if it does save you some money.

Five Things You shouldn’t buy generic

Toilet Paper

My parents always used to buy the cheap Scott toilet paper. While still a name brand, it was thin and scratchy. That’s not what you want for toilet paper! Sorry, but that’s not the answer! Call me bougie, but I want soft, comfortable toilet paper. I’m definitely not going to buy the generic brand. I usually buy Quilted Northern, but in a pinch I’ll go with Charmin. Charmin used to be my brand of choice, but I think they changed their formula a few years back and now Quilted Northern seems softer to me.

Pickles

So yeah, this is a weird thing to put on the list. Pickles aren’t exactly a necessity, but they sure are tasty! Unfortunately, not all pickles are created equal. You can find fairly cheap pickles in the canned fruit aisle (or on some non-perishable shelf, not really sure where because they are gross). The pickles in the deli aisle are where it’s at. Those Kosher Dill slices are little bits of heaven, and definitely worth the extra few dollars!

Chips

I’m pretty sure that everyone knows by now that chips are my weakness. I love chips. There’s something immensely satisfying about that salty crunch. But store brand chips just taste a little off. They are either too crunchy, or too salty, or too something. They just don’t have that little Je Ne Sais Quoi that the name brand chips have. And oddly enough, this applies to all the different types of chips. Doritos, Lays, Cheetos, etc. are all so much freaking better than any of the generic brands I’ve tried. I don’t know why that is, but I just can’t buy the generic brands.

Toothpaste

Have you ever tried Aim toothpaste? It’s like 88 cents and the worst thing you can possibly put in your mouth. It’s disgusting. Close-up is pretty cheap too, but the cinnamon flavor is so strong that it just tastes like burning. These are the toothpastes I grew up with. Now that I’m older and can buy my own toothpaste, I don’t buy generic. I used to buy Crest, but I have sensitive teeth and the only thing that helps is Sensodyne. It’s way more expensive (almost six dollars a freaking tube!) but it does help my teeth to not hurt. I mitigate the costs a bit by buying a cheaper brand for my boyfriend. I’m not going to force him to use Aim (I mean, I do have to kiss him!) but pretty much anything is cheaper than Sensodyne, and his teeth aren’t sensitive. Also, Ibotta often has a cash back offer on Sensodyne, which really helps offset the price!

Related: Check out the Best Guide to Ibotta on the Internet!

Laundry Detergent

I have to buy Tide laundry detergent. It’s almost like a compulsion. It just smells so good! And I hate those powdery brands, I always end up with crusty powder on my clothes (maybe I should do a better job of reading the directions?). I honestly haven’t tried a lot off of brand laundry detergent, but I like it when my clothes smell like tide, so I don’t think I’m going to be changing brands on this any time soon.

Are there any products that you refuse to buy generic? I want to hear why! Tell me about it in the comments!  And if you enjoyed this post, don’t forget to share it!

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save money on groceries

Everyone has to eat right? We all need to make our weekly pilgrimage to the grocery store to buy food. And have you noticed that it’s getting more and more expensive? A few years ago, I could easily get by on sixty bucks a week, which is quite a rarity now a days! Even so, there are plenty of tried and true methods to save money on groceries, which of these do you use?

How to Save Money on Groceries

Compare Price per Unit

Bigger isn’t always better, but sometimes buying in bulk pays! How are we supposed to tell the difference? Well, luckily, most grocery stores actually list the price per unit! Usually listed in ounces, the price per unit will tell you whether the bigger package or the smaller package is actually the better deal.

Buy Generic

I’m sure this has been repeated over and over again, but buying generic brands really is a great way to save money on groceries. Name brand hot dog buns are $2.99, while the generics are 87 cents. That’s two bucks! Name brand corn flakes are almost $3 a box, while the generic is 99 cents. Another two bucks! That adds up fast! Below is a small chart showing the differences in price between the generic version and the name brand version of some common items:

 

Product Generic Price per Ounce Name Brand Price per Ounce
Sugar 2.3 cents 3.6 cents
Bottled Water .5 cents 1.2 cents
Crispy Rice Cereal 7.3 cents 14.3 cents
Pasta 4.5 cents 8.4 cents
Chicken Broth 4.3 cents 8.5 cents
Shredded Cheese 18.5 cents 32 cents
Lunch Meat 20.5 Cents 30.5 cents

As you can see, opting for the generic version can lead to some pretty hefty savings. 

