I am so glad you have stumbled upon my blog...whether that be recently or long, long ago! Before we get started with the guide, I wanted to give you a break down of the set up of my blog.
I have appreciated all the questions from all my readers since I started my blog, and although I love emailing you back individually....I thought this would be more beneficial to everyone...including myself!
As always, leave a comment or suggestion for myself and all the readers. If you have a better way of doing it...let us know! I am always looking for ways to improve.
In addition, as you read this guide, please note that I link back to original posts I have done in the past. Often times, offers or bonuses for new customers may have expired. Always read the terms and conditions if you link to an outside provider to see if the offer is still available.
If you haven't been able to tell, I am all about spending the least amount of time to generate the maximum benefit financially for my and your family. So, organization is one of the key factors in this.
And, with that, let's get started....
1. Planners - I recommend an actual planner plus a digital planner PLUS your cell phone calendar. Why? Well, I used to do everything digitally, and then one day...well, let's just say, my computer malfunctioned and I lost everything!
This could be a major setback if you are doing online offers and have to cancel on a certain day, have the phone numbers listed, etc. What would you do? SO, I keep everything on my computer, BUT I also log everything on my planner and my cell phone, too.
The other benefit? I can throw my planner in the car with me. If I am waiting in line to pick my daughter up from preschool, per say, I can open my planner, look what I need to that day ( the phone number will be listed ) and can call and take care of business.
The other benefit of having it digital, too? What if I lose my actual planner somewhere? Luckily, I can go home and pull all the info off my computer. It is just smart to have a back up!
2. CVS Card/Grocery Store Card, etc - If you don't already have these items, you need to drive to your local stores and register for your free cards. These cards will save you a lot of money, and you can not begin getting in on the deals until you have them.
3. Local Paper - Time to subscribe to your Sunday paper. Click here to read my article on making sure you get the best price on your paper. If you want more than one set of coupons, you can always subscribe to 2 papers.
Some have mentioned their paper gives them a discount on the 2nd paper. You could check with yours to find out. In addition, although you may be able to get the paper from the gas station/grocery store/newsstand on Sunday for a little cheaper, from my experience, it is not worth it. Many times, these papers do not have all the ad inserts, and you need every single one of them to take full advantage of sales and coupon matching.
In addition, All You magazine is a great resource for coupons. Click here to read my original write up on this magazine.
4. Tracking mechanism - I prefer Excel. But, I also used it for years in my old job. So, I am a spreadsheet junkie. If you prefer a different method, that is fine. But, you need to decide today how you are going to track everything and set it up.
If it is excel, set your worksheets up, add columns, etc. You can always edit as you go along. If you are a hard copy type of person, make sure to go buy a notebook and decide now how you are going to organize it. By month, by week? Whatever works for you. But, have it ready now. You will use this to mark down when you earn or save something. Or, what you spend in order to get money. That way you know your true profit.
You NEED to know what is working for you, so you can continue doing things that benefit you, but cease if things aren't working.
5. Envelopes/Baggies - Get your hands on these and label them now. If you haven't been doing this already, start with the current month and label one for the month. Then, stick it in your purse, glove box, somewhere that it will be with you every time you go to a store.
Now, EVERY TIME you buy ANYTHING, get your receipt and immediately put it in the envelope. This not only keeps them all together for future use, but also keeps them in date order. If you ever stumble upon a rebate a month from now, you can go find the receipt and make money. Or, if you ever sign up for an offer and it gives refunds for purchases, you can go grab your receipt. OR...this happens alot, if a price goes down, you can get the lower price. Click here to read how I do this.
Remember, most stores allow returns for 3 months, so I always keep 3 months worth of receipt envelopes on me at all times in case I need them. After that, they get filed in my cabinet at home, just in case. Read my post on the $1,000 we got back almost a year later, thanks to keeping our receipt.
6. Coupon Filers - You need to go buy these, if you don't have them. Everyone organizes their coupons differently, but you need something. So, decide what you need and go get it. I have a coupon file for all my grocery store coupons. Then, I ALSO have a coupon filer ( a large one...probably could fit file folders in it ) for all my restaurant, oil change, hair salon, etc coupons. I alphabetize those.
