Posts Tagged ‘Cash’

$avings Site

I would consider myself a moderate online shopper. Clothing seems to have better deals in stores ($5 clearance sweater dress pushed into the dark corner, anyone?!), but I buy most of my new textbooks over the internet and order a lot of photo gifts and prints.

Ebates.com just cut me a quarterly check. I spent $222.70 through their site, and will receive a $17.50 check in the mail soon. I’ve been a member since 2006, and gotten back $74.29 since then.  It will never be a huge source of income, but is great if it’s something you’re going to buy anyway (symbolic logic text or rain boots, anyone?!).


I’ve gotten credits from stores like Barnes and Noble, the Gap, Overstock.com, Apple, Magazines.com, Fuji Film, and Gardener’s Supply Co. What I like best about the program is that you don’t have to earn points to then cash out — just get $5 cashback, and a paypal transfer or check will be sent on the next payment date.

The only problem with Ebates is that some purchases are occasionally excluded when using coupons. For instance, I used a $15 off any sized order coupon at Kodak Gallery on Black Friday that wasn’t credited; when complaining, I was told that it was invalid because of the coupon (which was, admittedly an excellent good deal already…) . I’ve successfully used 25% off coupons on orders from AE, Staples, Foot Locker, Gap, etc too. The key, of course, is to only buy what you need — if you’re ordering rain boots online anyway, getting 6% cash back is a nice plus.

If you’re interested, and care to sign up through me by clicking here, there is a $5 referral bonus which I would be absolutely willing to accept ;).  The only payment I received was my “big fat check” from Ebates as a result of my savvy shopping — I thought you might enjoy it, too!


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Money Crunch

I decided to buy as many books as possible from fellow students this year.

  1. I like supporting student sales, largely because I sell my own books this way. There are 40,000ish students, so there’s quite a market.
  2. It’s cost conscious. I get a better deal than through the bookstore — and so do they.
  3. Earth friendly — reuse, reuse, reuse, plus no major transportation required.

Major con: kids don’t take Visa. I did not plan ahead for this when coming back — I have exactly $46 in cash and $4 in dimes/nickles/quarters on me right now.  I’ve been going through all of my purses, book bags, piggy banks, anything to try to get two denominations of $35. (I also left my debit card at home due to a string of armed assaults on campus.)

It’s a really funny feeling not having access to the money, an emergency back up plan, or the easy credit of a credit card in this case. Well, hopefully Walgreens does cash back from my credit card tomorrow!

Edit: They don’t.

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Believing in Change

Do you believe in change?

No, no, I’m not talking about politics — I’m talking about picking up coins. Cold, hard cash. Perfectly valid, yet easily forgettable and often left behind.

Picking up coins abandoned on the ground is quick and easy, with an immediate payout. I’m always amazed by how many coins I find on the ground. Like real estate, location matters. Normally, I find about 20 cents during a trip to Walgreens; I remember the high school lunch room having a small fortune on its floor, too. But does it pay off?

Let’s assume it take 5 seconds to pick up a penny, which is a generous amount of time. That means that I can pick up 720 pennies over the course of an hour of time, which equals $7.20 per hour in post-tax dollars, meaning that the entire $7.20 goes to your bank account without giving any to Uncle Sam (legally, of course.)

That’s not bad, especially when you consider the increased earnings when picking up a nickle (5x more), dime (10x more), or quarter (25x more). [While I do make more per hour when working, I haven’t found a way to earn more income while walking home from Walgreens!]

Further experimental evidence comes from my family. We kept a jar on the counter to which the entire family contributed the money they had found at work, during school, or while running errands — everyday activities that were going to be done anyway . When the jar was full (and really heavy!), it was taken to the local bank to be counted. Over the course of about five years, my mom, dad, sister and I managed to collect over $70 in found money! [To put that in perspective, I just bought a wool coat for $73 dollars (64% discount!)]