Related: 5 Things I’ll Never Buy Generic!

Skip the Drinks

I know this is unpopular, but do you really need all that pop (soda for my west coast friends!) and juice? Most of it is just sugar anyway, and the cost really adds up. A twelve pack of name brand pop costs three to four dollars, and so does a quart of sugar water! Even buying bottled water at the store adds up. It’s cheaper (and better for the environment, and healthier!) to just drink water at home. I actually cut pop out of my life many years ago, and to be honest, I don’t miss it at all. Every six months or so I’ll get a pop with dinner, and its nothing spectacular.

Cook from scratch

Ok, I know this one is hard. We all work long hours, and the last thing we want to do is come and prepare a meal. That pre-packaged freezer crap is so freaking convenient! But alas, that convenience comes at a price. A pre-packaged freezer lasagna costs about eight dollars, and it barely feeds two people (Family meal, yeah right!). Buying lasagna noodles, tomato sauce, cheese, and veggies is tad bit more, but you can make enough lasagna to feed a family for days!

Chili is another great example. I can spend four dollars on cans of chili to feed a family for a night, or I could seven dollars, make my own crock pot chili, and have food for three days.

Chop Your Own Veggies

Ah, the price of convenience again. Most grocery stores now offer pre-cut fruits and vegetables, which are super easy to use, just open and eat! But they tend to be much more expensive than the non-cut fruit. Just look at carrots for example. A pack of carrots costs less than a dollar. A pack of “ready to eat” baby carrots is three dollars (and they aren’t really baby carrots, they are processed carrot waste. Marketing Genius!). You are spending two extra dollars so that you don’t have to take a minute to peel a carrot. Is that worthwhile? Only you can answer that, but I will say that I’ve started buying the cheaper, unpeeled carrots.

Use A Cash Back App

Save money on groceries/earn cash back on groceries, same thing right? If you aren’t using Ibotta to earn cash back on groceries you need to sign up right now. If you have questions, check out my guide to Ibotta, which in my humble opinion, is the best on the internet! I’ve earned over twenty dollars back in just two weeks of using the app. That will really help my grocery bill go down.

Shop at the Cheap Places

Oh, how I would love to shop at the bougie grocery stores like Publix and Kroger. But why would I do that when I can get the exact same food for lower prices at Walmart? Yes, I know that Walmart gets a lot of hate, and some of it is justified. But that doesn’t change the fact that I spend twenty to thirty dollars more every time I shop at a traditional grocery store over Walmart. The prices are a bit higher on most items, and when you are buying 100 items, that really adds up.

I’d really love to transition to shopping at Aldi or someplace similar (cheap but also not terrible!) but unfortunately there aren’t any Aldis in my area.

Make a List and Stick to it!

You know what really eats up your grocery budget? That pesky impulse buy! Did you really need those crackers, cookies, chips, or ice cream cakes? Probably not (but yes on the chips, if you are anything like me!). And if you did need them, make sure you include them on your list! I budget for my chips every week, and being able to splurge a tiny bit on that has really helped prevent me from buying other stupid impulse crap. Make a list that includes your favorite snacks (because snacks are essential!) and stick to it!

Use the Store’s Loyalty Program

Lots of grocery stores still have that loyalty card thing that gives you better deals than the “normal customers”. Anyone can sign up for these cards and it’s really just a giant marketing scheme to collect your data, but hey, it can really help you save money on groceries.

Walmart doesn’t have a card, but they do have a savings catcher program. All you have to do is scan the QR code at checkout, and Walmart will scan your receipt for “bonus savings”, adding that money back to your account. You can then pay with that money on your next visit.

