My Five Favorite Money-Saving Websites

I learned something interesting about the millennial generation yesterday.  A television station from Minneapolis, Minnesota reported that a poll shows millennials are costing the U.S. economy more than $376 billion a year.

When I first saw the title of the news story, I wrongfully assumed it would be about a generation of individuals failing to contribute financially to our country’s economy.  Or worse yet, maybe a large population of people who simply drained the system.  According to the report, though, that was not the case at all.

Instead, millennials are costing our country a whole bunch of money because they do not want to part with their cash.  The buy less stuff than they presumably should, and therefore are hard on our economy.  The poll blames the Great Recession for the problem.  I find that likely.  Anyone who struggled to find a job after college and spent years living on a rice and beans budget is going to lean toward frugality.

Todd and I are technically not millennials, but we do not fit in with Generation X so well, either.  We are on the fringe of both generations, age-wise, and so we tend to take on characteristics of both groups.  When it comes to spending patterns, though, I think we are contributing our fair share toward the $376 billion a year shortfall.

I apologize to the economy, but I find it unlikely we will change our spending habits anytime soon.  We like to comparison shop.  We look for good deals.  We do this so that we can save, invest, and give charitably.  Last time I checked, those three activities were also considered good for our economy.  Especially if we can spend our lives avoiding bankruptcy, loan defaults, and enormous piles of credit card debt.

The story out of Minneapolis got me thinking about my favorite ways to save money online.  Aside from shopping on Amazon.com, an obvious choice, I do a couple of other things.  First, I have a few money saving websites and blogs that I follow–especially in the months before Christmas.  Hopefully I can get a post up about them sometime soon.

I also use several cash back and freebie sites when I make purchases.  My favorite five are listed here today.

1. Swagbucks

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Swagbucks is a website that allows you to earn points (or Swagbucks, if you will) for doing just about everything on the web.  If you set them up through your computer browser, you can earn bucks through web searches.

Many online retailers have contracts with Swagbucks, so you can earn bucks by clicking through Swagbucks’ site before going to the online store and buying something.  There are points to be earned for watching their video clips, taking surveys, participating in contests, and a variety of other means.

Nearly all of my Swagbucks are earned through online shopping and web browsing, so I do not accumulate them quickly.  In the year and half that I have used them I have earned more than $100, though, for not really doing anything other than what I would already.

So what do you do with said Swagbucks?  Once you earn enough of them, they get traded in for gift cards.  I mostly buy cards for Amazon.com, but I have used them to buy Restaurant.com gift cards, too.

2. Checkout 51

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Checkout 51 is not so much a website as it is a smartphone app.  Every week, after I make my shopping list and clip coupons, I look at the Checkout 51 app to see if there is anything on it that I might already purchase.

It works much like a coupon.  You make a purchase, and then once you get home you submit a picture of your receipt, noting which eligible items were actually bought.  Once you earn $20.00 in rebate rewards, you can cash out.

Sometimes, I can snag items for free if the Dollar Tree carries them.  Last summer I bought several packages of Super Pretzel packages for nothing after my Checkout 51 rebate was applied.  Most of the time, my earnings accumulate slowly because I do not purchase many of the items offered up for rebate.  I have used the app for well over a year and finally cashed out my first $20.00 check a few weeks ago.  It is free money, though, so I will not complain.

3. Ibotta

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Like Checkout 51, Ibotta is a money saving smartphone app.  Ibotta has contracts with specific stores and provides rebates back on various products purchased at said stores.  Once enough rebate money has been earned, you cash out for a gift card.

I like the variety of items available for rebate better with Ibotta than with Checkout 51, as there tend to be more things listed that I purchase.  One drawback of Ibotta is that they tend to have relationships with large chains, rather than small ones.  If you follow my $400 budget posts, you will notice that I only use Ibotta rebates for national chains.  The two local chains I shop for groceries at most often do not participate in Ibotta.

4. Top Cash Back

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Shopping through Top Cash Back is a lot like shopping through Swagbucks.  Top Cash Back has relationships with many online retailers that allows discounts and cash back (as the name implies) to be given back to shoppers after they complete their purchases.

Top Cash Back frequently offers really nice deals for brand new subscribers.  My introductory deal was for a new release DVD that I bought through a big box chain’s website.  I got the DVD for almost nothing once my cash back and gift cards came in the mail.  The only real drawback to Top Cash Back is the timing.  Money back is not applied immediately after purchase.  Instead, you will need to consult your Top Cash Back account to find out how many weeks (yes, weeks) it will take to get your money.

5. Dollar Deal Reviews

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Dollar Deal Reviews is a website that allows you to buy products from Amazon.com for a dollar in exchange for your honest review.  I have purchased several items through their site (some good, some not so good) over the last several months.

Their system is a little funky to figure out, and I messed it up my first time around.  My experience with customer service in attempting to resolve the issue was poor, to say the least.  Based on the advice of a friend, though, I gave them a second chance.  And I am glad that I did.  I have purchased a couple hundred dollars’ worth of items for less than ten bucks, so I am happy with that.

My shopping habits may be costing the U.S. economy all kinds of money, but I do not intend to change my ways anytime soon.  I enjoy getting a good deal, and my family has a better quality of life because of it.

What are your favorite money saving websites?  Let me know in an email or comment below!