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  • Ways to Make & Save Money #12: MySurvey

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    Updated May 19, 2011

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

    I’ve been a member of MySurvey.com for a while now and I definitely recommend them as reputable and reliable. They seem to work mostly with major manufacturers and service providers, and I’ve received a couple of full-size products to test. They were the type of products I use anyway, so it was like getting something for free that I would have had to buy otherwise.

    That’s pretty rare, but I do find myself filling out surveys for them a few times a week. Most of the surveys are qualifiers, which ask some basic questions about me to see if I qualify for a survey. I must not be a desirable demographic, because I don’t get many actual product surveys. However, given how often they ask me about diapers, they seem to need more mothers of children who wear disposable diapers and training pants.

    What I like most about MySurvey is how legitimate they appear to be, and how reliable they are about payments. Their privacy policy is easy to find, and includes a promise to never sell members’ personal information.

    You earn points for each survey, and can redeem the points for prizes or cash payments. You need 1,100 points to request a $10 check, or 2,200 points for a $20 check or Paypal deposit. I’ve never had a problem with receiving payment from MySurvey.

    The qualifier surveys give you 5 to 10 points, depending on length. Longer, product-specific surveys give you more points and depend upon the length of the survey. Without referral points, it does take a while to accumulate enough points for a payout, but I do suspect that I’m in a demographic that just doesn’t get a lot of surveys and that others accumulate points a lot faster. On the rare occasion that my points didn’t get credited properly, a quick email via their online contact form has gotten the problem resolved within a couple of days.

    MySurvey emails you to let you know that there’s a new survey available so you don’t have to log in every day. As with all legitimate survey companies, MySurvey won’t make you rich, but it’s an easy and simple way to make a few extra bucks.

    Disclosure: The link to MySurvey is an affiliate link that benefits CFO at no cost to you. Thank you if you join(ed) MySurvey through it! You can read the full CFO disclosure here.

    Ways to Make & Save Money: Grocery shop with coupons

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    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.

    This tip will seem overly obvious to regular readers, but it’s a big one and worth repeating. Last year at this time, I was still doing the vast majority of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. It was a routine that I began during the 2003 grocery worker’s strike, when I discovered that I love Trader Joe’s. It’s like they were made for me, with their large stock of organic and hormone/antibiotic-free products. Their everyday prices are far and away better than mainstream markets like Ralphs and Vons.

    But.

    There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?

    I discovered the joy of massive coupon use in 2008 when I began playing The Drugstore Game. Last spring, I discovered the joy of carrying over the coupon use to markets like Ralphs and Vons/Pavilions. It really hit home in April, when Vons and Pavilions (which are part of the Safeway family of stores) had their Living Well promotion. When you bought $30 worth of qualifying products, you got a $10 Catalina coupon to use on your next order. And the deal rolled, so that you could pay with the $10 Catalina and get another $10 Catalina if you bought $30 of qualifying products. The promotion went on for several weeks, and I made multiple trips to the store each week because I was getting napkins for 33 cents per package (which was way below my target price), garbage bags for my target price of 6.6 cents per bag, and Huggies wipes refills for $3.

    The Living Well promotion opened my eyes to the great deals to be had at the major markets. Since then, I’ve regularly shopped at Ralphs, Vons and Pavilions, and increasingly bought more of my groceries there. And I’ve discovered that sometimes I can get cheaper prices at the major markets than elsewhere.

    For instance, sometime this past fall, Vons lowered the price on their store brand gallons of organic milk to $5.49. I’m not sure how long it took me to realize that I was paying 50 cents more at Trader Joe’s, but needless to say, I started buying my weekly two gallons at Vons or Pavilions. But half-gallons are 10 cents cheaper at Trader Joe’s ($3.29 vs. $3.39). Of course, you have to keep an eye on the prices, because Vons raised the price to $5.99 a couple of months ago, but right now they’re on sale through the beginning of April for $5.49 again.

    Another example is Challenge butter – last year, I discovered that it’s RBST-free, just like the butter I’d been buying at Trader Joe’s. And by combining sales and coupons, I’ve been able to buy Challenge butter for less than I would have paid at Trader Joe’s.

    It’s these kinds of discoveries that I want to keep my eyes open for in 2010 to maximize our grocery dollars. Right now, we spend about 40% less than we did a year ago. I won’t compromise the quality of food we eat, but I’m convinced that with some astute grocery shopping and meal planning, I can reduce that number to 50% or more.

    Ways To Make & Save Money #11: Communicate With Your Family

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

    I totally believe it when I hear that financial issues can cause huge problems in family relationships because I know firsthand how important money is. One thing that helps our family tremendously is good communication about finances and goals.

    Right now, it’s just my husband and me who make most of the decisions. We are really on the same page when it comes to our financial goals, and we agree on living frugally, limiting spending, and saving as much as possible. Plus, I appreciate how supportive he is of all the work I do to keep our grocery and household spending down – most weeks, he takes the boys to swim class alone so I can go grocery shopping by myself. (It’s funny how easy it is to hit five or six stores if I’m alone and how hard it is to do more than two if I’ve got the kids.) In turn, he appreciates how hard I work at saving us money while maintaining our lifestyle.

    Even though our kids are young, we take advantage of opportunities to talk with them about money. Just yesterday, the boys asked for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, which I haven’t bought recently because I haven’t been able to find it for 50 cents or less (note: that’s my target price on cereal). Of course, there’s a ton of cereal in the house, and other breakfast foods too, but not that specific variety.