Buy Less Meat

I know, I know – it’s not a meal if there’s no meat (One of my old Army buddies actually said that to me!). But that’s not entirely true. I can make plenty of delicious meals without using meat, and I’m not even a good cook! The truth is, meat is expensive, and not everything actually needs it. You could easily make vegetarian spaghetti (or any pasta for that matter), chili, stuffed peppers, and more. You can even make tacos with potatoes instead of beef! There are so many options for vegetarian meals, you’d be surprised. And, throwback to the beginning of the post, it’s also healthier and better for the environment!

What are your favorite ways to save money on groceries? Any little tip might help, so tell me about it in the comments! Also, if you loved this post, hit that share button!

 

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Family values

We seriously need to change the conversation about family values. For far too many people (on both sides!), the term “family values” has become synonymous with the pro-life movement, and that’s stupid!  

We need to change the conversation! We need to redefine what family values really are, because it’s not a single issue. Lots of families value lots of different things; but I guarantee most of them value their financial security (Or would, if they had any).

What are family values?

I’d argue that the term “family values” should refer to things that family’s actually value.  What an outrageous concept, right? Money (or lack thereof!) is really the thing that will make or break a household, isn’t it? So I’d have to guess that most families value things that help them thrive financially. These things that help families thrive are the things that really should be considered family values.

Policies that help families Thrive

Family values – Family Planning

One thing that families really do value is the ability to decide when to have children and how many to have. Having a child at the wrong time can wreak havoc on a family’s finances- kids are freaking expensive! Family planning helps families thrive.

Unfortunately, most of the discourse on family planning is centered on the abortion issue. While that is a tool that helps prevent families from having children that they aren’t ready for, it’s not the only tool and it’s far from the most important. The most important tool (and the one that’s been proven again and again to reduce abortion rates) is access to contraception. Curiously enough though, many supporters of “family values” don’t support easy access to contraception. How does that make any kind of sense? No one likes the idea of abortion, but instead of banning it why not support policies that make it extremely rare?

Family values – Taking care of young children

Another major thing that most families value is actually being able to take care of their children – in a literal sense. This could include things like paid parental leave policies, affordable child care options, and access to paid sick days. More people would surely have families if childcare was accessible and affordable!

Paid parental leave

Paid parental leave policies give parents the ability to stay home with their children during the crucial first few months of their lives. Unfortunately, the United States is leagues behind the rest of the world when it comes to parental leave. There’s the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) which gives employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for major medical events, such as the birth of a child, but that’s all we’ve got. And remember its UNPAID! How are people who need that paycheck supposed so survive for 12 whole weeks without it? The answer is they’re not. Mothers are returning to work weeks after giving birth or going without. How is that family values? Hint: it’s not.

Child Care

Affordable childcare options would also help families thrive. Many families need to rely on extended family or un-registered facilities to care for their children while they work, as childcare costs continue to soar. How are people supposed to have children if they can’t afford to pay for their care? Parents are working extra jobs and extra hours just  to make ends meet. Some are dropping out of the workforce altogether because their salaries wouldn’t even cover the cost of childcare (and lets not even get started on how this will affect the non-working parent’s lifetime earnings and retirement!)

Paid Time Off

Did you know that the US is one of the only countries that doesn’t require access to paid sick days?  What if your kid is sick? In many low wage industries, that’s just too bad. Either come to work or don’t get paid. It’s unfortunate that those who are least able to afford it are the ones who are hit the hardest. I think most families would really value access to paid sick days, I mean adults get sick too! And I don’t want a cook coming to work when he’s sick!  He’s going to infect everyone  at the restaurant! Paid sick days make logical sense for everyone. 

what are family values

Family Values – Healthcare

You know what else families value? Affordable access to healthcare. People want to be able to take their children to the doctor when they are sick. Unfortunately, healthcare costs in the United States are ridiculous. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to mitigate this, but instead of ensuring that people had access to healthcare, all it did was ensure that people had access to health insurance. Some people have to pay such high deductibles on their insurance plans that they can’t even afford basic care. It’s a sham.

Outrageous medical bills are still the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Way too many families are just one medical emergency from total ruin. That’s insane! How can any family thrive with that hanging over their heads?

