12 Things to Do When You Get a Raise at Work

Getting a raise always feels great. It’s tangible proof that you’re good at what you do and your hard work has been recognized.

But what should you do with the extra income? While most of us can’t help but daydream about all the new things we plan to buy, it’s important to take a close look at your personal finances before going on a spending spree.

That way, you’ll have a clear idea of how much your pay raise actually amounts to, what your financial priorities are, and how to make smarter investments and purchases with your additional income.

How to Handle a Salary Increase

When you first get a raise, it’s tempting to make a big, celebratory purchase. But before you do, there are some steps you should take to ensure you’re making decisions that reinforce your financial stability and improve your financial future.

1. Give It Some Time

Initially, the dollar amount of your raise might sound like a significant windfall, but remember that a considerable portion will go toward taxes, health insurance, retirement, and social security, if applicable.

Before you get ahead of yourself, wait for a couple of paychecks to see how much extra take-home cash your raise amounts to on a biweekly or monthly basis. What sounds good on paper may be significantly less in your pocket after all is said and done.

You can also calculate the biweekly amount of your raise yourself, but it won’t be accurate unless you know the amounts of any relevant deductions.

Waiting it out will give you a chance to see real numbers and how much of a difference it’s actually making on each paycheck. This will allow you to determine what any extra money amounts to so that you can spend it wisely instead of overspending or accidentally increasing your monthly expenses.

2. Reassess Your Budget

Once you know how much your new salary increase will put in your bank account, use it as an opportunity to reevaluate your budget. Now’s a great time to review your expenses to determine where any adjustments can be made and how your raise can do the most good.

For example, you may want to allocate a portion of your salary increase to paying off credit card or student loan debt instead of booking an expensive vacation. Or, you may use the extra cash to bolster your rainy day fund.

It’s easy to fall victim to lifestyle creep after a pay increase by indulging in luxuries and not keeping a close eye on your spending habits. Budgeting helps to keep you in check and supports your financial goals.

Instead of increasing your spending on big-ticket upgrades to your lifestyle each time you get a raise, consider how higher bills will affect your financial health. How would buying a bigger home or a new car affect your retirement plans and how much debt you have?

Use your budget to keep an eye on your cost of living so you don’t accidentally overspend after a new raise.

3. Retool Your Retirement

Especially if you aren’t hard up for cash right now, you can use your salary increase to boost your retirement savings.

For example, you can increase the amount you put into your Roth IRA or 401k retirement accounts. Even a small monthly increase can make a significant impact over time, especially if your employer offers contribution matching.

Not only will investing more in your retirement give you long-term financial security, but it will also make sure your raise is put to good use.

4. Pay Off Debts

If you have debts, entering a new salary range is an ideal way to put more money toward paying them off. For example, you can use your pay increase to cover:

  • Credit card debt
  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Medical debt
  • Personal loans

The more debt you pay off, the more you save in interest charges over time, keeping a significant amount of money in your pocket. If possible, save the most by paying off debts entirely instead of just making payments.

You can even improve your credit score by paying off debts, helping your financial situation even more, especially if you plan to make any big purchases, such as a home, in the future.

5. Plan for Taxes

When you get a raise, you can expect to pay more in taxes this year than you did last year. Depending on which tax bracket you’re in, you may even find that your raise is barely noticeable if it means you no longer qualify for certain deductions or tax credits.

Understanding how your new salary will affect your taxes gives you an idea of whether you should expect a refund or a bill.

If you aren’t comfortable calculating or assessing your taxes yourself, get in touch with an accountant or financial planner. They’ll be able to give you a good idea of what to expect come tax time based on your pay increase.

If it looks like you’ll owe more money at the end of the year than you anticipated, talk to your employer about increasing your withholdings so the amount you owe is covered.

6. Increase Charitable Donations

Another way to spend your raise is to increase your donations to charities and nonprofit organizations. Not only will it spread the wealth, but charitable donations typically count as tax deductions, potentially reducing the amount you owe each year.

This is especially useful if your raise bumped you into a higher tax bracket.

You can either choose to donate a specific dollar amount or a percentage of your income, whichever works best for your budget. You can also donate items like a used car, however, you’ll need a tax receipt in order to claim it on your taxes.

7. Add to Your Emergency Fund

Your emergency or rainy day fund is meant to lend a hand when your financial situation changes or you need to make an unexpected purchase. For example, it’s helpful to have a buffer of cash set aside if you lose a job or your fridge decides to stop working.

If you don’t have any pressing purchases to make with your new raise, it’s an ideal time to fill up your emergency fund. Having funds you can rely on in the future will give you peace of mind and save you from having to panic about how to cover an expense during a stressful situation.

8. Monitor Your Spending

It’s completely acceptable to celebrate when you get a raise, but it’s important to keep your spending in check. A nice dinner or night out is one thing, but extended overspending and unaffordable purchases are another.

If you do decide to treat yourself — and you should — make sure whatever you reward yourself with is within your spending limits and that it’s a one-time occurrence. Otherwise, you’ll soon fall victim to lifestyle creep and those luxuries will become the norm.

Choose one or two ways to treat yourself and stop there. Just because you’re making more money doesn’t mean you need to spend your entire raise on frivolous items and outings.

9. Consider Inflation

If you haven’t had a raise in a while, you can safely assume that part of your salary increase will go toward covering the costs of inflation. That means that instead of adding up to extra cash in your pocket, your raise will go toward rising prices for everyday expenses like housing and groceries.

Before spending your raise, take a look at the inflation rate to see how much prices have increased since the last time you received a pay bump. This will give you a better understanding of how much added buying power your raise amounts to and what it will mean for your budget and financial planning.

10. Save for a Big Purchase

If you’re planning to make a big purchase in the near future, use your raise to help get you closer to your goal. For example, put it toward:

  • A down payment on a house
  • A wedding
  • A new vehicle
  • A dream vacation
  • Your child’s tuition
  • A home renovation

Consider whether you have any major expenses coming up before spending your raise elsewhere. Setting aside your extra cash to cover upcoming costs will allow you to reach your goals faster and help you to navigate any unexpected costs you encounter.

11. Invest in Yourself

Investing in yourself is an excellent way to use your raise. For example, you could:

You can even do something like get laser eye surgery or have an old tattoo removed. Whatever helps to improve your personal quality of life and makes your future happier and healthier.

12. Do Something Fun

At the end of the day, you earned a raise through your hard work and dedication. You deserve to acknowledge your accomplishment by treating yourself to something special. Whether it’s a new pair of shoes or a fancy dinner, make sure at least a small portion of your raise goes toward celebrating your success.

Depending on how big your raise is and what you have left after you take care of any financial priorities, you could:

  • Go on a vacation
  • Plan a spa day
  • Buy yourself something nice
  • Treat a loved one
  • Fund a hobby

Take this as an opportunity to recognize your professional achievements and reward yourself for a job well done.


Final Word

Moving up on the pay scale is always worth celebrating, whether it comes with new responsibilities or not. But before you spend all your new money, take some time to consider how to get the most out of it.

That could mean reviewing your budget, paying off debts, or saving up for a big purchase — whatever suits your financial goals and situation.

Regardless of how you choose to spend your raise, remember to set some money aside to treat yourself. After all the time and effort you put into your career, you deserve to celebrate your accomplishments.

Source: moneycrashers.com

4 Best Coupon Matchup Sites for Groceries – Our Real-World Test

Every time I read a blog about extreme couponing, I’m in awe at the author’s grocery shopping skills. By stacking (combining) coupons with sales, these super-shoppers save over 50% on every product they buy. But when I try to copy their strategies, I just can’t find that many deals — even after hours of cross-checking coupon inserts against my local supermarkets’ sale flyers.

But there are couponing sites that promise to make it easier to save money with stacking deals. Their staff members do the work of matching sales with coupons so you don’t have to. But can these sites really find the kinds of deals you can’t unearth on your own?

To find out, I did a head-to-head test to see which coupon sites could find the best savings on a basket of groceries at local supermarkets. Comparison points included features, accuracy, and ease of use to discover which coupon matchup site is the best of the bunch.

Pro Tip: Before you head to the grocery store, download the Fetch Rewards app. With Fetch Rewards, you can scan your grocery receipts and earn points you can redeem for gift cards to your favorite stores. For more information, see our Fetch Rewards review.

Best Coupon Matchup Sites Test

To be included in the test, sites had to be able to do all of the following:

  • Find Stacking Deals. Each of these sites does one particular thing: match grocery coupons with sales. There are no other sites related to couponing, including coupon-clipping services, price-comparison sites, and printable coupon sites like Coupons.com.
  • Search Multiple Stores. Coupon matchup sites are the most valuable when they can find the best deals across all the supermarkets in a given area. So sites that focus on one particular store, such as I Heart Publix, didn’t make the cut.
  • Include Stores in My Area. I wanted to be able to check out the deals I found personally, comparing them to the store flyers and, if possible, to the prices in the store itself. Since I live in the northeast, I had to rule out the popular Southern Savers, which specifically looks for deals in the southern United States.
  • Are Still in Business. Surprisingly, one of the best-known coupon matchup sites, The Grocery Game, shut down in 2016. However, posts on social media complaining about this site’s disappearance led to the discovery of a couple of other sites that do the same job.

After some fairly extensive searching, four sites met all the criteria. To conduct the test, I visited each site and searched for stacking deals on five items I regularly buy: breakfast cereal, orange juice, canned soup, my favorite conditioner, and oxygen bleach. Note that coupons for fresh foods, such as produce or eggs, are rare.

I checked each site’s deals against my piles of supermarket sale flyers and coupon inserts to ensure they were legitimate. Then I rated each site on a 5-point scale for three factors:

  • How easy it was to search
  • How accurate its deals were
  • How much savings they offered

Finally, I averaged these scores to come up with a total score. So, which coupon matchup site came out on top?

1. CouponMom.com

There’s a lot going on at CouponMom.com. This free site has an extensive database of printable coupons from various sources and multiple tools to search for stacking deals. You can look for grocery, drugstore, state-specific, store-specific, and product-specific deals.

Ease of Use

The landing page for CouponMom.com is pretty cluttered, with moving ads, pointers to specific deals, and search boxes. Amid all this chaos, it’s hard to figure out where to go first. Since I was looking for five particular products, I started with the box labeled “Search Deals,” where you can search for a product by name.

I typed in the first item on my list, cereal, and got a list of dozens of cereal deals at different stores nationwide. But when I started clicking to see details, I found that most of these were cash-back deals from Ibotta. There was no clear way to weed these out and see only deals that required nothing but the store loyalty card and a coupon.

So instead, I went to “grocery deals by state,” selected “New Jersey,” and clicked the deal pages for specific stores in my area. I had to sign in to an account to view those, but setting one up was free and took only a few seconds.

The links for Aldi and Stop & Shop did nothing but display my local stores’ sale flyers. But the page for ShopRite was much better. It presented a list of products with columns for the sale price, how many I’d have to buy, available coupons and rebates, final price, and percentage saved.

The column showing the available manufacturer coupons used a somewhat confusing shorthand. The site provided a key for some of the abbreviations, such as “S” for SmartSource and “RP” for Red Plum, but it didn’t explain others, such as “SV.” On the plus side, CouponMom.com provided direct links to all the printable online coupons it found, which was handy.

I was then able to sort the list using a keyword box at the top. I entered each of the products from my shopping list in turn to see available deals. That part was easy, but it didn’t make up for the inconvenience of only being able to view actual deals for one store.

Ease-of-Use Score: 2 out of 5

Accuracy

When I checked the sale prices CouponMom.com listed against the store circulars, they were mostly correct. But one of the four wasn’t in the flyer. The only way to check its accuracy would be to make a trip to the store, an extra step coupon matchup sites are supposed to help you avoid.

As for the accuracy of the coupons themselves, there was only one to check. It was right in the SmartSource flyer where CouponMom.com said it would be, but getting a single coupon right isn’t much of a test. So this site loses one point on accuracy for giving me so little to work with.