All in all, I always try to pick up pennies. Importantly excluding, of course, situations where coin is incredibly dirty, or would create an awkward situations. One dime may be easy to overlook, but when accumulating those spare coins become $70 — sweet!

If you’d like to digitally pick up some pennies, learn more about one of my favorite programs, YouData!

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What’s the best way to save money?

Don’t spend.

If anything, personal finance has made me more aware of what and why I buy. It really strikes me how much little purchases add up, both on my credit card and in my closet.

In my opinion, the distinction between something being a good deal versus being cheap is key. For a good deal, the item is useful, either for a need or bringing happiness worth the price, which called “utility” in the world of economics.

Why is not spending one of  the best form of savings? In the words of the great Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Importantly, each dollar spent is post-tax money.

How do taxes tie in here? For each dollar earned through work, taxes eat anywhere from roughly 15 to 40%. If you avoid wasting $10 through careless spending, you get to keep 100% of the $10; if you work for an hour at $10/hour, you will profit approximately $7.50 (give or take, based on many variables such as overall income and location) Ouch!

Additionally, if a purchase is made on a credit card, interest rates are killer if you carry a balance. A buyer can end up paying over $20 for a $10 item if they carry debt, which is very stressful, in addition to expensive!

I must admit, shopping is one of my favorite forms of recreation, and I do just like having stuff.  I have been trying to tailor my purchases — some things, like more collared shirts for work, are useful since looking professional is important.

It feels surprisingly good to not-spend, however. Multi-utensil camping tool for this city girl? Pretty cool, but I think I’ll pass. :)

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YouData Makes Cents

Would you like to get paid to view advertising on your own terms?

YouData does just that!

The concept behind YouData is that advertisers offer to pay you for viewing an advertisement and visiting their site. I am usually pretty interested in the links (things like shoe retailer Piperlime), which are targeted based on your profile, and have fun viewing the products.

All you have to do to earn money through YouData is click-through; unlike cheesy survey sites, there’s no doubt whether or not you will qualify. If you qualify, you can get paid — payments are disbursed weekly, regardless of how much money you have made.

One great thing about YouData is that very little personal information is required — it’s  basically just email, PayPal information for payment, and phone number (one text is sent to confirm your account, and enforce a limit of one account per person).

This isn’t a great way to get rich, but it’s a quick way to digitally pick up some pennies! :)

This is not a sponsored post — I just think it’s a cool company. I get a small bonus if you sign up through the links I have provided (which would, incidentally, be really nice).

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… for AT.

If he reads my list, it won’t come as a surprise — finance student that I am, most of my ideas for him to improve his money management are mentioned on a semi-daily basis. Don’t get me wrong — AT is a very smart and hardworking guy. His  school pays for the bulk of his educational expenses, and he makes a solid income working when not in school, at a job that will be very beneficial to his career.

The fact that he is a smart cookie makes it even more ridiculous that he lacks financial common sense; if anything drives me crazy, though, it’s his attitude towards money. For example,

Me: You’re ordering a third pair of speakers?

AT: Yep. Can I have them shipped to your house?

Me: Why on earth would you need a third pair? Now you have three!

AT: You’ll see when they come how much better they are!

In all fairness, he let me have pair #1 when buying the second set, which was a huge improvement over using the speakers built into my slowly-dying laptop. But then again, we have this conversation with a lot of purchases, especially things including “xbox” in the title and miscellaneous unnecessary purchases.

My suggestions for him in 2010:

  1. Make a maximum contribution to a Roth IRA. AT makes plenty of money to take care of living costs as a student and has enough left over to invest, yet is still in a very low tax bracket. There is no better time to start investing in a Roth IRA, since earnings can be withdrawn tax-free starting when he is 59.5 years old.
  2. Read. Go to the library and pick a financial advice and planning book. While he certainly isn’t planning to go into financial services, being a well educated consumer is wise. (I wonder if he’d appreciate a subscription to Money magazine for Valentines’ Day?)  AT would probably make better financial decisions if he learned about inflation, the big bite taxes take out of his income, and how much hidden costs like car insurance cost. AT always consults his dad before making financial decisions — good policy, but I’m afraid that it’s often to avoid making his own move and seeing reality.
  3. Save. I’m not too picky about how this is done as long as it does indeed get done. One of his current accounts  is at a credit union with a fairly high rate of interest, but hasn’t grown much since the initial deposit. Transferring money out of a checking account is smart — if you don’t see it, you don’t find ways to spend it. For his chosen field, he’ll spend 7 years in a grad program where he receives a stipend, then have a fairly low income for a few more years — making good decisions now could make his budget during those years go a lot more smoothly.
  4. Open a credit card. Credit cards are not inherently evil when used properly — amassing debt is the actual problem, at which point credit card companies wring money out of the users. AT’s a man who should be able to understand how much money he has — or doesn’t have — to spend, and he should probably start building a credit history. Earning reward points for purchases is an added bonus. One idea might be that he gets a card like my Citi Forward (5x points on books and entertainment), but only uses it for items like textbooks that he really needs.
  5. Keep track of the cost of entertainment. I think he’d be amazed to see how quickly each video game, meal out, and iTunes download adds up. Ideally, some conservative changes would be made — selling the used video games on eBay, putting CDs on hold at the library, trying to make more meals himself — but I’m not holding my breathe on this one.
  6. Take advantage of good deals. I’m always encouraging AT to shop through Ebates, get an opening bonus on an account, etc., but he rarely follows through. I’ve made a surprisingly large amount of money when small actions are taken into consideration, and he can do the same.

I’m not trying to create radical change, but instead try to promote a more realistic attitude towards AT’s (and my, by proxy!) financial future. Do you think I am being reasonable?

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That’s something my mom and I often debate when I tell her that I’ve started ____ to save or earn money.

To test this, my trusty 2009 Excel spreadsheets showed —

Money earned —

  • $126 from selling 4 items through Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, and Half.com.
    I sold some software I never used, an XBOX 360 video game and college football tickets that I won, and a book that I purchased for a sociology class. I have a few more books listed that will hopefully be bought at the beginning of next semester. While the money earned is nice, I think this is mainly just a good way to get rid of stuff that has little value to me.
  • $100 opening bonus on my Citi Forward card. (I think I’ve spend under $400 on the card, total, ever. All of which is paid off monthly, of course.)
  • $60 in Amazon.com gift cards from Swagbucks.
  • $53 dollars in photo contest prizes.
    Much credit goes to the model (my parents’ yorkshire terrier), although I did spend a couple of hours preparing the entry..
  • $10 in Amazon.com gift cards from a post-purchase survey about rain boots I bought.

(I think all of this money-stuff was done from July–now.)

Works in Progress —

  • 1259 1289 MyCokeRewards (mycokerewards.com) points that I should really spend. I want to figure out which prize has the highest value to points ratio, first, though.
    Diet coke is my favorite — while soda is a waste of money, I figure that I might as well get as many rewards as possible out of it. (The points in my account have been accumulating for a couple years, with a lot of  help from AT who is also quite the diet coke drinker. I’ve also been known to take the 2L caps home to enter the codes after a party, too…)
  • ~3500 points on mypoints (enough for a $25 gift certificate, although I may wait until I have enough points for a $50 gift cert since the points-per-dollar ratio is lower. The lowest points per dollar giftcard is $50 to Macy’s, but their items have higher prices to begin with than other retailers so it may not be the best deal.)
  • 1200 frequent flyer miles on United. I just spent 1600 frequent flyer miles on two magazines.  The magazines probably aren’t a great deal  miles per cent wise, but I don’t plan on flying much anytime soon, and miles are notoriously difficult to use. Also, most of my trips are for business purposes and are free (to me, at least!)


  • $441.23 $449.47 total, assuming nothing gets rejected. Remember to always keep photocopies of your slips, forms, UPCs just in case a problem arises.

While no where close to a full-time income, this isn’t too bad for here-and-there activities!

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