Family Values – Education

Everyone wants their kids to be successful, and the number one path to success for lots of people is still a college education. Unfortunately, tuition rates have been soaring for the past few decades, and most people can’t afford it without the help of student loans. So now, families have a terrible choice to make: do you take out thousands of dollars for that chance, or do you skip college and head straight into the workforce, lowering your lifetime earning potential but saving yourself from mountains of debt? That’s not an easy choice.

While its true that trade schools are a wonderful alternative for many students, they aren’t a one size fits all solution. We need kids to go to university so that we can have future doctors, engineers, teachers, biologists, and hundreds of other professionals that require advanced education. I don’t want us to turn into a country where only the rich can afford the training and education necessary for professional careers.

Family Values – Home Ownership

What parent doesn’t want to raise their kids in a nice house with a little yard to play in? That’s the American Dream anyway, isn’t it? Unfortunately though, the housing market continues to soar and homes are unaffordable for many young families. That’s not even the worst news though! Even renting is becoming unaffordable for low wage families! In the largest metro areas in the country, families would have to make a minimum of $22 per hour just to afford a two-bedroom apartment!  How are families supposed to thrive if they can’t even afford a place to live??

Family Values – Jobs and Balance

How are families supposed to afford any of these things? Most people don’t want a handout, they want to work to earn their keep. Unfortunately, middle- and lower-class wages have been stagnant for the past few years, while the cost of everything else on this list continues to skyrocket. All people really want are jobs that will give them the ability to support their families.

However, there is a caveat to that. Jobs with living wages are great and all (and necessary!), but they don’t really help families if they suck all the parents’ time away. There needs to be balance. Parents need to be able to disconnect when they are home so they can focus on their kids. They need to be able to help with homework, take the kids to the park, and go to the school plays. Families value family time! Who would’ve guessed?

Family Values – The Environment

Do you want your children and grandchildren to inherit a wasteland? No? Then your family values the environment! We all want to protect our resources, to ensure that the world is still here and working correctly for years to come. Families want to protect our National Parks so they have places to go camping. Families want to protect the climate so that the planet isn’t destroyed. Protecting the environment is immensely important. It may not be as immediate as the other things on the list, but if we don’t take steps now to protect our planet, it won’t be here for our children.

Supporting Family Values

This list is obviously not all inclusive. I’m sure tons of families value tons of different things, and it’s impossible to list them all. But when I think of family values, I think of things that families need to thrive, and those are the things on this list. What do you think? What does your family value?

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guide to ibotta

Have you heard of Ibotta? If you have, and you are like me, you probably think it’s some stupid app that claims to save you money but is really a giant waste of time. My sister made me try it anyway though, and I have to say, I’m impressed! It really does save you money! What strange sorcery is this? Well I dug in to find out more, and came up with this ultimate Guide to Ibotta to help you save money too!

The Best Guide to Ibotta on the Internet

What is Ibotta

Ibotta is an app that gives you cash back on your purchases. I mainly use it at the grocery store, but it can also be used at malls, big box stores, Amazon, travel websites, and even a few restaurants! Pretty much anyone can find a use for this app.

How do I make money with Ibotta?

No guide to Ibotta would be complete without a comprehensive section on how it benefits you! It’s super easy to make money with Ibotta. The first time I used it while grocery shopping I got 6 bucks back in rewards! I only spent $100 bucks total, so this app basically saved me 6%. Who doesn’t want to save 6% on groceries?

Earning cash back is easy. First, you make your grocery list. Next, you log into Ibotta and check out the deals they have at your store of choice (and don’t forget to also check the “any offers” section!). Six of the items on my list matched offers on Ibotta! Half of those were the same brand that I use (or would apply to any brand), and the other half were similar brands that I could easily switch to. The offers ranged from as little as twenty-five cents back to as much as a few bucks back! That all adds up.

Many of the travel sites and big box stores offer a cash back percentage on all purchases (with restrictions, as always). Barnes & Noble offers 2% cash back, Express offers 3%, Hotels.com offers 4%, and Orbitz offers up to 6%! So many different companies partner with Ibotta that its basically impossible to list them all here. Check out Ibotta and see if your favorite stores participate!