    I sat down and explained that we don’t have any Cinnamon Toast Crunch right now because I haven’t found any good sales. But I got an adorable plea to “Please, can you buy it anyway?” So I responded, “Sure, I can buy expensive cereal, but I won’t be able to buy you toys. Would you rather have a new toy or Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”

    I could almost see the computations in their head as they processed the question. And then came the answer: “A new toy.” My older boy said it first, but my younger one said it too, and in a way that made it clear he wasn’t just parroting his older brother.

    Here’s another example of why communication is important: I buy lots of things, but if my husband can’t find them when he needs them, he’s liable to go out and buy more stuff at a much higher price (and with good reason!). So we have designated places in the house for our stockpile – toiletries are in a closet, separated by category; paper goods are in a hall closet, although I recently stockpiled so much that there’s also a tower on the landing of the stairs; light bulbs are in the garage, etc. I also let him know what food is in the fridge/freezer/pantry, because he’s so polite and cautious about not eating anything that I might have plans for.

    Of course, we talk about the big picture too – a lot. While we don’t plan regular meetings to discuss our family finances, I keep him in the loop on how we’re doing on spending, saving and any changes I think we should be making. On the rare occasion that we don’t see exactly eye-to-eye, we compromise.

    The best part of all this communication is that everyone is happy, because we all know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. And that gets us to our goals all the faster.

    Ways to Make & Save Money #10: Enter Blog Giveaways & Instant Win Sweepstakes

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

    Entering blog giveaways is not a surefire way to bring in money or keep from spending money.

    But.

    I am one of those people who rarely wins anything. And yet, the odds in blog giveaways are so decent that I have won quite a few times – useful, wonderful things too, like a $50 Safeway gift card from Moneywise Moms, a $30 Walmart gift card from Common Sense with Money, Snapfish prints from Bargain Briana, and so on. All of these prizes are things that I can use to save my family money by using them to buy things that I would have bought anyway.

    Example: I won a $50 Walmart gift card from Frugal Upstate and spent it on a new trashcan (our kitchen trashcan broke that morning), a bat and tee (we just started with T-ball), and food items. I ended up spending less than $2 on things that I would have had to spend $50 on. Even taking income tax into consideration, I come out way ahead.

    I win much less frequently when I play instant win sweepstakes, but I have won – things like an iTunes gift card and a Starbucks gift card. Again, these are things that I can use to save my family money.

    I spend less than 15 minutes a day entering giveaways and sweepstakes. They’re pretty mindless activities, so I can do them when I’m tired, stressed, or distracted with something else (on hold on the phone, for example).

    My favorite source for finding out about “winnable” sweeps is Freebies 4 Mom. About once a week, she’ll list the current sweepstakes that have the best odds. If there’s a prize I’d like to win, I add the sweeps to my list.

    My favorite source for finding giveaways is Prizey. I subscribe to their RSS feed, which unfortunately is just a headline feed, rather than a full feed. They force you to click through to their site to get the link to the giveaway, but the headline at least lets me narrow down the field to only those giveaways that I want to enter.

    One thing about giveaways and sweeps: I don’t drive myself crazy over them. If a blog giveaway’s entry requirements are too demanding, I simply close the window. If I’m too busy to find 10 minutes to enter anything, that’s fine – my day goes on. However, if I have a few minutes of time to kill, entering giveaways and sweepstakes is a great way to use the time. It just might save me some money!

    Ways to Make & Save Money #9: Sell on Amazon Marketplace

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

    I love selling my used items on Amazon, because it’s like having an online garage sale. I’ve written before about selling at Amazon Marketplace, so I won’t go into details here. Instead, I’ll direct you to my previous series on selling at Amazon, and these updates.

    Until now, I’ve always priced my items to sell on Amazon, so I would list even a “new” or “like new” item at the lowest price, even if the same item from another seller at the same price was only in “good” or “acceptable” condition. My rationale was that I’d rather just get the item out of my house.

    But now I’m willing to hold onto my things a little longer in the hope of getting a little more money, so I’m listing items at a price that matches comparable items. I always include a detailed description so prospective buyers know that I’ve examined the item and they know exactly what they’re getting. When I’m the buyer, I know that sort of thing makes a difference to me, so I’m hoping it’ll sway a buyer who’s deciding between sellers to choose my item instead.

    I’m still only going to sell items that will net a decent profit after shipping costs. If the profit is too small, I’d rather save my time and donate the item for the tax deduction instead.

    Ways to Make and Save Money #8: Instant Cash Sweepstakes

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

    Instant Cash Sweepstakes is a market research site that offers cash payouts for taking surveys. The payouts are tiny – 1 to 4 cents, usually per session (you can take multiple surveys per session; the number per session varies). You can cash out via PayPal when you have at least $2 in your account. Each survey earns you “tickets,” which are entries into a daily $50 lottery, and “coins,” which you can use to buy more tickets.

    Some of the surveys are true market research. Most of the surveys are kind of silly, and written by other ICS users. And the rest of the surveys are used to gauge your truthfulness – ICS gives you a “TrustScore,” which you’ll see displayed at the top right corner. I’m not quite sure how it works, since I started with a 9, went down to a 6, and finally got back to a 10.

    It took me a little less than three weeks to reach the $2 payout level for the first time, and my money was in my PayPal account within hours. ICS definitely won’t make you rich, but it’s not a bad way to spend a few minutes a day if you believe, like I do, that every penny adds up.

    Plus, by inviting people to join ICS, you’ll increase your payout because you’ll receive 100% matching of their prizes. So, if they win 4 cents, you win 4 cents. If they win the $50, you’ll win the $50. In fact, Kimberly of My Good Cents has won $700 since last April. This is no longer the case, alas.

    If you’re new to ICS, I’d love it if you’d sign up using my referral link – your pennies + my pennies will help me reach my savings goal that much faster. Thank you!

    Updated: 10/4/2011