I keep them both in the car at all times ( Luckily, I have the hidden stow compartment in the mini van ). When, I get new coupons, I go to the van, bring the files in...file my coupons, then take it back out immediately and put it away in the van. This is important, because you never know when you are going to be running around and all of a sudden you are picking up something you KNOW you had a coupon for at home. Or, a friend asks you to meet them for lunch when you are already out. You don't want to be caught without your restaurant coupons.
AND, I keep every restaurant coupon, etc and file them. Even, if I think I will never go there. You just NEVER know!
7. File Cabinet/File Folders - If you don't have one, get an old box...something...anything! As soon as mail comes in, offers, check stubs, invoices, bills, etc begin rolling in, you need to do what you do with them ( pay them, log them/track them, cancel them...whatever ) and then file them in a file folder in your file cabinet/box.
I can guarantee, you will need to be able to go back and find information on some of this paperwork at some time during the year. And, if you can get to it in a matter or seconds, then you are more likely to follow thru with whatever you need to do to get the savings or make money.
If you don't know where something is, you might just give up. And, that is money lost!
OK, you are now geared up with your essential tools. Today, we need to make sure our family bills are in order before we dive into actually doing surveys, mystery shopping, online offers, etc, etc.
Why? Because, once again, we want to be ORGANIZED. And, I can guarantee, once you get into all the other money making methods out there, organizing your original bills will keep getting pushed to the back burner.
So, for the next step, here is what you need to do:
2. Look at your cable and satellite bill - Click here to read my post on lowering this cost.
3. Look over your energy bill - Log onto their website or call them to see if they have any programs to reduce the cost. Click here to read my recent article on saving on your energy bill.
4. Look at your insurance bills - Click here to read how I saved on my bills. ( this one can be time consuming, especially if you call around to MANY different provider ). So, if you can't actually do it today, you need to pencil a day in NOW to sit down and do it.
5. Look at your Newspaper bills - Click here to read how to make sure you are getting the lowest price.
6. Look at your Garbage bills - Click here to read how to potentially save in this area.
Do you have other bills from service providers that may be lowered?
I am still under contract with my cell phone company, but as soon as my contract is up I am going to try and get it lowered by following the same guidelines I did for my home phone. If you aren't under contract, you may want to try and see what happens.
To give you some incentive today, here is why it is essential you do this!
You will probably get the most bang for the buck from this section. Meaning, for the time you invest, you will get the most impact to your family.Here is a quick summary of how calling my companies impacted my household.
$480 Savings for the year - Telephone/Internet - 30 minutes approx. of my time
$312 Savings for the year - Cable/Satelite - 15 minutes of my time
$25 Today ( thanks to sign up bonus ) & ??? on how much for the year - Electric - 5 minutes
$200 Savings for the year - Insurance - 30 minutes of my time
$51 Savings for the year - Newspaper - 10 minutes of my time
Savings for the family next year - Garbage - 5 minutes
So, for approx. 1 1/2 hour of my time on the phone, I saved my family over $1,068 over the next year!!!
And, that savings should go even higher, as I see the impact to my electricity bill once the new Power Manager kicks in starting with May.
Remember to track everything. I always write the persons name or ID number down that I talk to, the day and time. And, of course, any information they gave me. And, make sure you read my original posts, too, so you know how to go about getting the most out of your providers.
So, we have tackled gearing up....getting your bills in order...so what is the next step?
It is time to take a good look at your finances!
OK..I am not going to tell you what to invest in or anything like that. Although, I have mentioned before, you should take a look at this aspect of your life and ensure you are socking away the appropriate amount. I have always believed in the motto, " pay yourself first ". My parents drilled this into my head from the time I was a small child. So, we sock away the appropriate percentage of our income and then live off the rest.