Accuracy Score: 4 out of 5

Value

CouponMom.com could only find deals on one of my five test products (cereal) and only at one store. Moreover, one of the four deals it found wasn’t a stacking deal, just a sale price I could have found on my own by leafing through the store flyer. Two of the others were Ibotta deals, leaving only one that was useful.

That deal was $3.89 each for two family-size (16.9- to 19.1-ounce) boxes of Kellogg’s Special K cereal. Combined with a printable coupon for $1 off two, that yields a purchase price of $3.36. That works out to a unit price between $0.18 and $0.20 per ounce, much more than I typically pay by shopping sales and buying store brands.

To me, that doesn’t look much like extreme couponing. At best, it’s mild to moderate couponing.

Value Score: 1 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.3 out of 5


2. GrocerySmarts.com

Like CouponMom.com, GrocerySmarts.com has two primary features: printable coupons and searchable deals. For some reason, it sorts its coupons into four groups, with different brands in each group. Fortunately, the site helps by providing a list of the latest coupons from the past 10 days or so and telling you where to click to find each one.

Ease of Use

Searching for deals at GrocerySmarts.com was pretty simple. First, I clicked on the drop-down menu at the top of the page and asked to see deals in New Jersey. The site then displayed a second drop-down menu with a list of stores to choose from.

Unfortunately, this list didn’t include any of the supermarkets where I usually shop. The only stores on the list were CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart. Also, I had to view deals from each of these stores separately rather than looking at them all on one page. That cost the site 1 point on its ease-of-use rating.

On each store’s page, I used the search feature on my browser to look for the merchandise on my list. But I ran into a snag. It lists some cereals, such as Cheerios, by brand name only and doesn’t include the word “cereal.” I had to scan the whole list to ensure I was seeing all the cereal deals.

GrocerySmarts.com presents its deals for each store in one long list. There’s one column for the product, one for the sale price, one for the applicable coupon (if any), and one for the final price. Instead of showing the savings percentage, GrocerySmarts.com simply rates each deal as 3 stars, 4 stars, extreme, or free.

The list also tells you where to find the coupons you need for a given deal. If there’s a printable coupon, the site includes a link to it. It also shows which goods qualify for Ibotta deals and provides links to those.

If the coupon is in a newspaper insert, the site identifies the insert with an abbreviation similar to the ones used on CouponMom.com and the date. If there’s more than one available coupon for the same product, the site lists it multiple times.

To use the site to create a shopping list for a given store, click the Start button at the top of the page. Click to highlight the specific deals you want, then click on Shrink to hide all the lines you didn’t select. You can click the star at the top to quickly highlight all extreme and free deals. There’s also a field at the bottom to jot notes on your shopping list before printing it.

Ease-of-Use Score: 4 out of 5

Accuracy

Like CouponMom.com, GrocerySmarts.com couldn’t find deals on anything but cereal, and most of them were Ibotta rebates. The only deal that I could use was at CVS. It relied on a SmartSource coupon for $1.25 off three boxes of Life, Cap’n Crunch, or Quaker Oatmeal Squares. This coupon was correctly labeled and identified.

But the site’s description of the sale wasn’t quite accurate. It said the only brand on sale at CVS was Cap’n Crunch at $1.99 a box. But when I checked the CVS sale flyer, I found it applied to Life and Quaker Oatmeal Squares as well.

If I’d simply relied on GrocerySmarts.com for my info, I might have rejected this deal altogether since Cap’n Crunch isn’t a cereal we like.

So even though the sale price, coupon, and math were all accurate, this site loses a point for its inaccurate description. And it loses a second point for giving me so little to go on in the first place.

Accuracy Score: 3 out of 5

Value

I docked GrocerySmarts.com 3 points for value because it could only find deals on one of the five products on my list. Also, because it searches so few stores, the deals it did find weren’t at the stores where I usually shop.

The final cereal price it found was $1.57 per box for three 12.5- to 14-ounce boxes. That works out to between $0.11 and $0.13 per ounce. It’s a better price than CouponMom.com’s but no better than the usual price for the store brand. That cost the site one more point on value, resulting in a weak final score.

Value Score: 1 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5


3. The Krazy Coupon Lady

When you visit The Krazy Coupon Lady (KCL), you see updates on the latest hot deals at all kinds of stores. In addition to supermarkets and drugstores, this site covers department stores, restaurants, specialty stores, and even online deals at Amazon.

KCL provides lots of details about these featured deals, including photos and a couple of paragraphs of text. From the main page, you can also link to coupons and deals sorted by brand or store. Under “Couponing Resources” at the bottom, there are general guides to couponing and guides for specific stores.

Ease of Use

The primary way to search for deals on KCL is by store. You select a specific store from the main page, then click on the weekly coupon deals box (the first available box on the page under the app banner) to see a list of the latest deals from that store. You can then use your browser’s page search feature (control or command plus F) to look for individual products you want.

But weekly deals aren’t available for all stores. For instance, when I clicked on Stop & Shop, the last update was over two months old. The page for Trader Joe’s simply said, “There are currently no active deals.” (Since then, both these stores have disappeared from the site entirely.) And the page for Rite Aid showed one recent deal but no weekly list. I docked the site one point for this.

The weekly deals list includes details about each offer. It shows the sale price and provides links to printable coupons, downloadable store coupons, and Ibotta deals. A few of its deals also include manufacturer coupons from SmartSource, which are marked with the abbreviation “SS.” I couldn’t find any deals using coupons from Red Plum.

The site includes check boxes next to each listed item. You can click these boxes to add a product to your shopping list, but it’s not immediately obvious where that list is stored. I eventually found out you have to click your profile picture in the top right corner to access it.

But there’s a notification on the site saying this feature will soon be available only in the KCL app. That takes a lot of the functionality out of the website, costing it one more point.

Ease-of-Use Score: 3 out of 5

Accuracy

After checking KCL’s pages for all my local stores, I couldn’t find a single deal on any of the products on my grocery list. So to test the site’s accuracy, I simply searched for the “SS” abbreviation and checked the coupons it listed against my SmartSource insert.

Some of the coupons KCL identified were real. It correctly located manufacturer coupons for Eggland’s Best eggs in the May 2 insert and Nivea lotion in the May 16 insert. But it also cited two other coupons in the May 16 insert that I couldn’t find.

In short, KCL got only two out of four manufacturer coupons right, for an accuracy rate of just 50%. But when I checked some of its links to digital store coupons on the ShopRite site, they were all accurate. That bumped its score up from 2.5 points to 3.

Accuracy Score: 3 out of 5

Value

This one was an easy call. KCL didn’t find me a single deal I could use — not even those other sites identified. That makes it a dead loss as far as value is concerned, so it earned no points.

Value Score: 0 out of 5

Overall Score: 2 out of 5


4. Living Rich With Coupons

Like KCL, Living Rich With Coupons (LRWC) displays a long list of recent deals on its main page. It includes offers from a wide variety of stores, including supermarkets, department stores, and online retailers. There are links at the top of the page for categories including coupons, online deals, and stores.

Ease of Use

This site allows you to search for deals in several ways. If you click the Filter by State drop-down on the landing page and select the name of your state, LRWC filters its long list of deals to include only those available in your area. But this option is only available for nine states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.

Alternatively, you can also click on Stores in the main navigation and select a store to see a list of that store’s weekly sale prices, including coupons you can stack with them. The site has deals for national big-box stores Target and Walmart, warehouse stores Costco and BJ’s, dollar stores, drugstores, and regional grocery chains like ShopRite and Kroger.

To find deals on a specific product, such as cereal, you can click on the site’s Grocery Price Comparison Tool and enter the product name in the search box. The site pulls up a list of all the stores that have deals on that item, and you click on the names of the stores you want to search.

LRWC then presents you with a list of all the stacking deals on that product sorted by the stores you selected. For every sale, it includes a lengthy list of all possible coupons that could stack with it. The site provides direct links to printable online coupons. For coupons inserts, it lists the flyer, the date, and the coupon’s expiration date, a handy feature most coupon sites don’t have.

But I noticed one odd quirk in LRWC’s list. It didn’t provide the actual sale prices for every store in its list. For instance, it said CVS had a BOGO (buy-one, get-one-free) deal on raisin bran, but it didn’t say what the regular price was.

Even when it did list the sale price, LRWC didn’t always crunch the numbers to tell you what the purchase price was after stacking the sale with a coupon. These problems cost the site 1 point for ease of use.

When you click an item in the Grocery Price Comparison Tool, the site adds it to your saved shopping list, shown on the right side of the screen. Clicking the print or email icon pulls the list up in a separate window. For each deal on the list, LRWC shows the store, the product, the sale price, how many you must buy to get that price, and all possible coupons to pair with the sale.

You can edit the list before printing or emailing it to yourself. You can remove items you don’t want to see, such as coupons you don’t intend to use, or change the quantity of a product you want to buy. You can also manually add goods you didn’t find deals on, with or without custom notes.

Ease-of-Use Score: 4 out of 5

Accuracy

LRWC found deals for all five of the products on my shopping list. Its best cereal deal was from Stop & Shop: Kellogg’s cereals for $1.50 per box, which could stack with any of nine different coupons.

However, there was a problem with the deal. According to the Stop & Shop sale flyer, the price was only good for three days, Friday through Sunday. By the time I ran my test, it had already expired. LRWC neglected to mention that detail, costing it one point for accuracy.

LWRC also listed sales on Kellogg’s cereal at several other stores. But for some reason, it didn’t match them with the same list of coupons it had found for Stop & Shop, even though they would clearly work. This oversight cost it one more point.

In a few cases, LWRC found deals I couldn’t verify. Some were allegedly “unadvertised” sales, so I had no way of checking them without going to the store. I didn’t add or take off points for these.

However, other deals were clearly wrong. For instance, LWRC claimed ShopRite was selling Campbell’s Slow Kettle Soups for $1.99, but that price was not in the sale flyer. That could have been the regular price, but LWRC also paired it with a digital store coupon I couldn’t find on the store site. That cost it another point.

All the other sale prices LRWC found seemed to be accurate. But while checking them, I noticed there were other deals it missed. For instance, it said I could buy Florida’s Natural orange juice for $2.99 at ShopRite, then add a coupon for $0.98 off two to bring the price down to $2.50. But it didn’t notice the same store had larger cartons of Minute Maid OJ for just $1.88.

Also, in some cases, LRWC’s math was wrong. For instance, it said a sale of $1.88 per box on Quaker cereals paired with a coupon for $1.25 off three boxes would yield a purchase price “as low as $1.55 each.” In fact, the purchase price with this coupon is $1.46 per box. I knocked off one more point for this.

As for the coupons, all the printable ones I checked seemed to work. The one coupon that came from SmartSource was also accurate. A few were from a flyer labeled only as “Save,” an abbreviation I couldn’t identify, so I don’t know whether these coupons were accurate or not.

Accuracy Score: 1 out of 5

Value

Of all the sites I tested, LRWC was the only one to find deals for all the items on my list. Unfortunately, not all the deals it found were legit, and it missed some that were.

For instance, if LRWC had paired the $1.88-per-box sale on cereal at Walgreens with the $1-off-two coupon it found at Stop & Shop, it could have given me a purchase price of $1.38 per box. Since the sale covered boxes up to 13.7 ounces, that would have come to a great price of around $0.10 per ounce. But LRWC missed that deal, so it gets no credit for it.

The prices it actually found were:

  • Cereal: $1.46 per 11.5- to 14.5-ounce box ($0.10 to $0.13 per ounce)
  • Orange Juice: $2.50 per 52-ounce carton ($0.05 per ounce); missed a better deal of $1.88 for 59 ounces ($0.03 per ounce)
  • Oxygen Bleach: $4.99 for a 48-ounce container ($0.10 per ounce)

Out of the five sites I tested, LWRC found me the best price on cereal. Its price for oxygen bleach is also pretty good. However, its OJ deal is lackluster, and it missed a better one I could have found just by checking the sale flyer.

Value Score: 3 out of 5

Overall Score: 2.7 out of 5


Final Word

Of the four sites tested, GrocerySmarts.com and Living Rich With Coupons tied for the best overall score. Both were easy to use, but GrocerySmarts.com was more accurate, while LWRC found better deals overall.