You can also earn money by shopping online! Check out the 5 Best things to buy online here!

best guide to ibotta

You can also earn cash back through bonuses and referrals. I earned two bucks via the “in store purchase” bonus and I’m more than half way through to my ten-dollar sign on bonus. My sister (who referred me) earned her five dollar referral bonus as soon as I uploaded my first receipt! So, if you sign up using my referral link, you can get ten bucks and I can get five! Refer your friends to collect even more bonuses! How cool is that?

 A lot of brands also offer additional cash bonuses if you redeem their offers multiple times. Usually this is only an extra fifty cents, but that adds up if you buy the same stuff over and over again.

Is Using Ibotta time consuming?

This was one of my top fears in using the app. I’m not doing anything tedious to make a few bucks, that’s not worth my time. But fortunately, using Ibotta is easy and only takes a few extra minutes. Scanning Ibotta for offers took about ten minutes, and scanning the receipt when I got home took less than a minute. Six bucks for 11 minutes? That’s too easy! It took me a bit longer than it normally would because it was my first time using the app. I’m sure I’ll be able to cut it down to five minutes for future shopping trips.

When do I get Paid?

One of the drawbacks to using Ibotta is that you don’t get paid immediately. You have to earn twenty dollars before being able to redeem anything. But I earned six bucks with one shopping trip, so I’m pretty sure I’ll get to that twenty-dollar threshold soon.

Team Feature

One interesting feature (that could be fun or terrible, depending on your point of view) is the team work feature. When you join Ibotta using someone’s referral code (Like Mine!) you automatically become a member of that person’s team (And when you refer someone, they automatically become a member of yours). The team can work together to earn even more bonuses! There are negatives to this team thing though, the major one being that you can see each other’s earnings (some people may not want that information out in the public!). I haven’t found a way to opt out of this feature either, so if you are super private about your earnings, Ibotta may not be for you.

Ok, What’s the Catch?

Everything has a catch, and Ibotta is no different. The catch is that if you aren’t paying attention to what you are buying, you may end up spending more money than you normally would have. For example, Ibotta had a fifty-cent cash back offer on Ball Park hot dog buns. Sounds good, right? But Ball Park buns are generally two bucks and some change, and the generic brand is only 87 cents. If I had used that deal, I’d end up spending a dollar more on hot dog buns than I usually do! It’s easy to avoid that trap though, you just have to pay attention to prices.

The other catch is that you sometimes have to switch brands to get a deal. I usually buy Coffee-Mate creamer, but there was a $1 cash back offer on Dunkin Donuts creamer. The Dunkin creamer was a dollar more (paying attention to price!) but it was the larger quantity. Using the deal got me the bigger bottle of creamer for the same price as the small one! I don’t mind switching brands on a few items to get a better deal, but like I said above, make sure you are paying attention to price! Don’t use an offer if you’ll end up spending more in the long run.

One final catch is that you have to earn ten dollars’ worth of cash back rewards within 14 days of signing up in order to earn your ten-dollar sign on bonus. One trip to the grocery store got me more than half way there, so I’m sure I’ll get there after next week’s trip.

How Does Ibotta make money?

The best guide to Ibotta would be incomplete without talking about how Ibotta makes money. Do you have to buy anything? Are there in-app purchases? The answer to both of those is no. Ibotta does make money off of you, but not directly. They make money by having users watch videos, complete surveys, or answer simple questions on some of their offers. They also make money through affiliate sales, by making a small commission on some of the offers that you redeem. I’m guessing that they also sell your data, but I haven’t found any information to verify that. But hey, we give our data away for free to Facebook, so why not get some rewards for it?

What are you waiting for?

If this ultimate guide to Ibotta didn’t make you want to join right now, I don’t know what will. Its easy to use and it actually does give you cash back! Sign up today!

Do you have any questions about Ibotta before signing up? Let me know! And if you enjoyed this guide to Ibotta, be sure to share it!

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