AND, some of that rest actually gets invested for the kids college, weddings and the 3 homes I want to own someday. ( yes, my retirement dream is to have a home by each of the kids...no matter where they move someday....and we spend 1/3 of the year near each of them ). Crazy, I know. But, we all have dreams! And, if they all live near each other, well, hey, we should have enough for a pretty fancy 2nd home down South somewhere. :-)
OK...so now that I have rattled on, what am I telling you to do? I am telling you to tackle the smaller financial items!
What credit cards do you currently have? Are you getting the maximum money back out of them?
Although I really only have two items for today, they are both important. You can read my article on high interest checking/savings accounts here, how long it took me to switch, why I decided to keep my brick and mortar bank for minimal amounts, and the ease of using these banks. Do NOT let them intimidate you!
If you are online reading this right now, you have the capability of banking online.
I chose Salem First, but I actually have a friend with ING Direct, who absolutely loves her bank. She is actually the one who finally convinced me I was crazy not taking advantage of this extra income. Thanks Lili!
How much have I earned so far this year on just my checking? $298 ( as of June )!
That is just for having a checking account, which I had before, too. Do you have a checking account? I am sure you do. Then, it is time to sit down and open a new one!!
Now, on to credit cards. If you choose not to have any, then don't even worry about this part of the post. But, if you do have credit card, you better figure out if you are getting the maximum benefit.
Here are my top picks:
( Email me for specific card name ) - 6% back on Gas, Groceries, and Drugstore
( Email me for specific card name ) - 6% back on utilities, internet/phone, garbage, etc
Chase Freedom(SM) Credit Card - 3% on your top 3 categories ( so I only use it for 3 categories that aren't covered by the 2 cards above )
Read here on how I manage my credit cards. How I keep from using them for anything BUT what their top categories are ( and keep my husband in line, too ) and once again...THANKS LILI for the helpful hints on this!
If you want an example? Yesterday I got my Credit Card statement. The only 3 items on the bill were my home phone/internet, my cell phone and my garbage bill. And, for paying those three things ( which were going to be paid anyway ) I made $7!
Plus, I got actually keep my money in my high interest checking account a month longer before having to pay the bill. :-) Bonus!
And, well, Citi Drivers Edge is a whole different story. With gas at sky rocket prices, and the little bit I spend on groceries, I earn quite a bit on this card.
In total, as of today, I have earned $524 ( as of June ) back on my credit cards. And, I haven't paid any finance charges ( of course ) and keep my spending the same as it would be with cash!
If I keep this pace up, my credit cards will have paid me approx. $1,000 by the end of the year.
If interested in any of those cards, click here to go to credit card search engine and find the appropriate card.
Scroll to the bottom, and click on the link for the appropriate credit card sponsor, and it will take you to what is available. You can then find the 3 cards listed above.AND...look around, there may be others that work better for you.
The goal is to look at your current spending categories and see what pays you the most for those.
Hope all this info helps...and I can't wait for you to start earning all this free money, too! After the original set up, the $ just comes each month on it's own!
Signing Up for your Tools
So, where do we go from here?
Well, it is time to start signing up for basic online tools we need and getting the easy things out of the way. This post is going to sound like an advertisement board for all these companies, but rest assured...I use them all. And, I benefit from them. They all play a part in the Savings and Earning number you see in the top left hand corner!
1. Roboform - This tool will autofill your information when you are filling out online forms. So, this is a necessity if you plan to sign up for freebies, survey sites, mystery shopping, etc, etc.
2. Blingo - This is a search engine powered by Google. You will usually see me reference it alot, because it is free and you can use it in place of Google or Yahoo, etc. But, it gives you a chance to win when you actually do a search on the web. Once you sign up, it is important to save it as your homepage so you begin using it.
3. Swagbucks - This is the 2nd search engine I use. It is similar to Blingo, BUT you randomly get awarded Swagbucks, which you can then redeem for gifts/giftcards. I use this company 1st, because I usually win at least once a day. Once I win my swagbuck for the day, I switch to My Search Bonus, then last I use Blingo.
4. My Search Bonus - My 3rd search engine. You get awarded 1 point ( equals to about 1 cent ) for each search....EVERY time. With all of these search engines, I have saved all three as my home page and home page alternatives. Meaning, there are 3 tabs across the top of my Internet Explorer page that I can toggle between.