But neither of these sites was the perfect coupon-stacking resource I was hoping to find. In most cases, the stacking deals they uncovered were no better than the prices I usually get on my own without coupons.

Of course, what works for me isn’t necessarily what will work for you. If your local stores have better sales than mine or if you regularly buy more products you can find coupons for, these coupon sites could save you some significant money. Just double-check all the deals you find to make sure they’re legit.

Speaking for myself, I think I’ll stick to other methods for saving money on groceries. Between my grocery price book, store loyalty cards, and buying store brands (especially at discount stores like Aldi), I think I can find prices good enough to give the extreme couponers a run for their money.

Source: moneycrashers.com

How to Track Your Small-Business Expenses for Tax Deductions

As a small business or startup, keeping track of your expenses is essential. Come tax time, your business-related purchases qualify as tax deductions, reducing the total amount you owe on your return — but only if you’ve kept a record of them.

Thankfully, there are a variety of expense tracking options for you to choose from, whether you’re interested in accounting software or prefer to go the manual route.

What is Small-Business Expense Tracking?

Small-business expense tracking is how you record and manage any business-related purchases you make, such as:

  • Office supplies
  • Business travel expenses
  • Marketing and advertising costs
  • Software subscriptions
  • Home office furniture
  • Tickets to professional events and conventions

During tax season, the IRS considers many of these purchases as write-offs, allowing you to deduct them from your tax return. However, for these items to qualify as tax deductions, you will need to have a record of the purchase in the form of a physical or digital receipt.

You should keep track of your business expenses if you’re a small-business owner, startup founder, freelancer, or otherwise self-employed.


Why Track Business Expenses?

Tracking your business expenses comes with many benefits, including:

1. Reducing Your Small-Business Taxes

If you work for yourself, you already know the amount you have to pay in self-employment taxes each year can be significant. If you can reduce it, even by a small amount, that equates to more money in your pocket.

Keeping records of your deductible expenses is one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to reduce your tax return. By simply hanging on to your business-related receipts, you can save yourself a lot of money.

2. Demonstrating an Accurate Profit Margin

Tracking small-business expenses also helps to give you a more accurate understanding of your business’s profit. By monitoring both incoming and outgoing cash flow, it’s easier to see how much your business is making after your costs have been deducted.

If you only monitor profit, you’ll never really know whether your business is financially viable or not.

3. Organizing Your Business Records

Keeping clean, clear, and well-organized business records is the best way to understand and track your company’s growth over a long period of time. Tracking expenses can help you to:

  • Determine where you have opportunities to reduce your small-business expenses
  • See how your costs have increased or decreased based on the market or seasonality
  • Decide when and how to scale your business
  • Negotiate or reevaluate expenses

Even freelance records are important because they separate business costs from client-related expenses that qualify for reimbursement.

Plus, if you ever encounter a legal issue related to your business, detailed records will strengthen your case and show that you run an honest and lawful company.


How to Track Small-Business Expenses

You have a variety of different options when it comes to choosing a method to track expenses, from accounting software and applications to business banking accounts and manually recording costs.

Choose the method that works best for you and your business based on your needs, budget, and preference.

1. Accounting Software and Apps

One of the easiest methods for tracking expenses is by using accounting software. Many platforms can connect with your bank account to automatically identify and record business purchases as well as allow you to upload photos of receipts or manually enter expenses.

Some of the most popular business expense tracking platforms include:

Most of these platforms offer both a desktop version and mobile app, facilitating expense tracking in the office and on the go. This is especially convenient if you’re tracking business expenses while out of town.

Accounting software platforms and apps work best for businesses that want to use them to manage multiple aspects of their business, such as invoicing, facilitating payments, time tracking, and payroll.

Most accounting platforms also come with a monthly or annual fee, which typically qualifies as a tax deduction.

2. Business Banking Accounts

Keeping track of your business expenses is a breeze if you only make purchases using a company credit card or debit card. This way, all your purchases are in a separate bank account, making your expense reports easy to compile, review, and organize.

If you choose to open a business bank account through an online bank like Lili, make sure to keep it separate from your personal finances. Only use your business credit card or debit card to make business purchases. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of having different accounts.

If you decide to go this route to manage your business finances, it’s recommended you open:

  • A business credit card
  • A business checking account
  • A business savings account

This way, you can deposit payments from clients and customers into your checking account and use it to pay for purchases made on your company credit card. Leftover business income can go into your savings account. This setup keeps your business finances completed separate from your personal assets.

3. Manually

If you only have a handful of clients or your expenses are relatively few and far between, keeping things simple may be the best option. Tracking expenses manually is as simple as creating a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel and inputting expense details as you make purchases.

You can make your spreadsheet as detailed or as simple as you’d like. For example, you can include item descriptions, dates, and amounts as well as a total before and after taxes. Or, you can simply list items and their costs.

You can also use free spreadsheet software like Google Sheets if you don’t have a Microsoft 365 subscription.


Keeping Digital Receipts

Digital receipts are easier to track than their paper counterparts, but if you use multiple email addresses, bank accounts, or payment methods, keeping your expense records organized can be challenging. Three popular options include:

1. Expense Tracking Software

Most expense tracker apps and platforms help you to store digital receipts by either automatically recording them through your bank statements or letting you upload them yourself.

Many apps also allow you to categorize your business purchases, making them easier to input and record when preparing your income tax return.

Although apps and software are generally more expensive compared to other methods, they handle a lot of the administrative work for you. So, if you’re looking for a hands-off approach to keeping your digital expense records organized and well-managed, an app is probably your best bet.

2. Company Expense Email

An effective method is to use a single email address — preferably one associated with your business — to make all of your business-related online purchases. All the digital receipts associated with your company will be directed to your business email inbox.

To record paper receipts as well, take a picture of them or scan them and forward the image to your email address.

You can make this inbox accessible to your bookkeeper or accountant directly or forward your receipts to them as you make purchases. Even if you do your own bookkeeping, having your tax-deductible expense records in one place (and organized by date) will make your life easier.

Additionally, you won’t have to pay any additional costs outside of what you already pay to host your email account.

3. Cloud Storage

Your third option is to scan or take pictures of receipts and upload the images to the cloud storage of your choice, such as:

For digital receipts, you can take a screenshot, save it as an image, and upload it manually. Although not the most convenient option, cloud storage is typically free, which makes it an ideal choice for the budget-conscious.


Keeping Paper Receipts

Paper receipts are harder to manage than digital versions, but almost every small-business owner will have at least a few of them. Paper receipts usually come from:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • In-store purchases
  • Cash purchases

And, unfortunately, identifying the debit in your bank account isn’t enough of a record to ensure that your purchase qualifies for a small-business tax deduction. You’ll need a copy of your actual receipt to document the amount, date, and item details of the expense.

Unfortunately, paper receipts are easy to lose and damage, so you need to store them carefully. Keep track of physical copies of purchase records by:

1. Scanning Receipts

Scanning or taking pictures of receipts is the safest way to keep a record of them. It’s much harder to lose or spill coffee on a digital record of a purchase than a physical one. This way, if you misplace a receipt or accidentally put it through the washer, you have a backup.

Scan or take a picture of a receipt as soon as you receive it to reduce the chances of it being lost or damaged.

You don’t even need a paid app to scan receipts, because there are a variety of options for both Apple and Android devices that allow you to scan and save documents for free.

2. Using an Envelope or Folder

Another option is to store receipts in a designated envelope or file folder in your office or filing cabinet. It’s best to store receipts by tax year so you know which ones will apply to your current return.

The hardest part of using this method is that you’ll need to make a habit of taking paper receipts from your pocket, wallet, or purse and putting them in the proper place. If you lose them, you won’t be able to claim them as write-offs.


4 Tips for Small-Business Expense Tracking

Regardless of how you track your small-business expenses, there are ways you can optimize the process to make it simpler and more straightforward.

1. Keep Business and Personal Purchases Separate

Even if you don’t have a business bank account, you can still keep business and personal expenses separate.

For example, let’s say you go to Costco and purchase groceries for your family and office supplies for your business at the same time. Instead of making one large purchase, separate your items into two transactions — one for your household items and another for your business purchases.

This makes it much easier to calculate the total amount of your write-off, including taxes, fees, or discounts, instead of having to try to extract the information from a larger bill.

2. Ask for Receipts

When tracking expenses for business purposes, you need to make a habit of asking for (and keeping) receipts. This goes for any retailer that doesn’t provide digital receipts, like gas stations and restaurants.

As a small-business owner, you need to get used to asking for receipts and keeping them safe until you have a chance to scan or store them safely.

Any receipt you don’t ask for is an expense that you can’t claim when you file your taxes.

Even if you aren’t sure whether a purchase will qualify as a deductible business expense, it’s better to ask for a receipt and talk to your bookkeeper or accountant afterward rather than miss out on a potential deduction altogether.

3. Get Digital Receipts

Many retailers offer both digital and physical receipts. Whenever possible, opt for a digital receipt. They’re easier to document, track, and store than paper receipts.

Because stores send digital receipts to an email address, use a designated email address for business purchases. This will keep your personal inbox clean and your business expenses in one place.

4. Organize Your Expense Records

Keep your tax deduction records organized by year, category, and item to make filing your tax return simple and stress-free. If you keep receipts organized as you make purchases, it will be much easier to sort through and calculate them later on.

And, if you use an accountant to file your taxes, they’ll appreciate a straightforward and clean expense report to reference.


Final Word

Tax deductions are crucial for small-business owners. But you won’t qualify for write-offs if your business purchases aren’t sufficiently recorded and documented. Tracking your expenses using accounting software, business bank accounts, or manually will help you to prove purchases, stay on top of costs, and keep your records organized.

Keep copies of both paper and digital receipts to make your next tax return more affordable and easier to file.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Can You Use Food Stamps Online?

The food stamp program in the U.S. has made it possible for millions of Americans dealing with economic hardship to feed their families each day.

While food stamps, now officially called SNAP benefits, can help families save money on food, it hasn’t always been the most convenient way to shop for groceries. In the past, food stamp recipients needed to physically go into a store to shop for and pay for their groceries using a special (EBT) payment card.

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has expanded an online purchasing pilot program that allows SNAP recipients to purchase groceries online then arrange for pickup or delivery. The program is now available at certain retailers in most states.

Read on to learn where and how you can use food stamps to buy groceries online.

What Are Food Stamps?

“Food stamps” is an older, but still commonly used term to describe SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

SNAP is designed to provide nutritional assistance to low-income families, as well as the elderly, disabled, and people who have filed for unemployment. SNAP is a federal program administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which has a network of local offices.

While SNAP doesn’t cover all the items you might pick up at the supermarket, it can significantly cut your grocery bill.

USDA national map .

Each state has its own application form. If your state’s form is not on the web yet, you can contact your local SNAP office to request a paper form.

What Stores Accept Food Stamps Online?

Thanks to the expedited expansion of an online purchasing pilot program run by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, households receiving SNAP benefits in any of the 47 participating states (along with the District of Columbia) can now use EBT to pay for groceries online from select retailers.

Alaska, Louisiana, and Montana are not currently enrolled in the pilot. And, not every retailer in participating states supports EBT payments.

If a retailer is enrolled in SNAP’s online program, people on food stamps can select foods eligible for EBT benefits online and then arrange for in-store or curbside pickup. In some cases, it may be possible to have your groceries delivered. If the retailer charges a delivery fee, however, you cannot use your benefits to cover that fee.

While Amazon and Walmart are among the best known retailers for online EBT shopping, the number of stores accepting EBT card payment online is continuing to expand, and now even includes some “specialty” stores like Trader Joe’s.

FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service, now delivers for free to SNAP participants in some zip codes in the New York metropolitan area.

And, Instacart, a grocery delivery service, is currently partnering with many local stores in the U.S. to offer SNAP EBT benefits. The latest version of the Instacart app should display whether your local store offers EBT SNAP.

