• Check out Chief Family Officer's Christmas Pinterest board for delicious recipes, fun crafts, and more!
  • Recently read and enjoyed: The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin
  • Enter for a chance to win another Starbucks gift card!

  • Ways to Make & Save Money #14: Pinecone Research


    This post was updated on 11/15/16.

    Pinecone Research is my favorite survey company, because they pay $3 for each product survey completed. It’s not a lot of money for 5 to 20 minutes of my time, but it’s a great diversion, can be done while multitasking, and there’s always the chance that I’ll end up getting a free product to test.

    As with all reputable survey companies, you have to agree to a rather strict confidentiality clause when you sign up with Pinecone, and restate your agreement with each survey. Pinecone seems to work primarily with major, well-established companies, who are looking for input on products they are developing, so you’ll get a sneak peek at quite a few products that eventually make it to the market.

    It’s been my experience that Pinecone pays very reliably – you can choose from cash to variety of rewards. There is no minimum cash out threshold, so you can choose to receive a $3 check whenever you have credits.

    I’ve been with Pinecone for over six years now (!) and they are the only survey company I have stuck with during that time, so you know I must really like them!

    If you are interested in joining Pinecone, click here to see if you qualify. You can learn more about Pinecone here, and read their privacy policy here.

    This post contains affiliate links that help support this site at no cost to you. Thank you for using them! You can read CFO’s full disclosure here.

    Ways to Make & Save Money #13: Adjust As You Go


    You can read the rest of the Ways to Make & Save Money series here.

    For almost ten years now, I’ve had a budget or spending plan of some kind. It was stricter at first, meaning I was quite diligent about tracking our income and expenses. And then it became more of a guide to make sure we were staying on track with our goals – I stopped logging every expenditure, but I knew about how much we were spending and whether it was in line with our budget.

    Last month, I mentioned that I’ve made one adjustment to how I manage our money that’s made a big difference, and Gina from Moneywise Moms said she really wanted to know what it was. Well, I’m a little embarrassed because it’s not really a big thing, but it did make it a lot easier for me to keep track of what should be going into savings.

    Every month, we get a check from our flexible spending account to reimburse us for our daycare costs, as well as any medical expenses that have come up. And prior to this year, I used to direct that money where it was needed – so if I needed to pay a bill, it went into checking, and if there were no bills due, I deposited it into savings. In a way, I saw these checks as “extra” money to be snowflaked whenever possible.

    But this year, I started depositing all reimbursement checks into our checking account. I decided that since they are reimbursement for expenses we’ve already paid for, it would balance out our budget by allowing me to keep savings in our savings account. I was a little worried at first that my new system would cause me to save less than I could. But that hasn’t happened. I have only needed to raid our savings account once this year, and that was for a medical expense incurred last year that wasn’t covered by our flexible spending account because we’d already exhausted it. I wish I’d made this change years ago, because I think it would have simplified my tracking a lot!

    So that’s this week’s tip: Don’t be afraid to make changes. If you don’t like how it goes, you can always make another change, and you just may discover that change is a beautiful thing!

    Ways to Make & Save Money #14: Take Advantage of Rebates


    Every Monday, I share a way to make and/or save money, as I strive to achieve my New Year’s Resolution of banking a large sum of money by year’s end. You can read the rest of the series here.

    Up until about two years ago, the only rebates I bothered with were for new cell phones and big appliances. But then I discovered that you can actually make money if you shop smart and send in for rebates.

    For example, last fall, you could request a booklet from Kraft/Nabisco that contained not just coupons but a couple of rebate forms. One of the rebates was for a $20 check if you sent in receipts showing the purchase of 10 participating Nabisco cookies and/or crackers, 5 participating Kraft drinks, and 5 Kraft Mac & Cheese cups. Purchases had to be made between January 1 and June 30 of this year.

    Back in February, Ralphs had good deals on Capri Sun and Kraft Mac & Cheese cups, and I bought some of both. (Thanks to Stephanie Carnes for the recommendation to get the Roaring Waters variety of Capri Sun for T-ball snack!) I realized that my purchases would match up well with the rebate, and that I was likely to purchase 10 boxes of cookies and crackers before the end of June since they’re often cheap with coupon and sale.

    I finished up my purchases over the weekend, and sent in for the $20 rebate. I spent about $15 on these groceries, and will get $20 back. And that’s $15 I would have spent anyway, just because I got deals on the items. So that $20 check, when it arrives, will go straight into savings.

    The SC Johnson rebate (pdf) that’s valid through June 30 is another great example. You buy 3 qualifying products and get $5 back. The number of participating products is huge, so you can easily find 3 products that are very cheap, and then submit for the $5 rebate. For example, at Vons/Pavilions/Safeway stores this week, you can buy a box of Ziploc bags for 69 cents after the in-ad coupon and 40 cents/1 coupon in the 3/21 SS. Buy 3 for $2.07 + tax + 44 cents for the stamp, and get $5 back. You actually make money for buying something you probably would have bought anyway.