5. Mozy - This is a free system back up program. They will save your information in the background so that if your computer ever crashes, you can retreive your data. Although I only give you a small amount free, you do get extra space for everyone you refer. It is a great program...and I am looking for more of these. So, shoot me an email if you know of any other free backups.
6. The Grocery Game ( please use referral email@example.com ) for a 30 day $1 trial - or use another coupon organization site you like. The importance here is that time is money, and the less time you need to spend organizing, matching up coupons to sales, etc, the better.
I sit down once a week and print all my lists. Then, I take them, and while watching TV in the evening, pull the coupons I need. It takes no brain power of my own to figure and match everything. :-) Which is a good thing, because I'm not sure how much brain power I have left!
7. eBay - sign up and activate your account, if you don't already have one. This is going to be a great means for you to sell certain things around the house, coupons, etc.
8. Obopay - sign up for your free account. Although the $10 sign up bonus is gone, this is a great payment method to have on hand if you sell on eBay or Craigslist.org. They charge no fees to accept credit cards or payments and you get $5 for each person who agrees to sign up and makes a payment to you. It is a great way to make a little extra on your eBay or Craigslist sales.
9. Revolution Money Exchange - this is another great free account. This is another paypal competitor that is currently not charging any fees for payments. They do not accept credit cards, yet, but hopefully soon. In addition, they pay $10 for each referral. So, I usually offer this payment method for my eBay and Craigslist sales, too.
10. Big Crumbs - You also need to sign up for your online shopping sites. Big Crumbs gives you a percentage back of all purchases you make, including eBay items. This is a great deal.
They cut you a check monthly, no matter how small it is. And, even for in store purchases, I will check online shopping sites first. Some stores will let you buy online and pick up in the store, and then you get the benefit of an extra percentage back.
11. Ebates - This is another online shopping site. They give you $5 when you sign up and make a purchase. So, it is actually in your best interest to take advantage of the free money and find something small to buy. I will often times post offers on my blog where you can buy thru their site and qualify for this free $5 on great deals.
12. Upromise - Another online shopping site plus MORE! You will want to immediately register. So, the same story as Ebates. But, they also sell gift cards. Great way to get discounted gift cards. But, you will also want to register your grocery store cards, your CVS cards, your credit cards etc. You get a percentage back of some purchased items, which will help your account accumulate faster.
13. Mr. Rebates - Yes, yet another online shopping option. Make sure to check them out before you buy anything online and compare with the above sites. This site also give $5 free for new customers.
14. CPA Storm - Are you a blogger? If so, you will want to tap into these sites as well. CPA Storm is a great affiliate program. You get paid for your own ads, but you also get 5% of anyone you refer as an affiliate
15. Commission Junction - This is another site for Bloggers. It is a large and well known affiliate program. Although they do not have a referral program, it is well worth signing up to just get the benefit of your own advertisments posted on your site.
16. Logical Media - This site is similar to CPA Storm. It has great lead advertising campaigns. Bonus...they are giving $25 free to new affiliate sign ups.
17. Linkshare - This is a larger affiliate program with a large list of advertisers.
18. Brring - Alternate phone number that links to your home. Use this number for all companies you sign up for online and you get paid when you give your number out to family/friends, set up profiles, etc.
19. Wellness 360 ( please enter my code as your referral ahm801841 ) - Earn points everytime you log on do anything on the site. Points can be redeemed for money. It is a health and wellness site, I log into this site to look up articles when we are sick, etc.
20. Leverage Card - Log any gift cards you have on this site. You earn interest on the gift card balances and are able to track, store the number, etc.
21. Sell Your Cell - sign up for an account, and as you get new cordless phones, turn your old one in for money.
22. Freeflys - Set up your account and you have access to a full list of free samples.
I am sure I will have more to add to this list in the future, but for now...these are the main companies I personally use.
If you have other great sites that help you save and earn money, please comment. I am always looking for new and exciting ways to save and earn AND make my life easier!