Which retailers (and which specific locations) participate in the online SNAP program will vary from one state to another, so it’s a wise idea to check which options are available in your area.

Here are some of the retailers that are now accepting food stamps for online shopping (for either delivery or pickup):

• Walmart

• Amazon

• Aldi

• Food Lion

• Publix

• FreshDirect

• BJ’S Wholesale Club

• Kroger

• ShopRite

• Fred Meyer

• Safeway

• Albertsons

• Vons

• Hy-Vee

How to Use Food Stamps to Buy Groceries Online

The rules for using food stamps online will vary by retailer. For example, when shopping on Amazon, you can add your SNAP EBT card, shop for groceries, and when you check out, you enter your EBT PIN to pay for eligible purchases.

For Walmart, you can order groceries online or through the store’s grocery mobile app. You first need to sign into your Pickup & Delivery account and then select Payment Methods.

cash management account, you can track your weekly food spending right in the dashboard of the app. You can also earn competitive interest on your money, and won’t pay any account or monthly fees.

Learn how SoFi Money can help you manage your spending and saving today.

Photo credit: iStock/Yana Tatevosian


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Source: sofi.com

People Say to Give Up These 4 Things and Retire Early — They’re Wrong

If you’re not already rich, the race to early retirement can feel like it’s marred by sacrifice. Give up this, give up that — like the only way to retire before 65 is if you suffer now.

Sure, you want to be able to enjoy early retirement, and that means having enough money saved to do so. But you also want to live your life now in a way that brings you joy.

A study from annuity.com found that people would be willing to sacrifice several of life’s greatest conveniences to be able to achieve FIRE (financial independence, retire early):

The study shows that 20% of people would forgo having children, 27% would live without a pet and 28% would give up dining out just to have their retirement party a decade or two earlier. Some people would even move into a tiny home or sell their car!

But we know there are better ways. You don’t have to give up the things you love just to retire when you’d like to. Here are a few things people suggest giving up to accelerate their retirement timeline — and why we think you shouldn’t.

1. What They Say: ‘Give Up Your Vehicle’

Between car payments, insurance and repairs, having a car can be a big expense. And people eyeing early retirement do tend toward a minimalist lifestyle, so getting rid of your vehicle can be a tempting expense to cut.

But unless you live in a city that’s bikeable or has great public transportation, you’re going to need your own way to get from point A to point B. So instead of selling or letting your lease run out, here are a few tips to cut your car expenses down:

  • Buy a used car. Even though the average interest rate to finance a used car is higher than a new car or leasing one, financially you can save thousands of dollars over the course of a few years.
  • Cut your car insurance costs. By checking quotes every six months, you can save an average of $489 a year on your insurance payments. A website called Insure.com makes it super easy to compare car insurance prices. All you have to do is enter your ZIP code and your age, and it’ll show you your options.

2. What They Say: ‘Give Up Online Shopping’

Online shopping can be an account drainer — it’s so easy to put things into your cart, click a few buttons and wait for your package to arrive a few days later. And if your aim is to save a lot of money over the next decade or two, online shopping can be a major roadblock.

But here’s the thing — you can still shop online. You just need to be smart about it: Never overpay, and get cash rewards.

That’s exactly what this free service does for you.

Just add it to your browser for free*, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop-up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

3. What They Say: ‘Give Up Dining Out’

While the world was in quarantine, we learned to be more self-reliant in the kitchen, and many of us saw a significant drop in our dining-out expenditures (take-out, maybe not so much). So it’s understandable that 28% of people say they’d give it up entirely to reach their early retirement goals.

But for the other 72% who love going to restaurants and ordering delivery, financial independence isn’t off the table. There are just some strategic moves to make so you can keep supporting your favorite local spots and give your family a break from all the dishes.

First, look for discounts: You can find them on Groupon or with a AAA discount. You can even buy discounted gift cards on websites like Restaurant.com. If you have kids, check out restaurants that let them eat free on certain days of the week.

Next, make sure you’re getting cash back every time you go out to eat (or swipe your debit card in general).

If you’re not using Aspiration’s debit card, you’re missing out on extra cash. And who doesn’t want extra cash right now?

Yep. A debit card called Aspiration gives you up to a 5% back every time you swipe.

Need to buy groceries? Extra cash.

Need to fill up the tank? Bam. Even more extra cash.

You were going to buy these things anyway — why not get this extra money in the process?

Enter your email address here, and link your bank account to see how much extra cash you can get with your free Aspiration account. And don’t worry. Your money is FDIC insured and under a military-grade encryption. That’s nerd talk for “this is totally safe.”

4. What They Say: ‘Give Up More Living Space’

The tiny home — or small space — lifestyle has become increasingly popular among the retire-early crowd. It’s cheaper to own, likely includes no mortgage and is less expensive to upkeep, as well.

In fact, 17% of people surveyed said they would live in a space smaller than 700 square feet, if it meant they could retire early. For a single person that may be fine, but for couples or families — it might just not be enough.

Instead, you could keep the space you love and find ways to save money and make money with it:

Stop overpaying $690 on homeowners insurance

Luckily, an insurance company called Policygenius makes it easy to find out how much you’re overpaying. It finds you cheaper policies and special discounts in minutes.

In fact, it saves users an average of $690 a year — or $57.50 a month. It’ll even help you break up with your old insurance company. (You’re allowed to cancel your policy at any time, and your company should issue you a refund.)

And just because you’re saving money doesn’t mean you’re skimping on coverage. Policygenius will make sure you have what you need.

Just answer a few questions about your home to see how much money you’re wasting.

Make up to $300 a month from your empty garage

Extra rooms in your house don’t need to be left empty. You can rent out unused storage space — your shed, or your garage — to your neighbors who need it. A website and app called Neighbor can help you earn up to $300 a month, on your terms. Use this calculator to see how much your available storage space is worth.

Kari Faber is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the links provided.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

14 Best Grocery Coupon and Cash-Back Apps to Save Money

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. households spent 9.5% of their disposable income on food in 2019, with 4.9% being for food at home. Additionally, grocery store prices also saw a 3.5% increase between 2019 and 2020.

There’s nothing you can do to avoid food spending altogether. But you certainly don’t have to pay full price the next time you shop. There are numerous ways to save money on groceries, and you don’t need to sacrifice products you enjoy to find savings.

One effective way to reduce grocery costs is to use your smartphone. Apps that help you save on groceries have grown in popularity, which is excellent news for any frugal shopper. The next time you restock your kitchen, download a few money-saving grocery apps before heading out the door to start saving more.

The Best Apps to Save Money on Groceries

There are several app categories that help reduce grocery spending. Mobile coupon apps, grocery-store apps, and various cash-back rewards programs are popular examples. Using a combination of these apps and looking for in-store deals, you can maximize every dollar you spend on groceries.

1. Grocery Store Apps

The best way to save money on groceries is often to use store apps from your favorite grocers. Many supermarkets highlight in-store deals and coupons through a mobile app. Some stores even have loyalty programs that link to your mobile account, letting you redeem savings at the register.

Some of the best grocery store apps that have coupons and reward programs include:

If you stack a store rewards card with mobile coupons and deals, it’s even better. For example, if you do most of your grocery shopping at Kroger, you can sign up for the rewards debit card to save 2% on Kroger brands and earn fuel rewards. Target also has a mobile app that highlights coupons and store promotions, and you can shop with a Target RedCard to get 5% off most in-store and online purchases.

Between in-app coupons and your rewards card, you’re already starting to reduce your grocery bill without having to change stores.

2. Coupons.com

Coupons.com is a popular couponing website that’s essentially a database of free printable coupons and online promo codes. On the website, you can find and print coupons for a range of categories, including:

Coupons.com usually limits you to printing one or two of each coupon. It’s still an effective way to save, but if you want to earn rewards for grocery shopping, the Coupons.com app for Android or iOS is also worth using.

If you were a fan of SavingStar, Coupons.com acquired them in 2020. As such, through Coupons.com’s app, you can now earn cash-back rewards for buying specific offers, including groceries.

Simply activate rebates in the app by tapping on them, shop, and then take a picture of your receipt with the app to earn cash back. Alternatively, link store loyalty cards from companies like Publix or Safeway to automatically earn cash back for eligible purchases.

Unlike many reward apps, Coupons.com doesn’t have a minimum redemption requirement. You get paid through PayPal, and between paper and online coupons and cash-back rewards, Coupons.com is a comprehensive tool to save on groceries and everyday essentials.

3. Ibotta

Ibotta is another way to earn cash-back rewards for buying specific products from Ibotta partners. The app doesn’t focus on groceries. It also has deals for categories like health and beauty, travel, entertainment, and sports. But grocery delivery and rebate deals are still a significant portion of available offers.

Ibotta partners with more than 300 retailers, including grocery stores like Kroger, Meijer, Walmart, and Whole Foods. You can also find Ibotta deals at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club.

Saving money with Ibotta takes four simple steps:

  1. Find Offers. Like other receipt-scanning apps, you preselect rebates before shopping. You can find rebates under the “find offers” tab within Ibotta and search by categories to narrow your search to groceries.
  2. Shop. After you select rebates, you’re ready to shop. Check Ibotta offers for any specific terms to ensure you buy the right brand, size, and quantity. Rebates often have specific requirements, and your purchase won’t credit if you make a mistake.
  3. Verify Purchase. Snap a photo of your receipt with the Ibotta app to verify your purchases.
  4. Redeem Cash Back. Ibotta deposits cash into your rewards account within 48 hours of submitting proof of purchase. You can cash out after reaching $20. Cash-out options include PayPal, Venmo, and gift cards to companies like Amazon, Starbucks, and Target.

Ibotta also lets you link store loyalty cards to your account to automatically earn for eligible purchases so you can skip selecting rebates. Loyalty card linking works at over 100 stores, including Hannaford, Meijer, and Wegmans.

Like other cash-back reward apps, it’s best to stack rebates with other discounts, like coupons or a cash-back credit card. For example, if you find an Ibotta rebate for $0.75 off Cliff Bars at Walmart, look for manufacturer coupons or Walmart store coupons for extra savings. If you then shop with the Capital One Walmart Rewards credit card, you’re maximizing your savings for that product.

It might take a few grocery trips to reach the $20 cash-out minimum. But Ibotta has some of the best offer variety and highest-paying rebates in the grocery rewards app industry, so it certainly has worthwhile saving potential.

Read our Ibotta review for all the details.

4. Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards is another receipt-scanning app for Android and iOS that works almost exactly like Ibotta. But while many Ibotta offers require shopping at a specific store, Fetch Rewards only requires buying specific brands to earn points. That means you can shop at your grocery store of choice without having to drive around town or miss out on offers from stores you never shop at.

Fetch Rewards partners with brands in several categories, including groceries, cosmetics, magazines, alcohol, and baby products. But groceries at the largest category, including recognizable brands like:

  • Betty Crocker
  • Heinz
  • Hershey’s
  • Knorr
  • Kraft
  • Oscar Mayer
  • Pepsi
  • Sabra
  • Yoplait

Once you purchase products from a Fetch Rewards partner brand, you take a picture of your receipt with the app to verify your purchase. Points credit in your Fetch Rewards account after the receipt processes, which typically takes a few hours. You can redeem points for dozens of free gift cards, including Amazon, CVS, Burger King, Dunkin’, Old Navy, and Target.

Receipts that have at least one participating brand pay a minimum of 50 points, or $0.05. Additionally, Fetch Rewards has a page where you can find higher-paying special offers that pay bonus points. For example, special offers might pay 2,000 points ($2) for buying a pack of Tyson chicken breast or 1,000 points ($1) for buying McCain frozen smile potatoes.

One advantage of Fetch Rewards is that you only require 3,000 points, or $3, to redeem many gift cards. Realistically, that means you can enjoy your first reward within a shopping trip or two, depending on how many eligible brands and special offers you buy.

You won’t score massive discounts with Fetch Rewards, but it’s another simple app to save money on groceries if you don’t mind scanning your receipts. The redemption minimum is also one of the lowest out of all reward apps.

Read our Fetch Rewards review for more information.

