7 Seriously Cool Ways to Save and/or Splurge
This post is for every penny-pincher out there, whether you’re a young family looking for more ways enjoy life, college students trying to make it through, or simply a financial geek who likes to find creative ways to save a little extra. There are SO many awesome ways to save or simply to create a little pocket change for the occasional splurge. The best part about many of these resources is that you can do them with your spouse/friends and almost make a game of it. When saving is fun, everyone wins.
On a serious note, the reason I really care about some of these (as you’ll see) is that they often provide some special treats to enjoy personally or with my family. Saving money in any way means making that money available to use elsewhere. For many of us (including me) that doesn’t always mean “fun,” but every now and then it creates opportunities to do something special for the ones you love. That’s why I want to share these with you.
Here are seven seriously cool tools for saving and splurging. The order is not a ranking and I’ve provided a link to each resource for your convenience.
Ok guys, time for some honesty. One of the most difficult things for me to do is to save money for gifts. I have the perfect situation to save for my family members’ birthdays and Christmas. My boys birthdays and my wife’s birthday are 3 months apart during the first half of the year. That allows me to save money for the entire second half of the year for Christmas. But still, I struggle.
Acorns was a good solution for me. Acorns is an investment app that basically invests your money as moderately or as aggressively as you tell it to. As with any investment account, there are highs and lows in returns, but I found very little fluctuation over time with the amount I was putting in. There is a $1 monthly service fee, so consider it a $12 a year service, but it also pays you dividends over time as they are earned (I’ve gained $12 over the last 6 months). Additionally, if you order from certain companies that company will automatically invest a percentage of your order into Acorns.
Basically, every time I swiped my linked cards (and I linked the ones I use the most), Acorns would automatically round up to the nearest dollar and invest it. You can also setup auto withdrawals, but I didn’t. This is a “mindless saving” model. I know you can do it other ways and probably for free, I’m just telling you what I’ve done.
Over the span of about 6 months, I’ll save just shy of $500. That’s more than enough for gifts and special activities around birthdays and holidays, and it saves me from forking out money budgeted elsewhere or from swiping that pesky credit card. For me, Acorns was a good solution to this problem of mine.
I know we are in a beard era, but if you are in the habit of purchasing razors on regular basis, Dollar Shave Club can save you a lot of money over time. It is a subscription for a certain razor you pick sent to you automatically on a monthly or every 2-month basis. I don’t go throughout razors quickly, so I set mine for every two months. One amazing feature: if you end up with more razors than you need, you can freeze your shipments until you’re ready for more.
I hate coupon shopping, but I love coupons. I hate jumping through hoops to save money, but I like saving money. These next two are great for both worlds. The Walmart Savings Catcher is part of the Walmart app that automatically checks offers in the surrounding area. If you could have saved money somewhere else, instead of you bringing the advertisement to the checkout and frustrating every client behind you (I’m the client behind you), you simply scan your receipt and your savings are loaded into your account. The found money can then be redeemed at Walmart and save you money on your next grocery bill.
I’m sure some serious couponer is going to correct me and say how it doesn’t catch EVERY saving out there. To that I say, you can have your 5¢. This is the app for me.
This one is seriously fun. This app finds rebates for different brands and products and rewards you for purchasing those items. The rewards can be redeemed a number of ways. For us, we put the money back into our account for groceries. It’s super easy to do and takes virtually no extra time. Additionally, Ibotta rewards you for reaching certain goals throughout the month. You can also join teams and benefit off each other’s earnings. It’s a seriously fun way to save some money.
My wife teases me because she’ll make a grocery list and the first thing I do is open Ibotta, search for each item. If I find a rebate that is the right price or a brand we normally buy, I save it. As we walk through the store, I scan the items as we put them in the cart, scan our receipt as we leave the store (I have to have it out for the Walmart security in Lancaster anyway), and by the time we unload I have rebates in my account.
I’m not a fanatical user, but in the last 6 months or so I’ve earned a lifetime saving of almost $100. Not a lot, but definitely something!
Ok, I’ll admit. This one is mostly about vanity. I like Starbucks (in reality I just love coffee), but I have a hard time justifying the money I would spend if I went there too often. Shopkicks gave me a way to motivate myself and earn my Starbucks splurge without spending any of my own money. This is seriously the only reason I use it. If you don’t like Starbucks you can choose pretty much any other gift card to redeem instead.
Basically, Shopkicks lets you earn “Kicks” for entering into certain stores, purchasing items, or simply scanning certain items in the store. As you accumulate Kicks, you can then redeem them for gift cards. For me, this was a very pleasant distraction on long shopping trips with my wife. I take one stroller at the mall, she takes the other. I earn Kicks all over creation. She shops for whatever she wants in peace. It’s a win/win.
You can also link your payment card to earn more Kicks when you purchase from the stores on the app. Once again, you could do this and really earn some serious gift cards over time. I personally do it just to get a Starbucks from time to time.
I didn’t use this as often until I added a plugin to my Internet browser. Now I get a little notification every time I shop on a site that earns cash back from Ebates. It is essentially the same rebate concept as Ibotta, but it’s based either on a product or a company. I could be browsing on Best Buy and learn that I can earn 5% cash back on any purchase. Or I could be on Dollar Shave Club and learn that I get $5 cash back if I order a certain shaving cream. It varies from site to site and you can search all the deals on the Ebates website. For
For me, it’s just an extra potential savings as I shop online. By the way, if you’re making a major purchase online (I say major and mean anything really over $100), be sure to check out Ebates in case you can get cash back. I earned $10 back on a laptop purchase. I’ve also seen cash back deals for travel, entertainment, and more.
Ok, ok. I know this one will make some people upset. First, let me say I think credit cards are dangerous and potentially very harmful to a young family that doesn’t yet understand disciplined budgeting. If you’re constantly trying to keep up with the Jones family, you should avoid regularly using a credit card. Interest rates are ridiculous and once you start a downward spiral of paying high interest, it can really mess you up financially. Take that as my preface warning.
However, if you have a good habit of paying your debts on a monthly basis, there really are some awesome ways to earn points out there. We use a Costco card and membership for our gas and some bulk groceries. It’s the cheapest gas in town, I earn an additional 3-5% cash back on purchases, and the cash I earn back pays for my membership. It just works.
Another card I use a bit more is my Marriott Rewards card. With Marriott Rewards, I earn a certain number of points for every purchase I make, and the points vary by product and category. The way I try to use it is to make most purchases in a month using the card and paying it off at the end of the month. That way I’m earning points but not paying interest. Points can be redeemed primarily for reservations at Marriott hotel locations around the world. If you’re patient, you could have a fully paid-for vacation with enough points. Talk about serious savings down the road!
One feature of the Marriott Rewards card is that you get a free anniversary night stay every year of your membership at any Category 1-4 hotel. Annual membership is $85 so it’s like a discounted room. That is a great price, though, to stay at a Marriott in places like San Diego, Newport Beach, or Los Angeles. In any case, it is one way we intentionally set aside those funds for at least one night of a family getaway. You can be really smart with it and pick the hotel with free breakfast and free internet and really save on a short trip. Again, the points you earn can also be redeemed for nights at a hotel. Remember, these are points you earned by purchasing the things you purchase all the time anyway.
They often run promotions for new sign ups. Most recent promotion was an introductory 80,000 points with a certain purchase amount, usually within three months of account opening. But once again, be VERY careful with credit cards.
What are some of your favorite savings apps? I hope these spark some interest and help you pinch a few more pennies.