Setting Up a Schedule
Now that we seem to have tackled all the difficult stuff...getting prepared, lowering our home bills, etc, it is time to get into a weekly routine of earning and saving money.
They say it normally takes 21 days to form a habit, so if you can put a plan together, stick with it for 3 weeks, you should find it easier and more natural to find ways to earn and save!
So, to begin...you need to make a list. First, I sat down and wrote out all the things I needed to do WEEKLY to continuously see benefit.
My top picks were:
- Reading Valuable Blogs
Obviously, your list might be a little different. And, that is fine. But, the goal here is to figure out what you enjoy that saves and makes you money and begin doing it regularly.
When I had my list compiled, I then set a separate email up for each of them. Why? Because it makes it easier for me to log in and tackle that days activities when I don't get sidetracked reading other emails.
Once you have your list, you need to figure out how much time you have to devote daily.
So, for me, I know I have, at best, 2 hours a day to devote to these items. This is when my two youngest nap, so I can tackle these items.
How much time do you have free during the day ( you still need to make sure you have enough time for cleaning, cooking, hobbies, kids, etc ) to "work", as I like to call it? Once you have a set amount of time, you can begin your schedule.
My week looks like this!
- Daily - Mystery Shopping Applications & Read my top 5 Blogs
- Monday - Freebies, Check ALL my favorite blogs, pull my grocery game lists and pull coupons
- Tuesday - Online Offers, Evening Grocery Shopping
- Wednesday - eBay
- Thursday - Surveys. Thursday Mornings while my daughter is in preschool, I do my Target, Walgreens and CVS shopping
- Friday - Free Day ( catch up on paperwork, etc )
- Saturday - Family Day
- Sunday - Family Day ( except I cut my new coupons in the evening )
So, decide what activities you want to take part in and put your schedule together. Obviously, if you have more time than me, you can fit more in. But, the importance when doing this is to treat it like a job. If you want to make and save money, you need to be committed and you need to be efficient. You need a schedule.
But, with that mentioned, I also want to bring up the point of flexibility. I love being a stay at home mom and running with my kids. Whether that be a play date, museums, Kings Island ( woo, hoo...they open this weekend ) or the pool. My main job is being a Mommy right now.
So, go with the flow, as they say. For example, Thursday I am meeting some other Mommy's and we are taking the kids to a park. Did I even give it a second thought since that is my shopping day? Nope...I am going to the park! Shopping will be there next week, and the week after and the week after that, too! :-) Spending time with my kids will be gone before I know it!
What is in a Day?
Now that you have set up your weekly schedule, it is time to set up your daily schedule.
So, we will just use mine as an example. Of course, you may have your days arranged differently than me, OR decide to do different money makers than me...but this will still give you a foundation of how to get motivated, organized and stay on track.
It is now time to get that handy planner out. Or, log into your online planner. Or...well, whatever means you have decided on to organize.
Monday, as mentioned before, is my Freebie Day, Grocery List Day and Read all the Blogs Day. :-)
So, when I first started this ( as I mentioned 21 days to form a habit ), I used to write it all out. But, now, I just know what and when and I only pencil in odd items ( Dr Appts, Playdates, etc )
Early Morning, usually 8:00 AM - 9:30 AM
- Breakfast for me/kids & Clean Up
- Make Beds
- Showers/Get everyone Dressed
Morning, usually until 11:30 AM
- Get us out the door for daily activity or an activity w/kids at home. Will try to get excercise in during this time, if we are actually at home.
Noon, usually 11:30 AM until 1:30 PM
Afternoon, usually 2:00 - 4:30 PM
- Go to my favorite Freebie Sites and sign up for all the Freebies from the last week. Use Roboform.
- Go through my list of Blogs and read what was posted over the last week. Take action on any deals, make notes, etc.
- Pull and Print my Grocery Game lists that are available
- Go thru the mail and call, file or pitch what I need to
- Extra time, try to clean a room ( I work room by room in the house ). Will pick up the next day if I don't finish or get started.