5. Checkout 51

Another way to turn grocery receipts into cash rewards is to use Checkout 51, a free grocery rewards app for Android and iOS.

With Checkout 51, you select rebates before shopping and upload receipts for proof of purchase. You can also link loyalty cards to your account from over a dozen partners, including Dollar General, Hannaford, H-E-B, Meijer, and Publix. It’s fairly similar to other reward apps.

However, Checkout 51 focuses on groceries for rebates and works at hundreds of stores, including:

  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • BJ’s Wholesale Club
  • Costco
  • Kroger
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods
  • Winn-Dixie

Additionally, Checkout 51 has a pick-your-own-offer section where you choose grocery essentials like bread, eggs, and produce to earn cash-back rewards for buying. These rewards usually range from $0.25 to $1, but it’s nice to reliably earn cash back on grocery essentials alongside specific products from brand partners.

Checkout 51 offers update every Thursday at 12am. So during the week, you might find that certain offers disappear as more shoppers claim them. That means it’s essential to check for new rebates on Thursday morning, select them, and shop that day to earn rewards. (Don’t wait for the weekend since grocery prices are higher on the weekends and sales usually happen on Wednesdays and Thursdays.)

Overall, Checkout 51 rebates are competitive, and you can redeem many offers multiple times, which is useful if you bulk-shop. Checkout 51 has a $20 cash-out requirement and pays through check. PayPal payments are also coming to the app and are currently in testing.

Reward variety is a downside for this app, but grocery-specific rebates and offer variety still make Checkout 51 one of the best grocery rewards apps around.

Read our Checkout 51 review for all the details.

6. Receipt Hog

If you’re already saving receipts to scan with other apps, add Receipt Hog to your smartphone.

With Receipt Hog, you turn everyday receipts into rewards just by taking a photo of your receipts with the app. But the type of receipt you upload determines the reward you earn:

  • Coin Receipts. Earn coins for uploading receipts for grocery stores, pharmacies, pet stores, dollar stores, supercenters, convenience stores, and alcohol stores. Coins are redeemable for free Amazon gift cards and PayPal cash.
  • Spin Receipts. Receipt Hog has a slots game where you can earn bonus coins or cash prizes for getting lucky. Spin receipt categories include apparel, department stores, home goods, office supplies, and electronics. Spin receipts don’t pay coins, so you have to get lucky to earn with this receipt type.
  • Sweepstake Receipts. Every receipt you scan grants you one entry into a monthly sweepstake where Receipt Hog gives out additional coins and cash prizes. You can also upload receipts from gas stations, restaurants, bars, and cafes for additional sweepstake entries.

Coin receipts are the most common type of receipt. You need 1,000 coins to redeem a $5 reward. Typically, receipts pay between five to 100 coins, with more expensive receipts paying a higher number of coins.

Realistically, it takes dozens of receipts to earn a $5 reward unless you get lucky on the slot game. But if you’re already scanning receipts with other apps, the extra 30 seconds of using Receipt Hog helps you save even more. And for non-grocery receipts, Receipt Hog provides the chance to at least earn something for scanning them versus throwing those receipts out.

Plus, there’s always the chance you get lucky with the slots or monthly sweepstake and earn a few hundred dollars’ worth of bonus coins.

7. The Coupons App

The Coupons App is a free couponing app that’s available for Android and iOS. While the app isn’t exclusively for grocery coupons, it’s still an immensely valuable tool to save on groceries and everyday shopping.

The app works with hundreds of retailers and lets you search, save, and use coupons right from your smartphone. You can also search for local deals and enable notifications to alert you when a nearby retailer has couponing opportunities.

But if you’re looking for an app to save money on groceries, The Coupons App has you covered. Several notable retailers the app regularly has coupons for include:

  • Aldi
  • Costco
  • Dollar Tree
  • Family Dollar
  • Kroger
  • Publix
  • Safeway
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • Whole Foods

Mobile coupons and weekly ads update daily to keep you in the loop about in-store deals. You can also create a grocery list within the app with the corresponding coupons you plan to use. If you frequently buy the same brands, you can set up tracking to receive brand-specific coupon notifications to ensure you don’t miss out on savings.

Other features include a gas-finder tool to save money on gas, an Amazon price tracker, and weekly cash giveaways.

The grocery list tool coupled with brand-specific coupon alerts is a useful money-saving combination. At the very least, it’s worth recreating your existing grocery list on The Coupons App and tracking coupons so you can passively collect coupons for your favorite brands.

8. Flipp

Flipp brands itself as an all-in-one savings app and says users save an average of $45 per week. That translates to over $2,000 in annual savings, which is quite a bold claim for a free app to make.

But if you want to save money on a tight budget and maximize grocery store savings, Flipp is worth downloading. The app lets you browse thousands of digital flyers from more than 2,000 retailers to find weekly deals to build your grocery list with.

Plus, Flipp has several other money-saving features:

  • Add Loyalty Cards. Save store loyalty cards to access during checkout to ensure you always earn points.
  • Mobile Coupons. Find and save coupons to your store loyalty cards for easy use at checkout.
  • Find Deals. Search for weekly flyer deals and trending offers on categories like groceries, household essentials, and electronics.
  • Shopping Lists. Create a grocery list or general shopping list. Flipp automatically finds any corresponding deals for the products you add.
  • Price Matching. Since Flipp provides access to thousands of flyers, you can search for specific products and compare prices between retailers. That makes it easy to price-match at checkout if the store allows price matching.

The price-matching feature is what makes Flipp so powerful. It’s difficult to manually track weekly flyers to find the best deals in town. With Flipp, all you have to do is search for specific products and compare flyer prices to see if there’s an opportunity to price-match.

For example, if you find strawberries are cheaper at Walmart but you prefer shopping at a nearby Target superstore, use Flipp to show the Walmart flyer and strawberry price when cashing out at Target. Since Target matches prices with Walmart on identical regularly priced products, you save money. It also lets you shop at your favorite store without worrying about missing deals at a grocery store across town.

Flipp is available for Android and iOS. Popular Flipp retailers include Kroger, Walmart, Meijer, and Family Dollar, but it also works at dozens of other superstores, grocery stores, and drugstores.

It takes some time to look through the app for coupons and price-matching opportunities. But even using Flipp’s weekly ads section to find in-store deals at your favorite grocery store helps you save money without much effort.

9. Coupon Sherpa

If you want a grocery coupon app that keeps things simple, Coupon Sherpa is a perfect choice. This free app lets you access thousands of mobile coupons while on the go, and there are also hundreds of grocery coupons available at any given time.

Coupon Sherpa also lets you search for nearby stores with available coupons or search for store-specific coupons. These features are handy when planning an upcoming grocery trip, and the in-app coupon map highlights local stores with the most couponing opportunities for the day.

Coupons scan at the register from your smartphone, and there are online-only coupon codes as well. Popular grocery stores Coupon Sherpa usually has coupons for include:

  • Aldi
  • Albertsons
  • Food Lion
  • Kroger
  • Meijer
  • Publix
  • Wegmans
  • Whole Foods

You won’t find extra features like weekly sales flyers or cash-back rewards, but that’s not Coupon Sherpa’s strength. Instead, Coupon Sherpa helps experienced and novice couponers quickly access coupons while on the go, ultimately saving time and money.

10. BeFrugal

If you want the best of both worlds when it comes to coupons and cash-back rewards, BeFrugal is a must-use resource for savvy shoppers.

In terms of grocery coupons, BeFrugal partners with Coupons.com to provide a database of printable coupons. You can also access weekly ad flyers to find deals at companies like:

  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • Meijer
  • Shop ‘n Save Food
  • Target
  • Walmart

Admittedly, the coupons and flyer selection on BeFrugal isn’t incredibly comprehensive. However, according to BeFrugal, you can earn up to 40% cash back at more than 5,000 stores, which is what makes this platform stand out.

Earning cash back is also simple. Once you create a free BeFrugal account, you browse the website or Android and iOS app to find brands to shop. When you want to shop at a partner store, BeFrugal redirects you to their website. After you make a purchase, you earn cash back. If you use Rakuten, another popular cash-back rewards website, it’s the same process.

Cash back accumulates in your BeFrugal account once the retailer verifies your purchase, which typically takes around seven days. You withdraw cash back through check, direct deposit, PayPal, or Venmo or choose free gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Kohl’s, Starbucks, and Walmart. There’s no minimum requirement for direct deposit, PayPal, and Venmo. Most electronic gift card rewards start at $5. Cashing out by check requires $25.

Some notable grocery partners include:

  • Instacart
  • Postmates
  • Sam’s Club
  • Target
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart

Instacart and Postmates are notable because online grocery shoppers can also use BeFrugal to earn cash back. Plus, new BeFrugal members get a $10 sign-up bonus if they earn cash back within one year of joining.

If you’re only looking for grocery coupons, other mobile apps are better choices. But for online grocery delivery and other online shopping, BeFrugal is a reliable way to score cash-back rewards and save. At the very least, use the $10 bonus to offset some of the delivery cost.

11. Mealime

One common way to overspend on groceries is to let good food go to waste.

According to a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, the average U.S. family wastes an astonishing 31.9% of the food they buy. That translates to annual U.S. consumer food waste of approximately $240 billion (about $740 per person). And every time you waste food, you waste money, which also offsets any progress you’re making with your grocery savings.

Food waste is either a sign of overspending or a lack of meal planning. If you want to reduce food waste, the first step is to understand what’s in your kitchen and utilize every ingredient.

Thankfully, Mealime helps you stay on track with recipe planning, letting you shop efficiently. With Mealime, you plan weeks of meals in just a few minutes and can choose recipes to fit over 200 different preferences and dietary restrictions. You can also add your own recipes by importing recipes from website URLs, using the Mealime browser extension, or entering ingredients and directions manually.

Once you create a meal plan, a grocery list automatically generates to save even more time. Plus, since Mealime knows how many people you’re cooking for, its grocery lists reduce food waste by making sure you don’t over-shop, saving more money per year.

Mealime is available for Android and iOS. Most features are free, and the $5.99-per-month pro version provides nutritional information and exclusive recipes and lets you view your previous meal plans.

Ultimately, Mealime isn’t as comprehensive as meal-planning services like $5 Dinners that send out weekly hand-picked recipes to suit your tastes. But if you’re confident in the kitchen and want to simplify grocery shopping and avoid wasting food, Mealime is the perfect app.

Even reducing your food waste costs by $10 per month is $120 in annual savings. And you can take comfort knowing you’re being a more socially responsible consumer.

12. SnipSnap

If you currently shop with paper coupons, SnipSnap is the perfect solution to simplify your life and to avoid forgetting coupons at home.

Once you download SnipSnap for Android or iOS, you take pictures of your paper coupons to transform them into digital coupons on your phone. You don’t have to waste time clipping coupons, and SnipSnap can digitize any printed coupon offer you have.

Additionally, SnipSnap has other helpful features:

  • In-Store Reminders. SnipSnap sends a push notification if you enter a store and have eligible coupons you can use.
  • Discover Feature. If you don’t have coupons, the discover tab lets you snip coupons from SnipSnap’s featured coupon catalog. You can also search its database to find store-specific coupons.
  • Expiration Warnings. SnipSnap notifies you when your coupons are close to expiring.
  • Store Success Rating. Check coupon success scores for different retailers to gauge how easy it is to redeem coupons at various retailers.

The in-store reminders feature is handy since it helps ensure you use as many coupons as possible when you shop, saving you more money. Plus, you can find digital coupons to avoid printing coupons, saving you money on ink.

Ultimately, SnipSnap is the modern version of a coupon book.

13. Dosh

One downside of many rebate apps is that you have to preselect products before shopping to earn rewards. That requires time, and if you forget to preselect offers before shopping, you don’t earn a penny.

Thankfully, Dosh takes the traditional rebate model and makes it passive. Once you link the credit and debit cards you shop with to your Dosh account, you automatically earn cash back for shopping at hundreds of Dosh partners. There’s no need to preselect offers or scan receipts since Dosh monitors your spending once you link your cards.

