Fun money. Everyone wants it, but how do you get it? Maybe you have room for it in your budget. Maybe you don’t. I’m not here today to talk about budgeting, but rather about how I make a little fun money quickly and legitimately online. Sounds too good to be true, right? Let me just say that it isn’t!
But before I get into the nitty-gritty, I feel like I need to make a confession. Being frugal is kind of one of my hobbies. It sounds really dorky, I know. It’s not glamorous. It makes me look a little weird and obsessive at times, and it embarrasses my husband occasionally. However, it makes a big difference to us financially. Being frugal takes many forms–from cooking at home, to meal planning, to so much more. Frugality looks different for everyone.
I used to think about frugality strictly in the saving money sense, especially on purchases you had control over, such as at the grocery store or at a restaurant. Back in the day, I was pretty crazy about coupons and getting all our toiletries and household items for free/cheap at the drugstore. One day we can chat about that, but it’s not really my m.o. anymore.
When I can, I use the free coupons that arrive in my mailbox. I always check the grocery store apps (Kroger, Publix, Sprouts, Aldi) to find out what’s on sale and what coupons I could use. Most days, I make coffee at home, but when I do go to Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, you better believe I pay with the app to rack up points for free drinks. If I can check-in on Yelp to get a percentage off my bill at a restaurant or a free app, I do.
All that’s well and good, and what I think I should be doing to be wise in my spending. BUT… I don’t really find any of that enjoyable. Necessary, yes. But enjoyable? No. What I find enjoyable is making some fun money online! The services below are all ones I personally have used, love, and benefited from. Read on to learn more!
Ibotta is a cash back rebate app. Choose your store, then add rebates to your account by taking a short poll or watching a video. Buy the items in your account, then take a photo of your receipt through the Redeem feature. Some rebates will verify automatically, but you may have to scan the barcodes on other items. Ibotta verifies the receipt and you get cash back! You can cash out your account after you earn $20.
Psstt… ask a friend to get their referral code.
- A wide variety of offers to get cash back on items you purchase, at physical stores and online shopping.
- There are non-brand specific offers such as a .25 rebate for: any item you purchase, any brand of peanut butter, any brand of cake mix, etc. This means you can get cash for buying store brands, or even your family’s favorite brand.
- There are rebates for healthy foods, such as apples, carrots, lemons, cheese, and more.
- Pro tip: If I can be flexible on brands, I can get more cash back. For instance, on a recent Target trip, I checked Ibotta to see if there were any rebates for granola bars. I chose a brand that was on sale and got the store sale price plus money back in my Ibotta account. I often see this for items like granola bars, yogurt, baby food pouches, etc.
- Pro tip x 2: If you’re savvy, you can get items for free. For instance, this week containers of Chobani are on sale at Kroger for $1 each. I just added a $1 rebate for a 5.3 ounce container of Chobani that can be redeemed five times.
- There are bonuses all the time to earn even more cash back.
- You get paid through PayPal or Venmo. Real money! REAL MONEY. They also have gift cards.
- You gotta be quick. Load the rebate BEFORE you buy, in case the offer maxes out. Then redeem your receipt the day you shop, so the offers don’t expire or so the product barcode doesn’t get tossed in the trash. You do have a week to load your receipt though.
- I always forget about the online shopping offers that you have to launch through the app. (There are good ones for Amazon, p.s.)
- Sometimes the rebates are for very specific sizes or flavors, so pay attention. But you can scan the barcode in your app in-store to see if it counts.
- You may be tempted to purchase items you don’t need to get the rebate.
- You have to have a smartphone (maybe a tablet) to use Ibotta.
- Some stores aren’t in the app, such as Aldi. Other stores have fewer offers (Publix, I’m looking at you.) I imagine this has to do with store participation and maybe kickbacks. There are lots for Walmart, but I don’t shop there regularly.
- Like everything else in this digital age that’s “free,” the cost is your information.
There are various companies that will pay you for taking online surveys. Money Saving Mom has a great post about this. It’s a few years old, but still accurate (I checked!). Pinecone Research is my favorite company–use the link in her post to sign up and see if you qualify. I also use Swagbucks.
- Survey sites vary in how they work, but usually you receive points to later redeem for prizes or gift cards. I have redeemed points for gift cards with both Pinecone and Swagbucks.