- Pick my Eldest from the Bus/Get Youngest 2 up from naps
Early Evening, usually 4:30 - 8:00 PM
- Snack time w/kids
- Go over school work
- Start and make dinner
- Clean up dinner
- Spend family time with hubby & kids
- Get all 3 kids ready for bed
Late Evening, usually 8:00 - 11:00 PM
- Pull the last of my Grocery Game lists
- Read my Top 5 Blogs
- Pull coupons to match my lists while watching TV w/hubby
- Get online to update this blog! :-)
- Read ( more than likely ). I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to read. And, I spend at least an hour or two a day reading...usually late at night!
OK, so you have seen what my Monday looks like. Now, it is time to sit down and map our your Monday thru Sunday.
Remember, this is just a guideline. Things rarely fall exactly into place...but at least this is a type of map of my day, and it does cause me to stay on track when I can.
My Weekly Recommendations
Since you have seen my schedule for each day, here are some helpful links for each of my days.
Mystery Shopping ( Daily )
- Click here to sign up for mystery shops. I recommend at least 2 to 3 a day...
- Check your Mystery Shopping email account every day to apply for any shops you are interested in.
Online Offers ( 1 day a week )
- Apply for online offers. I usually have 2 going at a time, from two different parent companies.
- Each week, on your designated day, log into check progress, complete any paperwork you need to do, email or call customer support, etc.
- On weeks where there is not much to do with Online Offers, I click into each seperate email account for Inbox Dollars, My Points ( email me for an invite ) and Send Earnings to read emails during my time, so I can earn points/money.
Surveys ( 1 day a week or more )
- When first starting out, take this day to sign up for all your survey sites using your survey site email address. Here is a list with links to my favorite Survey Sites.
Want more? Click here.
- Then, once a week log into your survey email address and fill out as many surveys as you can. I sort by sender, so all the surveys from one company are together. Then I log into their site ONCE, and complete all the surveys still active. It is faster this way. Afterward, I toggle back to my email and delete all the emails from that survey company
Freebies ( 1 day a week )
- Pick you favorite freebie site. Mine is Freebies 4 Mom. Then, log in at least once a week and fill out applications using Roboform for any freebies you want.
eBay/Craigslist ( 1 day a week )
- Designate 1 day a week to posting all item on eBay or Craigslist. I run my auctions for a week, so this is also the day I send invoices, package items to ship, etc.
- Not sure what to sell? You probably constantly have things you can get rid of around the hosue...I do. Or, if you do online offers, you often times end up with products or trial sizes of items you may not need.
Coupons ( 1 day a week )
- Cut your coupons, file them
- Print your Grocery Game ( please use referral firstname.lastname@example.org ) list and pull coupons that link to your list
- At the end of each month, clean out all expired coupons
Shopping ( 1 day a week )
- Hit your grocery stores & your drugstores. Read here for Walgreens and CVS information.
- Find your favorite store ( mine is Target ) and hit is once a week quickly, checking all the clearance racks. Don't forget the list you made at the beginning of the year of everyone you need to buy for throughout the year and mark them off as you find gifts for them at clearance prices
You are now caught up, read my blog daily as I update you on deals and money makers I find, and follow along with me to make even more extra money!
Also, take a stroll down the right side bar of my blog. There I will keep updated lists of other money makers and freebies. Don't forget to check out and sign up for all the Birthday Freebies I have listed.
On the left side bar, I will have Weekly Must Clicks. These will be links to sites ( if available ) to posts I wrote about the current week. So, if you read something and didn't sign up initially and don't feel like scrolling thru my posts until you find the link, it may be posted under the Weekly Must Clicks for your convenience.
And, as always, you can click on the box under 2008 Savings and Earnings and click on the topic you want to read about. It will take you to the FIRST article I ever wrote about the subject. Looking for another article on the topic? Don't fret. I am in the process up updating and linking all my posts, so in the future, when you click on that topic...it will bring you all related articles.
Meanwhile, you can instead do a search on the topic in the new search tool I added to my site.
Further questions? Email me!
And, PLEASE posts comments here to keep me updated on the money you are earning and saving, too! I love to know I am helping others!