Dosh also works with popular grocery stores, warehouse clubs, and supplement stores like:

  • GNC
  • Instacart
  • Kroger
  • Sam’s Club
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Uber Eats

Additionally, Dosh partners with numerous fast-food chains, clothing stores, and cosmetics companies and adds new partners regularly so you can earn for a variety of purchases.

You withdraw cash back once you reach $25. Redemption options include direct deposit, PayPal Cash, and Venmo. Cash-back rewards vary between brands and are subject to change. But you typically earn an additional 1% to 2% from most partners. Dosh rewards are also stackable with cash-back credit card rewards and coupons.

Exclusively shopping for groceries with Dosh means it will likely take months to reach $25. But if you use linked cards for all your spending, you can reach the $25 redemption minimum more quickly.

Dosh is free for Android and iOS. If you want a humble source of passive income that helps you save money on groceries and everyday purchases, Dosh deserves a spot on your smartphone.

Read our Dosh review for more information.

14. Shopkick

Shopkick is a mix between a rewards app and mystery shopping side gig. With Shopkick, you earn kicks, the in-app point system, by completing various tasks, including:

  • Walking into specific stores
  • Purchasing certain products and uploading a receipt with the Shopkick app
  • Scanning product bar codes
  • Watching videos
  • Shopping online through the Shopkick app
  • Linking your credit card to Shopkick and making purchases at eligible stores

A typical grocery trip with Shopkick might have several opportunities to earn. For example, you earn 15 kicks for walking into a Walmart, 10 kicks for scanning the bar code for Huggies diapers, and 120 kicks for buying a Shopkick offer of Jack Link’s beef jerky.

It takes 250 kicks to get to $1, and you can redeem most rewards at 500 kicks. Shopkick lets you redeem kicks for PayPal cash or free gift cards to retailers like:

  • Amazon
  • Best Buy
  • eBay
  • Nike
  • Sephora
  • Starbucks
  • Target
  • Walmart

Rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51 usually have higher-paying offers than Shopkick. But Shopkick is unique because you can earn rewards without spending money through tasks like walking into stores or scanning bar codes. If you want a versatile and potentially free way to save on groceries, you can stack Shopkick with other rewards apps to earn rewards even faster.


Final Word

The most effective ways to save money on groceries start at home. Creating a family meal plan, reducing food waste, and getting creative with leftovers can help you make the most of what you buy. If you also shop at less expensive grocery stores, like Kroger instead of Whole Foods, you’re also taking steps to cut costs.

But apps that help you save money on groceries are worth using. You also don’t have to download every grocery app that’s out there. Diligently using one rewards app is better than downloading several apps you never open.

Pick one or several grocery apps that catch your eye and take an evening to create accounts for them.

You can also get creative and try other methods to save money at the grocery store and beyond. For example, GetUpside lets you earn cash back on gas and select grocery stores. Similarly, if you order groceries or meal delivery kits online, you can earn cash back by shopping with Rakuten.

Over time, you’ll discover which apps work best for your area and favorite stores and avoid paying full price ever again.

Source: moneycrashers.com

11 Foods That Can Keep for Years

Woman shopping for groceries
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock.com

If you hadn’t previously thought about how you would build up a food supply for an emergency, the coronavirus pandemic probably made you consider it.

What kinds of foods are best to keep in the pantry and freezer in case of a natural disaster, zombie apocalypse or pandemic that drags on for more than a couple of weeks?

Start with the following options. These foods can last for years before going bad.

1. Oats

This prolific cereal grain and staple of many American breakfast tables can last up to 30 years, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Store oats in airtight containers in a cool, dark, dry place. To maximize shelf life, use oxygen absorber packets.

2. White rice

Also known as polished rice, white rice has a shelf life of 25 to 30 years when properly stored. That’s why we included it in “20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling.”

The best temperature for storing this grain is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. The best container is one that is sealed and oxygen-free.

3. Popcorn

Unpopped kernels can last two years, according to the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Best storage is at room temperature.

4. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate lasts up to two years if properly stored, according to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

It should be stored in a tightly sealed containers and at a temperature of 65 to 70 degrees. Keep it in a dry location as well. Do not refrigerate it, because the sugar can rise to the surface and give the chocolate a whitish appearance.

5. Honey

Winnie-the-Pooh’s favorite can remain stable indefinitely, according to the National Honey Board. However, a two-year shelf life is standard.

The trade group explains:

“Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define.”

6. Powdered milk

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper storage guide, powdered milk can last three to five years — but keeps only three months once the package has been opened.

For best storage, keep at cool temperatures in a dark location.

7. Dried beans

Dried beans and lentils have a shelf life of up to 30 years or more when stored properly, according to the Utah State University Extension. However, for best color and flavor, they should be used within 12 months.

The best method of storage is in No. 10 cans or Mylar-type bags with the oxygen removed, and keep the beans at a colder temperature.

8. Certain cheeses

Low-moisture, hard cheese can last from 10 months to several years, reports Dairy Foods Magazine. For example, the typical shelf life for Parmesan is up to five years, and that of aged cheddar is up to 10 years.

The Food Network has a handy how-to on best practices for cheese storage.

9. Canned foods

Generally, commercially canned foods that are canned in liquid should maintain their best quality until their expiration date, which is usually two to five years from the manufacture date, according to the Utah State University Extension.

Note that unopened home-canned foods have a shorter shelf life — one year — and should be used before two years. The USU Extension explains:

“Commercially canned foods are superior to home canned for food storage. Commercial canners can closely control quality and safety to produce the best product.”

When buying canned foods, avoid cans that are:

  • Rusted
  • Dented
  • Scratched
  • Bulging

10. Frozen foods

That succotash that’s been in your freezer for years might not taste amazing, but it’s perfectly safe and likely still nutritious — assuming your freezer has been kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or colder.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foods frozen at that temperature remain safe almost indefinitely, and freezer storage has little to no effect on food nutrient value. Quality is a different matter, but the USDA has a handy storage chart showing how long different frozen foods maintain their quality.

The USDA recommends storing frozen food in packaging that keeps air out.

11. Sugar

How long does the sweet stuff last? Domino Sugar says:

“Sugar, properly stored, has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth.”

However, Domino adds that sugar is best when used within three years of purchase. Powdered sugar is best when used within two years of purchase.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Source: moneytalksnews.com

Ibotta Review – Redeem Offers and Earn Cash Back

Groceries are one of the most significant expenses in many people’s budgets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent over $8,169 ($680.75 per month) on food in 2019, including eating at home and at restaurants.

It’s no wonder that many households search for ways to save on this expense, including using coupons and shopping apps. One such shopping app is Ibotta, which can help you earn cash back on your groceries and other in-store and online purchases as well as eating out at restaurants.

How Ibotta Works

Ibotta is a smartphone app and browser extension that lets you earn cash back on products and services you use every day. It works a bit like clipping coupons, but instead of money off the top, you get rebates on preselected goods you buy during shopping trips, either in-store or online.

It partners with over 300 retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, convenience stores, home improvement centers, pet stores, and pharmacies as well as brands to encourage shoppers to check out their new stuff and reward shoppers for purchases they make every day.

So while apps like Ibotta are typically associated with grocery shopping, you can earn cash back on other purchases as well, including at major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. You can check the full list of supported retailers on Ibotta’s website.

Although Ibotta is currently only available for use in the United States and Puerto Rico, you can use it on military bases worldwide.

Ibotta is reasonably straightforward to use.

1. Find Offers

Before you shop, open your Ibotta app or browser extension and select a retailer. That takes you to a page where you can browse offers for products that store carries.

If you find any offers for products you plan to buy, select the offer, and Ibotta adds it to your grocery list. Sometimes, you must watch a short video or answer a survey question before it adds the offer. For others, you just have to select it.

Many offers overlap with other retailers. For example, if you select an offer for a $1 rebate on apples at Walmart and it’s something supported by Whole Foods or Aldi, the offer will automatically apply to your shopping trips at those stores too. But check the offer details, as the offers don’t always apply to all stores, even if it’s a brand another store carries.

2. Go Shopping

You can buy the products you selected from any supported retailer, bearing in mind that some offers are retailer-exclusive.

Check the offer details and exclusions to ensure you buy the correct product, or you won’t get your cash back. Sometimes, you have to purchase a specific variety of item — for example, Cool Ranch Doritos rather than just any Doritos — to qualify. You may also be required to buy a particular size or quantity. The Ibotta app allows you to scan a product’s bar code in-store before purchasing it to check.

And if you’re shopping online, the Ibotta browser extension works as a pop-up sidebar. The sidebar works differently with each retailer.

For example, if you’re shopping Walmart’s grocery pickup and delivery service, the sidebar takes you directly to the products that qualify for the rebate when you push the Shop button next to each item in the List tab of the sidebar. It also highlights the correct products on the retailer’s website with either a green or pink box. A green box means you already clipped the rebate. A pink box means the product qualifies for a rebate, but you didn’t clip it yet. That makes it incredibly easy to know if you’re buying the right product.

Other retailers, such as Target, aren’t as straightforward. While you can still shop with the handy sidebar, you don’t benefit from the pink and green boxes surrounding qualifying products.

Also, you can only use some rebates once, such as a single container of Yoplait yogurt, no matter how many units you purchase. You can use other rebates multiple times, such as $0.25 cash back on each of up to 10 Yoplait yogurts. Additionally, some rebates require you to buy multiple items or units to qualify for the offer.

3. Redeem

Once you’ve purchased your selected goods, there are several ways you can send Ibotta proof of purchase to qualify for your rebates and get your payout.

Send a Receipt

If you shopped in-store, open your Ibotta app, select the Redeem icon and then select your store. The app then prompts you to either scan the bar code or QR code at the bottom of the receipt or snap a photo of the entire receipt, depending on the retailer’s preference. Ibotta then automatically matches your receipt to your selected offers.

If it doesn’t match a selected offer, you can add it before sending your receipt. Simply select theAdd Offers button that appears after you scan your receipt. Scroll through your list, and tap the one that’s missing. The app might then require you to scan the product’s bar code to prove your purchase. Sometimes, retailers require you to scan item bar codes regardless of whether they’re matched on the receipt. It all depends on the retailer’s preference.

Once everything is correct and all your rebates are accounted for, tap the Send Receipt button. You can expect to see your rebates in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. You must submit all receipts within seven days of purchase to qualify.

Link a Loyalty Account

You can also use your store’s loyalty account to prove your purchases. If a retailer is set up to use loyalty cards with Ibotta, input your card’s membership number directly into the app. Then, when you purchase products that match your selected offers, Ibotta automatically matches them, saving you the step of having to scan or take a picture of your receipt.

Link an Online Account

If you’re using the Ibotta browser extension to shop grocery pickup or delivery services, you need to link your shopping account. That could be different from a loyalty account since not all online grocery services have them. For example, Walmart has no loyalty program, but you still need to register for a Walmart.com account online to use their grocery pickup and delivery service.

For Ibotta to track your rebates, link your store account with the Ibotta browser extension. The process varies by retailer but could include entering the email address and password or phone number you signed up with.

Make Mobile In-App Purchases

In addition to in-store shopping, you can use Ibotta to make online purchases using your smartphone at any of its partner retailers. Simply open your Ibotta app, scroll down to where it says, “Shop by category,” and select “Online shopping.” That takes you to a page listing stores where your purchases can earn you cash back. These include mega-retailers like Amazon, Groupon, Kohl’s, and Bed Bath & Beyond.

The Ibotta app allows only for in-app and app-to-app purchases, so always start in the Ibotta app instead of going directly to a shopping website. If you don’t start from the app, it will have no way to track your purchases.

Although you won’t need to send Ibotta a receipt if you shop through the app, it encourages shoppers to hang onto their receipts until it credits the offer in case something goes wrong during the purchase process.

Activate Cash-Back Offers

If you’re not shopping for groceries, Ibotta’s offers typically include a percentage of cash back on your purchases, just like other popular browser extensions, such as Rakuten, Honey, or Capital One Shopping.