    You can find out about rebates the same way you find out about other shopping deals – I list the big ones here at CFO, and you can find them at various deal blogs and forums as well. I think it’s a good idea to set some parameters, especially if you’re constrained for time. I generally don’t submit for rebates less than $5. And if you’re going to want to follow up on a rebate if you don’t get it in a timely fashion, you’ll want some way to organize your submissions so you can keep track of them. Just remember that rebates usually take 6 to 8 weeks for processing.

    Keep an eye out for rebates in the late summer – back to school seems to be a popular time for high-value rebates.

    Ways to Make & Save Money Update: MySurvey Redemption Changes


    Every Monday, I share a way to make and/or save money, as I strive to achieve my New Year’s Resolution of banking a large sum of money by year’s end. You can read the rest of the series here.

    Banner Ad A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about MySurvey.com as a legitimate survey company that pays reliably. But right around the same time that I published that post, they changed their rewards, so I want to share this update.

    The bad news: Your MySurvey points are worth a about 10% less.

    The good news: You have more rewards to choose from.

    I always used to redeem my points for cash, with 1,000 points being worth a $10 check. Now, a $10 check will cost 1,150 points. However, you now have the option of requesting your payment via PayPal, and that’ll be 1,100 points for a $10 deposit.

    And that’s the new benchmark: 1,100 points for $10.

    For 1,100 points, you can pick from a large variety of $10 gift cards and electronic gift certificates, including Amazon, iTunes, Zappos, CVS and assorted restaurants. Incrementally, there are some $15 gift cards/certificates at 1,650 points and $25 gift cards/certificates at 2,750 points.

    However, if you want to maximize your points, your best bet appears to be any check that’s $20 or more. Update: I just discovered there’s a $1.50 processing fee for each check, which makes PayPal or a gift card a better value. For some reason (and for the time being, since this may change at any time), the $20 check is 2,150 points, the $30 check is 3,150 points, the $40 check is 4,150 points, the $50 check is 5,150, the $75 check is 7,650 points, and the $100 check is 10,150 points. Meanwhile, the highest PayPal payment offered is $20 at 2,200 points, and the gift cards/certificates seem to all be based on a 1,100 points = $10 value.

    MySurvey continues to offer tangible prizes, like iPods and even a Niman Ranch half ham. However, as is almost always the case, the value isn’t as good as cash or a gift card/certificate.

    Personally, while I’m disappointed with this change/devaluation of the points, it’s not too significant, given that MySurvey is a legitimate survey company that pays reliably. I will continue to fill out surveys for them, and continue striving toward my goal for this year.

    Save Money by Keeping a Gift Wrap Center


    I’ve mentioned the gift box before – it’s a stash of gifts bought on sale for when you need to give a gift. But being out with a friend who bought not just a birthday gift but also a gift bag and tissue paper reminded me of the corollary: The Gift Wrap Center.

    My gift wrap “center” is actually a bunch of containers in a closet. There’s a tall plastic bin for rolls of wrapping paper, a bag stuffed with gift bags, and boxes of ribbon. I also keep some cards on hand – inexpensive all-occasion and blank cards. Back in my pre-motherhood days, I also kept some handmade cards around but I don’t have time for that anymore.

    The paper, bags, ribbon and cards are items I’ve collected over the years, and which I’m constantly collecting. I buy wrapping paper when it’s on clearance after the winter holidays – there are always a few patterns and solid colors that can be used year round. The same goes for ribbon and tissue paper.

    I’m also a big believer in reusing gift bags. They’re expensive for what they are, and it’s rough on the environment to discard them after just one use, or even a few uses. So whenever we receive a gift and the bag is in good shape, it goes into the closet for when I need to give a gift.

    My gift wrap center reduces stress, because I’m never scrambling to find wrapping paper or a gift bag. And it also saves me money, because I never have to over spend on last-minute supplies.

    Ways to Make & Save Money Update: The Proof is in the Pudding – Er, I mean the Winnings


    Every Monday, I share a way to make and/or save money, as I strive to achieve my New Year’s Resolution of banking a large sum of money by year’s end. You can read the rest of the series here.

    Today, I want to follow up on Ways to Make & Save Money #10: Enter Blog Giveaways and Sweepstakes. Shortly after I published that post, I won a $25 Visa gift card by playing Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards. And then a few days later, I won a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

    Not long after that, A Thrifty Mom wrote that her husband won a cruise (!) from JetBlue. I was particularly struck by her reaction to her brother’s comment that she always seems to win:

    HELLO you have to enter, yes MOST the time we do not win….but sometimes we do!!!

    It’s so true. I usually don’t win, but sometimes I do. As I mentioned in my original post, I don’t drive myself crazy over it, but it’s a more productive way of spending my time than just sitting around, and most contests take just a couple of minutes to enter.

    One thing to keep in mind: I never pay to enter anything. That means I never play the lottery, gamble, etc. There’s no risk to what I’m doing, so it doesn’t matter if the odds are long. (Note: I am careful to only enter contests and giveaways that seem legitimate and don’t ask for more information than necessary. There’s no sense in taking unnecessary risks with my privacy and identity.)

    Have you ever won anything?