- Pinecone only emails you surveys that you qualify for, but it’s harder to qualify for their site because they’re looking closely at your demographics. So, every survey they send you is one you can do. (Funny story about Pinecone: they used to send $3 paper checks for completing the surveys. Once I accidentally recycled one before depositing it, and I sent my husband recycling-bin-diving at our apartment complex to find it. He did. #goodman)
- Swagbucks allows anyone to sign up, but it’s harder to qualify for their surveys. If you have a lot of time on your hands this may be a good option for you. I find the site more beneficial in other features, like watching videos (when I’m doing something else), searching, or completing the daily poll to earn points.
- Surveys take time. To complete and to add up to cash back for you. But, they can be done when you’re watching tv so it’s a good way to make some extra cash in your spare time. And you don’t have to spend money!
Shopkick is a moneymaking app that awards you kicks (points) for shopping. You can earn points for walking into a store, scanning items as requested by the app, and purchasing specific items. There are also opportunities to earn kicks from online shopping.
FYI: I used to use Shopkick alot but cashed out my account and took a break. I wanted to include it because I did like it when I used it, and my mom and sister love it.
- Earning kicks is easy–just walk in a store, like Target. Presto!
- It doesn’t take a lot of kicks to get small value gift cards–such as $5 to Target that you can use right away.
- You can get kicks by linking your credit card to your account. Super easy (if you are comfortable with that).
- There are other tasks on the app to earn kicks, such watching a video.
- It can be a little tedious and time consuming to earn some of the scanning kicks–you have to spend time walking around the store looking for something specific that you don’t need or don’t intend to buy.
- The app can be glitchy as you enter stores… you have to pay attention to ensure you’re getting your kicks, so this could be tough with kids in tow.
Product Review Sites
So, this isn’t exactly “fun money” but fun (and free!) product review/campaign sites you can join. The two I have used and loved are Influenster and BzzAgent. After signing up for the sites, you’ll complete a profile and eventually matched with a campaign. The company will send you a product to review, as well as tasks to complete. On BzzAgent, you can also earn points that can eventually be redeemed for prizes (but I’ve never cashed in mine).
- Campaigns vary–I’ve been in good ones (like lipstick, snack foods, hair care products) and weird ones (car air fresheners, anyone?). But all in all, it’s fun to try new things.
- Getting mail is fun! Seriously, this is a perk for me.
- To do well, you have to put in a lot of time to complete activities well, which leads to a higher score and more/better campaigns.
- There may not be a financial reward, so you have to decide if free products are worth your time.
- Many of these sites want you to share your product with family and friends... through social media, conversations, and events. I’m not going to lie to the company and say I did something when I didn’t, so I do these things… but just the bare minimum, and with people I know aren’t going to get annoyed with me. Haha! I’m personally not comfortable being an advertiser to everyone I know, so I probably don’t get in as many campaigns as I could because I don’t do these things as well as I could.
Samples and Giveaways
Last, but not least, are free samples and giveaways! This isn’t fun money per se, but if you play the game right, you can get items for free that you would normally purchase… and spend that money on something more fun! Or save it.
I follow the blog Money Saving Mom and sign up for many of the free samples she posts. In the past few months, I’ve gotten coffee, shampoo, and tea. I enter book giveaways on Goodreads and have won a handful over the past few years. Additionally, I enter giveaways on blogs and social media. Even the big ones… someone has to win. Why not me? In the past ten years, I’ve won: food items, a new set of pots and pans, a steam and sweep mop, a set of frying pans, cookbooks, and more.
- Free stuff. Enough said.
- Most of these things are really easy to enter.
- Not guaranteed anything!
- You have to give away personal information. But that’s what caller id, an extra email address, and email filtering is for! 🙂
Congrats if you made it this far! I hope this post inspires you to think about little ways you can make a little extra money, doing what you normally do.
I don’t do all of these things every week, or even every month. Sometimes I take a break and come back to something a few months later. It really depends. But I have fun with all these things: Ibotta, surveys, Shopkick, product review sites, and samples/giveaways. If I get free items, great! If I get real money… even better! Just this week I cashed in some money I earned via Ibotta to buy my son a just-because present (a new book), and in the fall I used my Ibotta money to purchase a new sweater for me.