To get credit for your purchase, activate the cash-back offer in the sidebar. Then just shop as usual.

4. Get Cash Back

After you’ve completed your shopping and submitted your proof of purchase, Ibotta deposits cash in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. Once you reach a threshold of $20 in your account, you can opt to cash out. Ibotta sends your funds to your PayPal account, or you can opt to have them sent directly to your bank account. Alternatively, you can purchase a gift card from one of their supported retailers.


Key Features

In-store and online cashback offers are the primary ways to save money with Ibotta. But this shopping platform offers even more features that make it a convenient tool for scoring extra cash.

Product Search

If you’re in-store or have a short list, you can use the search bar in the mobile app to look for an offer on the products you’re there to buy.

Likewise, the browser extension includes a search tab, so you can look to see if there’s an offer on the product you want without having to search through hundreds of irrelevant offers.

If you have a longer list, Ibotta organizes grocery offers by common categories like produce, dairy and eggs, snacks, and meat and seafood, allowing you to zero in on what you need. It also learns your preferences and opens with offers specially selected for you. Or scroll through all the offers to discover everything available.

Non-Grocery Rebates

Ibotta supports a wide variety of online retailers in non-grocery categories like clothing, sporting goods, hardware, entertainment, and travel. Before you do any online shopping, check out Ibotta’s list of retailers and compare their current cash-back offers to those from other online shopping tools you use, such as Rakuten, Honey, or Capital One Shopping.

Customer Support

Ibotta’s customer support features individual teams that can help with specific questions, such as an online shopping team dedicated to answering questions about online shopping. It allows customers to get the right support people quickly and efficiently deal with queries and problems.


Advantages

There’s a lot to like about Ibotta. These advantages make Ibotta one of the most popular cash-back apps.

1. It’s Easy to Check Products Against Offers

If you’re shopping in-store, you can easily use your smartphone to scan the product’s bar code to find out if it matches the offer. And while shopping online can be a bit trickier, if you shop a pickup and delivery service like Walmart, the color-coded boxes surrounding the products with available rebates ensure you buy the correct goods.

2. You Can Score Cash Back for Products You Regularly Purchase

Keep Ibotta in your cash-back arsenal for saving money on regular, everyday purchases. It helps you save on your grocery purchases and supports a wide variety of online shopping. And anything that can help you save money is a plus.

3. Some Offers Aren’t Brand-Specific

Although the vast majority of Ibotta’s rebates are for brand-name products, it offers the occasional “any-brand” offer. With any-brand rebates, you can earn cash back on pantry staples you regularly purchase, such as milk, eggs, bread, cereal, and fresh produce, regardless of the brand. So even if you regularly buy store brands to save money, you can still use Ibotta.

4. You Can Boost Your Savings by Combining Rebates and Coupons

Perhaps one of the best benefits of using Ibotta is that you can stack your savings with coupons. Even if your store has rules against coupon stacking (using multiple coupons on the same product), Ibotta isn’t a coupon, so it gets around these rules.

In addition to earning cash back on your purchases, many Ibotta users have been able to make money by combining Ibotta rebates and coupons. For example, if you want to purchase something that costs $1, and you have a $0.50-off coupon plus an Ibotta rebate for $0.75, you could actually earn $0.25 by buying it.

5. It Partners With Numerous Retailers

Ibotta partners with over 300 different retailers, including physical stores and online retailers. Ibotta’s partner retailers include retail chains, movie theaters, restaurants, pharmacies, pet stores, hardware stores, travel sites, and flower shops. If you’re doing any kind of shopping, whether in-store or online, it’s worth it to check your Ibotta app first to see if the retailer is connected with Ibotta.

Plus, even if Ibotta doesn’t support your preferred retailer, sometimes there are workarounds. For example, if you want to buy groceries at Costco, you can’t currently shop there and get per-item rebates. But if you use Instacart, which partners with both Costco and Ibotta, you can get rebates that way.

Alternatively, if Ibotta doesn’t currently partner with your preferred shop, you can encourage them to join. Ibotta serves both customers and businesses by helping customers save while increasing traffic to businesses by luring customers with rebate offers.

6. You Can Use It for More Than Just Groceries

Although Ibotta’s original purpose was grocery savings, the app is continually expanding to include other kinds of shopping. In addition to groceries, you can use Ibotta to purchase everything from clothing and cosmetics to music and travel.

You can also use it to save at restaurants, including earning cash back on your overall meal, cash back on gift cards, or cash back for certain purchases (like beer, wine, and liquor). And you can even earn cash back on restaurant food delivery and takeout services.

You can find the full range of rebates Ibotta is currently offering on its website.

7. You Get Real Cash

Unlike some rebate apps, such as Capital One Shopping, where you can only redeem the points you earn for gift cards, Ibotta’s cash back is real cash. Although you can use your cash to purchase a gift card from any of Ibotta’s supported retailers, you can also opt to have cash directly deposited into your PayPal or bank account.

8. You Can Earn More Through Teamwork, Bonuses, and Invite Offers

In addition to its typical rebate offers, Ibotta allows you to earn even more by building shopping teams, participating in seasonal bonuses, and taking advantage of invite offers.

Teams

When you create a team with your friends, your collective shopping and selected rebate offers can earn you cash back beyond what you can earn alone. There are a couple of ways you can build a team with Ibotta.

You can build your shopping team by linking your Facebook account to your Ibotta account and adding friends from Facebook. You can also invite new users, called “savers,” to join Ibotta. When they join with your unique referral code, the app automatically adds them to your team.

You can then pool your shopping efforts to qualify for Teamwork bonuses every month. When your team collectively redeems a certain number of offers, all team members receive a cash-back bonus on top of your rebates. And the more offers you redeem, the better the bonuses get. So the bigger your team, the faster you can earn.

Bonuses

Ibotta also runs seasonal bonus opportunities. These allow you to earn additional cash back by buying a certain quantity of specific merchandise. For example, in one opportunity, shoppers who redeemed 10 offers during a two-week period at the start of June were eligible to receive an additional $10 cash back.

Sometimes, bonus events allow you to redeem any offers to qualify, while others require you to buy specific featured products or redeem offers with particular retailers.

Invite Offers

Ibotta also rewards shoppers who invite their friends to join and use the app. If you have a lot of friends, that can add up to significant cash. For example, one month-long invite offer paid shoppers $3 for each referral who downloaded the app and redeemed at least one offer. After their third qualifying referral, referrers were entered into a pool where they had a chance to split $100,000 with other qualifying referrers.


Disadvantages

Although Ibotta is a versatile, easy-to-use shopping platform with tons of fantastic features, there are a few drawbacks.

1. It May Not Have Offers for the Products You Normally Buy

Ibotta adds new rebate offers all the time. But they may not be for products you usually buy. To earn cash-back rebates for your shopping, you must purchase the specific product in the offer. Although the app occasionally offers any-item rebates, these are typically for small amounts, such as $0.25. If you can’t find any offers for the things on your family’s shopping list, Ibotta is unlikely to save you much money.

Also, because the app’s primary purpose is to serve retailers by getting customers to buy new products and brands, it may lead you to buy goods you might not have purchased otherwise. If you do that, Ibotta is more likely to cost you money than help you save it.

2. Some Rebates Are for Specific Product Varieties

I’ve gone to the store on more than one occasion, purchased a product I thought had a rebate, and then uploaded my receipt only to discover I’d bought the wrong variety, flavor, or size. More than once, the app even insisted the product was “wrong” when it appeared to be precisely the item in the offer.

To keep that from happening to you, always check the specific offer details and exclusions to ensure you’re purchasing the right flavor, size, or quantity to qualify for the rebate.

You can also use the app to scan the bar code before you buy. Just open your Ibotta app, click on the selected offer, and verify you have the correct product by using your smartphone’s camera to scan the bar code. It takes some extra time, but it beats finding out you have the wrong product after you’ve already bought it.

3. It Doesn’t Work With Some Retailers

Although Ibotta supports over 300 retailers and adds more all the time, it may not currently support your favorite store. Even if you buy the right product, you won’t qualify for the rebate if you don’t buy it at a supported retailer.

Moreover, some rebates are specific to certain stores, so even if Ibotta supports your store, it may not support a particular rebate at that store. Always check the offer details and exclusions before shopping.

4. It Requires a Time Investment

Just as with couponing, scrolling through Ibotta’s list of offers can take time. You may invest that time and find only one or two offers you can use, and they may be for nominal cash-back amounts. Although Ibotta often has cash-back offers of $1 or more, it’s more common to find rebates worth $0.25 or even $0.10.

So as with any money-saving tool, consider whether the time investment is worth it to you. For example, if you only come across one nominal offer, ask yourself if 30 minutes of your time is worth $0.25, especially since you have to get up to $20 to cash out.

5. Account Maintenance Fees Can Reduce Your Payout

If you actively use Ibotta, you don’t need to worry about account maintenance fees eating into your earnings. But if you go for six months or longer without using the app, Ibotta charges an account maintenance fee of $3.99 per month. It deducts this fee from your rebate earnings until your account reaches zero.

So while you never have to pay Ibotta directly, if you don’t use the app or cash out your balance, you will lose your earnings.


Final Word

Cash-back apps can help put some money back in your pocket, which is why many users love Ibotta. But it may not be as much as you were hoping for if you can’t take advantage of many of the available offers or use the app at your favorite stores.

Fortunately, the app is adding more retailers and more ways to shop every day. Plus, it’s easy to use, especially when it’s connected to a loyalty card. And if you’re someone whose shopping habits fit well with Ibotta’s requirements, there’s little reason not to use it.

Fortunately, Ibotta is only one tool in your larger toolkit for saving money on groceries and online shopping. Buying groceries in bulk, shopping at lower-cost stores, keeping an eye out for sales, and shopping with a detailed meal plan can also help you dramatically reduce your grocery bill.

Source: moneycrashers.com

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account?

I’ll never forget setting up my first bank account as a kid. My mom drove me over to the local bank to set up a savings account where I could deposit cash and checks, including annual birthday gifts from family and any other money I came upon at a young age.

When I was 16, my mom took me to the grocery store branch of a Nationwide bank to get my first checking account. While this “free checking for life,” didn’t quite live up to its name, having a checking account did give me access to a financial system that many Americans don’t have the knowledge or ability to enjoy.

Looking at households that look like the one I grew up in, I figured everyone took checks to the bank to make a deposit. I thought most people would send money to others using a check, or later an online service like Venmo or PayPal. As an adult, I learned that is far from the case.

What’s Ahead:

Who is unbanked and underbanked?

Who is unbanked and underbanked?

Who is unbanked and underbanked?

Being unbanked means an individual or family has no traditional bank accounts at all. Underbanked households have a checking or savings account but also use alternative financial services such as money orders, check cashing, international remittances, payday loans, refund anticipation loans, rent-to-own services, pawnshop loans, or auto title loans, according to the FDIC.

While about 97% of white households have all of their banking needs met, the numbers are not nearly the same for America’s minority populations. 2017 data from the FDIC shows that 3% of white households are unbanked. However, about 17% of black and 14% of Hispanic households don’t have bank accounts. When you expand that to include the underbanked, those who have accounts but lack access to some essential banking services, about 30% of black households and 29% of Hispanic households are missing out.

According to the 2017 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households, the most likely populations to not be fully banked are lower-income households, less-educated households, younger households, black and Hispanic households, working-age disabled households, and households with volatile income.

Why are some households unbanked and underbanked?

According to the FDIC survey, there are several common reasons U.S. households don’t have a bank account.

  • Not enough money: More than half of those who are unbanked say that they don’t have enough money to keep in an account. This is the most common reason to not have a bank account.
  • Don’t trust banks: About 30% of respondents said that they “don’t trust banks.” This is the second most common reason to not have a bank account.
  • Bank fees: The third most common reason to not have a bank account is bank fees. Many people said that fees were either too high or too unpredictable.

While these are common reasons to not have a bank account, the best solution is choosing a bank you can trust that offers low-fee accounts with no minimum balance requirements. When you choose an account with no recurring fees and favorable fee structures for customers, you can rest easy that your money is safe, insured, and won’t be subject to surprise charges.

