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

    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

    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

    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

    Drugstore Game Padawan Update: Hayden’s been busy!

    If you’re just tuning in, I’m mentoring Hayden in The Drugstore Game. If you’ve always wanted to play but weren’t sure how to get started, follow along with Hayden as he becomes a Drugstore Game Master. You can read all of the posts in this series here, in reverse chronological order. Please read my Drugstore Game Primer and Common Sense with Money’s FAQ to get an overview of the Drugstore Game and definitions.

    Hayden’s got the week off from school, meaning he can make multiple visits to the stores. He is super excited to have discovered how cheaply he can buy things he used to pay so much more for at Target or Walmart. I remember that feeling – just the other day, I made a comment about how I used to think $1 was a good price for Kleenex at Ralphs (because they’d double the 50 cents/3 coupon). And just look – last week, I got six boxes of Kleenex plus a bunch of other stuff for $5 out of pocket.

    But back to Hayden. He took the scenario I’d suggested, but couldn’t find any Sobe so he bought a Green Tag instead. (Those are the leaf-shaped tags you attach to your reusable bag and have scanned each trip. After four trips, you’ll get a $1 ECB.) Here’s how it went:

    1 Aussie Volume Shampoo $2.99-1.00 coupon from 2/14 RP = 1.99 (get $2 ECBs)
    1 Colgate Total Advance $2.99 – 0.50 coupon from 1/31 SS = 2.49 (get $2 ECBs)
    1 Crest Pro Health Enamel Rinse $3.49 – 2.00 coupon from 2/7 P&G = 1.49 (get $3.50 ECBs)
    1 Green Tag 99 cents

    Used ECBs: $6.00
    Subtotal: $.97
    Received ECBs: $7.50
    Saved: $13.59

    Note: I always find the “savings” total on receipts to be incredibly deceptive, because they take the discount off regular price into account. And even before I started playing The Drugstore Game, I never would have paid a drugstore’s full price for a bottle of shampoo or anything else – so for me, at least, those “savings” aren’t really my savings. However, I must admit that I do get a kick out of seeing the number anyway, especially when it works out to 90%+ savings. :D

    Hayden also headed to Walgreens and used his $6 Register Rewards to buy some deodorant:

    Dove Men Degree Deodorant: 2.49/each x 2 with in-ad coupon
    3 3 Musketeers Bars 3/$2

    Used 6.00 RR
    Subtotal: $.98
    CA Tax: $.44
    Paid: $1.42 cash
    Saved $8.87

    He should have gotten a $1 RR for buying the candy bars, but it didn’t print. I would give this store one or two more chances, but if he consistently has problems with getting RR’s, I would recommend he switch to another store.

    Hayden also headed to Rite Aid and transferred a couple of prescriptions. There are $25 gift cards for transferred prescriptions in this week’s Rite Aid circular, and those gift cards will really help offset the out of pocket costs that are always higher at Rite Aid because of the delayed nature of the Single Check Rebate program.

    One thing Hayden and I have discussed in our emails is the thrill of the deal and how it’s hard not to buy something right now just because it’s so much less than he’s used to spending. Here’s a bit of our exchange – the first part is from me:

    One thing I’m sensing is that you’re impatient to get the deals, which I totally understand. It’s addicting and I was shopping like mad when I first started The Drugstore Game too. But I would caution you that patience really pays off and helps you get the best deals. You have to find a balance between buying what you need and stockpiling so that you can get the very best price on everything. For example, I never pay for toothpaste anymore – I only buy it if it’s free or a moneymaker. The same goes for deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, razors, body wash – unless you’re brand loyal, you should never have to pay for these items.

    I would encourage you to start a price book if you don’t have one already. Mine really helps me keep my enthusiasm for sale items in check. Today, for example, I saw All detergent on clearance at Target, so it was tempting to get them but at $3+ after coupon it just wasn’t a great deal because I know my stock-up price is $2 or less per bottle.

    Hayden responded that he keeps all his receipts and can easily put together a price book. I recommended that he read my most recent post about price books, and use NCN’s price book template. He also said:

    I never knew how easy it could be to get everything for free so I’m still okay with paying a bit for it but I’ll try and limit costs even more. I have been brand-loyal with a few things, so right now me and my family are okay with trying new things to limit costs. Me and my dad are pretty flexible with what we use, but my sister and mother are more brand-loyal than were are.

    I’m okay with paying a little bit for things right now to see what other brands I like because even paying a few dollars for something is still saving me money from me being too brand loyal and buying things not on sale.

    Hayden’s perspective is really bringing me back to when I first started playing The Drugstore Game. It’s so counterintuitive that you can get so much for so little, or even free, and you figure you’re saving money anyway. Which you are, compared to what you used to spend.

    As I told Hayden, he needs to do what feels right for him and his family, so if he’s not going to go for the absolute minimum out of pocket, that’s fine. But I’d bet that once he gets used to seeing free toothpaste, razors, shampoo, etc., week after week, he won’t want to pay for it either :)

    Ways to Make & Save Money #7: Tax-Deductible Donations

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

    It can be a time-consuming process, but itemizing your tax deductions can save hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of dollars on your tax bill. One thing that can be itemized on your taxes is tax-deductible donations – and that’s especially easy when it comes to donating things like clothes, toys and other items that we simply don’t use anymore.

    As I started thinking about ways to achieve my financial goal this year, I immediately thought of clearing out clutter and cleaning my house. That made me realize that I feel richer when my house is clean and organized. So one huge benefit of my goal is going to be a house that makes me feel wealthy – that’s a worthwhile benefit even if I don’t reach my end goal!

    The two most important things when it comes to saving money with your non-cash charitable donations is to have a place to stash your donations, and to itemize them before you donate them. I’ve designated one corner for donations, so anything that’s getting donated gets placed there. When I have the time and am ready to make a run to Goodwill or Salvation Army, I itemize the various items for my tax records. I’ve previously discussed how I keep track of non-cash charitable donations:

    Works for Me: How I keep track of charitable donations

    and

    Calculating my non-cash charitable contributions

    I’ve tried DeductionTraq and Turbo Tax’s free service It’s Deductible Online, which were recommended by readers as an easier way of tracking donations. I didn’t love either, but I’m going to give It’s Deductible another try this year – maybe I’ve evolved enough that I’ll be more comfortable with it.

    I expect to save a couple of hundred dollars in taxes thanks to our non-cash donations to charity, and I hope our donations find their way to people who really need them!

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