Try as I might to do all my shopping online, I still find myself running errands around town at least on a weekly basis.
And my guess is you’re in the same boat.
With Christmas and the holiday season coming up, I wanted to share a few cool apps and resources that can help you save money while you shop, make a few extra bucks, and even invest your change.
Some of these even have sign-up bonuses (free money!) for new users. As a disclaimer, the links below include affiliate and referral links.
Ready? Let’s do it.
Money Saving Apps
The Raise app (and online marketplace) lets you search for discount gift cards.
Before you make a big purchase, it makes sense to check Raise to see if you can order a gift card to save money. Cards are up to 30% off and when I searched around I found:
- Starbucks – 2.1% off
- Target – 4% off
- Dell – 7.5% off (um, gotta remember this when it’s time for a new laptop!)
- iTunes – 6.5% off
- Toys ‘R Us – 5% off (also valid at Babies ‘R Us … which is more likely to get used in our current situation)
You can download the free Raise app to quickly and easily check for discount cards while you’re on the go.
I also like GiftCardGranny.com, which is an aggregator of several different gift card marketplaces.
Ever wonder if your brick and mortar store is charging too much? ShopSavvy’s free barcode scanning app helps you instantly check the price of an item online and at other local stores.
If you order through the app, your purchase may even qualify for cash back.
Hurldr is a pretty slick financial app for side hustlers, rideshare drivers, and freelancers, but the feature I have in mind is the mileage tracking tool.
In 2016, miles you drive for business are tax deductible at a rate of $0.54 per mile. If your shopping trip involves Amazon FBA sourcing (see below), that counts.
When I spoke with Hurdlr founder Raj Bhaskar, he said there are only 3 ways to improve your bottom line:
- Earn more
- Spend less
- Pay less in taxes
The Hurdlr app helps with #3.
Money Making Apps
The free Ibotta app pays you cash for taking pictures of your receipts from more than 80 chains, including Walmart, Safeway, Kroger, Publix, Costco, and Target.
On average, Ibotta Savers who use the app every month earn over $130 a year!
How to use it
Once you download the app, browse the listings before you go shopping to unlock cash rewards on the products you were going to buy anyway. You have to “unlock” the rebate by answering a quick question or two.
After you buy the item, you simply scan the barcode and submit a photo of your receipt. The cash will hit your Ibotta account within 48 hours. You can pull it out with PayPal or Venmo, or you can exchange it for gift cards.
I’ll admit I’ve become a little addicted to checking this app to see what rebates are available on groceries and other items I was going to buy anyway!
I’ve gotten cash back on eggs, beer, and avocados from Costco and Target. Side Hustle Nation reader Gee Nonterah said she earned over $20 in her first few days with the app.
Bonus: Get a free $10 sign-up credit when you use my referral link and claim your first rebate.
Ebates is a neat way to earn cash back while shopping online.
As you know, many online stores have affiliate programs where referral partners can earn commission for sending them customers. Ebates is one big super affiliate, but with an important twist: they split their commission with you!
How to use it
Once you create a free account, just click through their links before you make any purchase online.
The cash back you can earn depends on how much commission Ebates makes on the sale, and can range from 2-15%.
Although I’ve known about Ebates for years, I’ve had a hard time remembering to use it. They recently sent me a check for $4.05 :) Woohoo!
Hopefully this post will be a reminder I should shop through them more often. The exception to that would be when another affiliate site has genuinely helped you in your product research. In that case, it’s only fair they earn the commission on your purchase.
Bonus: Get a free $10 sign-up bonus once you complete your first purchase through Ebates.
Amazon Seller App
How to use it
While you’re in the store, stop by the clearance aisle and scan the barcodes of any items that seem like a great deal. The app will tell you what the item is selling for on Amazon and your estimated profit after fees.
The general criteria I look for is an item with a Sales Rank in its category lower than 100,000 and where I can double my money. For example, if an item is on sale for $10 in the store, I’d want the app to tell me my estimated profit is at least $20.
You’ll need to create a free Amazon Seller account before you can use the app.
I haven’t done much sourcing this year but have earned over $650 using this app. It’s helped turn a shopping trip into a scavenger hunt … and a business trip.
Note: The FBA program isn’t accepting shipments from new sellers until after the holidays.
Easy Shift is a cool mystery shopping app that pays you for completing small tasks around town. For example, I found several “Beverage Display Check” gigs even in our small town of Livermore, paying around $5-9 each.
Become a Gigwalker and look for similar in-person “gigs” that can generally be completed in just a few minutes with your smartphone. In this map of San Francisco, it almost looks like a fun game of walking around and collecting $5 bills.
Acorns is a cool “micro-investing” tool that rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the difference on your behalf.
You can link as many credit or debit cards as you like and put your “change” to work for you in a low cost ETF.
The service costs $1 a month until your account hits a $5000 balance, at which point they switch over to charging you 0.25% annually. (Similar to robo-advisor services like Betterment.) For students with a valid .edu email address, Acorns is completely free for up to 4 years.
What do you think of these money saving, making, and investing apps? Ever tried them yourself?
Any other must-have shopping apps I’m missing? Let me know in the comments below.