Some consumers don’t have accounts because they are not conveniently available or they lack financial literacy. If there are no nearby banks, it may not be possible for many Americans to open a bank account even if they do have the time and money to do so. One of the best solutions for this, if internet access is available, is to set up an online bank account through a bank like Chime

Accessing your payroll from work

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Accessing your payroll from work

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Accessing your payroll from work

According to NACHA, the organization responsible for managing the nation’s direct deposit system, 82% of Americans are paid via direct deposit. But if you don’t have a bank account, getting paid via direct deposit isn’t an option.

You also don’t have the ability to deposit your paycheck into your checking account with your phone, a free service that takes less than 30 seconds. Instead, you have to cash your paycheck with a check-cashing service. It could look like this:

  • Cash the check at the issuing bank: Most banks will cash a check drawn on a customer’s account. Some charge a flat fee of a few dollars for this service while others will do it for free. Either way, you have to take a trip to the check writer’s bank, not your own, to do this.
  • Cash the check at a grocery store: Supermarket chains like Walmart and Kroger offer check cashing partially because they hope you will spend your money there. Walmart charges $4 or $8 to cash a check. At Kroger-owned stores, fees start at $3 per check cashed and vary by state.
  • Payday loan or check cashing stores: Fees are often higher at check-cashing or payday loan centers. They often require a flat-fee plus a percentage of the check amount.

I had never tried to cash a payroll check until a few years ago when I participated in FinX from the Center for Financial Services Innovation. I was sent into Hollywood with a payroll check and a list of errands. Before even getting to the errands, I had lost about 7% of my check to fees while spending over a half hour getting the cash. But this is normal without a bank account.

Paying the gas or power bill

When your electricity, gas, or water bill shows up in your mailbox or email inbox, you might have it set to pay automatically with a checking account, credit card, or debit card. But if you don’t have those accounts, you need to pay another way.

Instead of paying for free with a few taps on your phone or clicks on your computer screen, paying utilities without a bank account requires a bit more effort. You might be able to pay at a local office or grocery store, but you can’t always pay with cash and you might have to pay additional processing fees if you go this route.

Other options include mailing a money order, which takes a fee of a few dollars, a stamp, and an envelope or a prepaid debit card, which also requires fees and more time to load the card.

In any case, paying bills without a bank account takes a lot more time and often more money. In many ways, it’s like an added tax for being poor or not knowing about how the banking system works.

Making a purchase where only debit or credit cards are accepted

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Making a purchase where only debit or credit cards are accepted

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Making a purchase where only debit or credit cards are accepted

Debit cards, and often credit cards, are another financial service most people take for granted. You can just take that card anywhere you go and swipe it to pay. In most cases, you won’t pay any extra fees.

But what about businesses that don’t take any cash? If you want to shop online at Amazon, ride in an Uber, or visit a business that doesn’t take cash, you need a plastic card to pay. Without it, you could have to pay more to shop at a local store instead of online or pay more for a traditional cab instead of a ride-hailing service.

The solution here is another one that comes with extra fees and probably sucks up hours of time. Prepaid cards, which you often see at convenience stores and grocery stores, give you many of the features of a debit card. However, you usually have to pay to buy one, pay to load them, and have extra fees depending on how you use the account.

When I tried one out during the FinX experience, I spent about $5 in fees to buy and load a card and it didn’t even work. After a half-hour on the phone waiting and talking to customer service, my team realized the money might be locked up for a day or more.

When you’re already living paycheck-to-paycheck, that could lead to late fees or skipping dinner for your family. Prepaid cards are okay when they work, but they’re still an extra expense low-income people have to pay that those with bank accounts don’t.

Sending money to family or friends

When splitting a cost with family or friends, or sending money for any other reason, people with bank accounts can use free services like Venmo, Square Cash, or Zelle to send funds quickly to anyone else with an account.

If you don’t have a bank account, however, these accounts won’t work as intended. You might still be able to access some features, but you obviously can’t transfer to or from a linked bank account.

Instead, most unbanked and underbanked consumers look to paid services to send funds. That could include mailing a money order or cashier’s check or using a transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram.

Western Union charges based on where you are sending funds. To find out exactly what it would cost, I checked on the cost for transfer within the U.S. where you pay cash in a store. For a $500 transfer, you would pay $15, or 3%. Plus, it takes time to go to the store to drop off the money and set up the transfer. That adds up to a big cost you don’t have to pay when you have a regular bank account.

Borrowing money

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Borrowing money

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Borrowing money

Many people with bank accounts also have other traditional financial products like credit cards, auto loans, and home loans. But qualifying for a traditional loan may not be possible without a bank account.

Those with a good enough credit can use a credit card in a pinch, which often carries an interest rate of around 10% to 29% depending on your credit history. Personal loans and secured loans may offer lower rates in some cases.

When you have poor credit and don’t have access to traditional banking, common sources of funds during challenging financial periods include payday loans, auto title loans, and pawnshop loans.

Payday loans are particularly worrisome, as they often carry triple-digit interest rates. While 16 states and Washington D.C. now cap interest rates at 36% or less, the average annual percentage rate (APR) for these loans is 391%, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. That means borrowers would pay the principal back multiple times over every year if they continually extend the loan.

Saving money for emergencies and long-term goals

If you don’t have enough money to keep a bank account, you probably don’t have enough for long-term savings. But if you are able to scrape the funds together to put something away for a rainy day, where do you keep it if you don’t have a bank account?

While banks offer security and FDIC insurance, cash-based households may keep extra money around the house, in a vehicle, under a mattress, or buried in a can in the backyard. Really!

There are many problems with stashing cash around your home. The money could be lost or stolen. It could be destroyed in a fire, flood, or other accident. And it doesn’t earn any interest.

Rather than save it, however, many low-income families are forced to spend their money on basic needs like groceries and rent.

Here are some options for the unbanked and underbanked

If you don’t have a bank account or the handy mobile banking app that comes along with it, financial services look very different. Basic tasks like cashing a paycheck or paying for your home utilities are a lot harder, and often more expensive.

Many lower-income households look to payday lenders, check cashing businesses, pawnshops, car title lenders, and other sometimes predatory services to meet their money needs. Instead, it would be better to open a traditional checking account at a bank that helps customers succeed with their money.

Without a bank account, basic financial services like money orders and check cashing could easily add up to $500 in annual expenses where those with a bank account can do these things for free.

Here are examples of no-fee and low-fee banks that are ideal for people opening a checking account for the first time or are returning to banking after a period away:

Chime

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Chime

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - ChimeChime is an online-only app that offers an excellent checking account with no minimum balance and no recurring fees. Chime includes a wide range of additional features at no added cost. Depositing a check with your phone, paying bills, and other basic financial tasks are easily handled in the Chime mobile app.

There are no overdraft fees, foreign transaction fees, minimum balance fees, service fees, debit card replacement fees, or fees for online transfers to other banks. You can really use this account for free forever in many cases. That makes it a great choice for anyone with a smartphone that wants to handle their money with a safe and trustworthy account at work, home, or on the go.

Chime Disclosure – Chime is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by, and debit card issued by, The Bancorp Bank or Stride Bank, N.A.; Members FDIC.

Novo

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Bank Novo

What Does Life Look Like Without A Bank Account? - Bank NovoNovo is a great bank for small businesses looking to avoid common business banking fees. Optimized for independent business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, Novo accounts have no hidden fees and make managing your business finances simple.

The account makes most business needs free including ACH transfers, mailed bill payment checks, mobile check deposits, incoming wires, and ATM visits. Novo even automatically refunds other bank’s ATM fees. If you’re looking for a small business bank with very few fees and no minimum balance requirements, Bank Novo is a good choice.

Summary

When you have an account with a high-quality bank, you won’t have to pay any recurring fees and don’t have to worry about minimum balances. You can deposit checks using your phone and send funds to friends and family for free in just a few moments.

Every American should have access to a quality checking account with low fees, but that simply isn’t the case today. By helping more people get access to the U.S. banking system, everyone benefits.

Read more:

Source: moneyunder30.com

Steak Prices Are Rising. 5 Steps to Take to Save

Prices keep rising and rising. Inflation is back with a vengeance. This is especially true at the grocery store, where we keep getting sticker shock at the checkout counter.

Just look at the news headlines:

Beef prices are surging worldwide, Reuters reports.

As food prices continue to rise, beef and pork have surged out front, the Washington Post says.

If you’re a steak lover, you might be out of luck. Just as grilling season kicks into high gear, prices are sky-high.

Overall, inflation rose 5% over the past year — the biggest jump since 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How can you keep up with rising prices? We’ve got some ideas.

1. Get Paid Every Time You Buy Groceries

What’s your favorite cut of steak? Ribeye? T-bone? Filet mignon?

No matter how strategic you are, groceries still account for a good chunk of your budget. Everybody’s got to eat. You may as well earn a little money back while your groceries are being bagged up.

A free app called Fetch Rewards will reward you with gift cards just for buying staples like toilet paper and more than 250 other items at the grocery store.

Here’s how it works: After you’ve downloaded the app, just take a picture of your receipt showing you purchased an item from one of the brands listed in Fetch. For your efforts, you’ll earn gift cards to places like Amazon or Walmart.

You can download the free Fetch Rewards app here to start getting free gift cards.

Over a million people already have, so they must be onto something.

2. Pocket up to 5% Cash Back at the Grocery Store

If you’re not getting rewarded every time you go to the grocery store, you’re missing out on extra money.

Aspiration lets you earn up to 5% cash back on your debit card purchases. For example, right now it gives you 0.5% cash back at Walmart and Target, and 5% cash back at places like Brandless. (For a full list of cash-back percentages, visit Aspiration’s website.)

It takes just five minutes to sign up for a new debit card with the Aspiration Spend and Save account.

Never leave extra money behind at the grocery store again.

3. Shop Groceries Online (or At Least Pantry Items!)

If you have a massive shopping list, grocery shopping can easily become overwhelming. Next thing you know, you’re lugging out hundreds of pounds of groceries — or at least that’s what it feels like.

Make life easier for yourself (and your arms) by buying your pantry and dry goods online — and earn cash bonuses along the way.

A free website called Rakuten has connections with more than 2,500 stores, which means it can give you a cash kickback when you shop at one. When we checked, we found deals at Amazon, Safeway, Sam’s Club, Boxed and Walmart.

It takes less than 60 seconds to create a Rakuten account. All you need is an email address. Plus, if you use Rakuten to earn money back within the first 90 days of signing up, it’ll give you an extra $10.

Now you don’t have to worry about fitting that 36-pack of toilet paper in your trunk or hauling a box of cat litter across the store. Just have someone deliver it to your door and earn cash back along the way!

4. Stop Overpaying for Groceries You Order Online

Do you pick up groceries after shopping online first? Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert any time you’re shopping online and you’re about to overpay?

That’s exactly what this free service does.

Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new pair of shoes, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact pair of shoes is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.*

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

You can get started in just a few clicks to see if you’re overpaying online.

5. Get an Extra $225 to Use Toward Groceries This Month

If we told you that before you head to the grocery store, you could get paid to watch cooking videos on your computer, you’d probably laugh.

No way, right? But we’re serious.

A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. One minute, you might watch a chef teach you how to make fudge brownies, and the next, you might get the latest celebrity gossip.

All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward. Brands pay InboxDollars to get these videos in front of viewers, and it passes a cut to you.

Unlike other sites, InboxDollars pays you in cash — no points or gift cards. It’s possible to earn up to $225 per month watching these videos, which could make a serious dent in your grocery bill.

It takes about one minute to sign up, and you’ll get a $5 bonus to get you started.

The bottom line is, prices at your grocery store are going to keep going up. The price of steak will keep rising.

Like it or not, that includes the price of everything you eat — including steak.

If you start following at least a couple of these tips, you’ll put yourself in a better position to handle rising grocery prices. And keep eating steak.

Any of these strategies will help.

Just pick one to start with.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He likes his steak medium rare.

*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you get the extension using the link provided.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com