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Getting paid to shop – Smartphone apps that earn cash

As you know, I’m a SAHM.  Times are tough.  Money is tight.  So, I’m coming out of the coupon closet and saying that my hobby at the moment is saving us money when I buy us the stuff we need.  Not the coolest hobby, I realize, but one that can be valuable.

So, saving money…

No, this post is not about being a mystery shopper.  Did that briefly and to me, it was too much of a hassle and made me feel too uncomfortable.  I am not good about remembering the minutia of a transaction involving getting a lame pizza at the movie theater.  The one thing I did get out of my short stint mystery shopping is the knowledge that I would never be a good undercover agent.

But lately I’ve come across some apps that will actually pay me to do some shopping.  Some of them require you to find products in stores and scan them, some you have to upload a receipt, some you can take a pic of a display.

Shopping Apps

My shopping Apps

One I tried out for the first time today is Ibotta.
This one shows you a pic of a product, and you can earn more reward money for doing more tasks associated with it.  You can take a one question poll, view a recipe, view a video, answer a trivia question, learn a fact and/or share on Facebook to earn more money (note: to avoid spamming your friends, set the apps FB settings on ‘who can see posts’ to Only Me unless your friends like to see a thousand product posts, which I highly doubt most do).

An Ibotta offer

An Ibotta offer

My first set of offers were largely things I buy anyway, and a few were already on my list, so off I went to the store.  I picked up Tostitos and earned 50 cents, Glad containers for kiddo’s lunchbox ($1 payback), Sargento shredded cheese ($0.50), Chobani yogurt ($0.50 and the blood orange flavor is awesome, btw), International Delights Iced coffee ($1) and Simply Orange OJ ($0.75).  So I got home, uploaded my receipt by snapping a pic of it within the app, and within a few minutes I have $4.25 credit in my account.  I can cash out to PayPal or donate to a school of my choice at $5.00.  Another cool feature of this app is the barcode scanning of each offer, which tells you if you have the right product in your hand before you buy it.  My offers refreshed after I uploaded my receipt, and several of the ones I had already used reappeared to be used again, which is nice.  Most of the products I bought were on sale already, and I had coupons for some of them, making for some great deals.  Right now, you must shop at Target, Walgreens or WalMart to use this app, and it looks like its iPhone only for now, but it says more stores are in the works, as is an Android app.  I think I’m most excited (yep, I said excited…how sad is that, lol) about finding something I can stack a Target and manufacturers coupon on and use this app for potential freebies or moneymakers, plus using my Target credit card nabs me an additional 5% off on everything, and if you bring a reusable bag, you get $0.05 credit per bags too.  Target is my main money saving enabler.


Look, I made some $

Another one to try is Field Agent.  it uses your zip code or location (if you allow it) to find “jobs” near you.  This usually involves going to a specific store and taking a pic of a display and answering some questions about it, though I did earn $7 a few weeks ago for doing laundry in my own home.  For those two jobs ($3.50 each) I had to take a pic of the package of the specific detergent they wanted, then the load I was going to use it on.  I was lucky to have a Tide Pods sample on hand and a package of All Mighty Pacs so I did both jobs in one afternoon.  They were approved within a few hours and I cashed out to PayPal a few days later.

Field Agent jobs

Shopkick is an app where you earn “kicks” for just going into certain stores.  You can get additional ones for completing tasks while there, like scanning the barcodes of certain products.  Yu can save up your kicks to redeem for gift cards.  Sometimes they have special offers that unlock once you check in.  Recently, Target offered a $2 gift card through this app for signing up and then checking in, though I had technical difficulties and it said I’d already redeemed it when I got to the store.

Jingit  is a new one I just started using.  It’s basically for WalMart shoppers, and I avoid WalMart like the plague.  That place is pretty much my idea of the zombie apocolypse each and every time I go, with the slack-jawed slowly pushing their carts through the giant labyrinth of a nonsensical store while they ignore the feral children biting at their heels.  But, I digress.  With Jingit, you can earn money by watching ads and answering questions about them, or by scanning items in store.  I haven’t ventured to Hell…er, WalMart since getting it, so I haven’t done any of their tasks.

Though they don’t have an app, for online shopping you can’t beat eBates.  I’ve earned a couple hundred bucks buying through them.  Go to the site first and check if they offer a percentage at the online store you wish to shop.  If so, click through and they credit your account with whatever percentage they listed a few days after you buy.  They also have a great list of coupon codes, so you can stack the savings.  They will send you out a “Big Fat Check” quarterly or you can have them deposit money into your PayPal account.  I can’t say enough about how much I love this site.  I once lost one of my checks and found it after it had expired (it was one of those you had to cash within ninety days).  I cursed myself, but then contacted customer service (couldn’t hurt to try, right?).  To my surprise, they issued me a replacement check!  I switched to PayPal payouts after that experience.  They are also great about crediting you if for some reason your cashback didn’t show up- just go through the customer service  link on their site and it’s usually credited within a day.  Recently, certain stores won’t let you track cashback through Safari, and since I do much of my shopping on my iPad, this bugged me (ugh, I have to go fire up the laptop?!?), but then I found that there is  a Chrome browser app for the iPad, and that works fine.  Problem solved!

Now, go download the apps and save some money!  I think of it as a game.  A game that puts money in my PayPal account so when I see something online I just have to have, I have some mad money waiting.  I mean, seriously, it’s free money!


a-freaking-Maze-ing (get it?)

Trying to keep a preschooler occupied in boring situations is a challenge we all must face once the rugrats enter our lives.  I had different strategies when he was super little, but now I often hand over my iphone or let him use “his” phone (yes, it’s his now, my old ipod touch…don’t hate. The battery runs out in about 35 minutes so it kind of has a built in play limit which makes me feel like not such a bad mom for letting him play Angry Birds).   Anyway, once the battery runs out, what to do? Well, my kid loves to do mazes, and the internet is a treasure trove of printables.   I try to keep a few in my bag along with a tiny box of crayons so he has something to do while waiting at the doctor’s office or in between ordering our food at the restaurant and actually getting to eat it (the longest 20 minutes ever to a three year old).

Here are a few of my go-to links:

HP Creative Studio has a TON of cute things to print out to keep the kiddo busy, including Dreamworks and Disney stuff. He is obsessed with the Lorax movie, so these were a big hit while home sick this week –

Blogger KrazyDad has a ton with varying difficulty levels –

Family Fun magazine has a nice collection too –

These letter mazes are a fun challenge for him now. He has to follow the same letter throughout to get to the end. This website requires a free account to print their worksheets, but there are a ton! –

There are so many more available, just let Google be your guide.  I also scored a dry erase maze book on Amazon not too long ago which is a great thing to keep in the car with some of those Crayola dry erase crayons, which are the bomb (unless they melt…yeah, that happened.  Texas in August.  ‘Nuff said).  I suppose you could also put your printed out mazes in a sheet protector and use that with the dry erase crayons or a marker  too if your kid doesn’t mind doing the same mazes more than once (mine doesn’t…yet).

Oh, and now that you have something to keep your kid entertained, feed him (or her) for free.  Here’s a great list of restaurants with kids eat free deals from Mummy Deals.

Pure Sunshine goes dim

Getting my son ready to go to preschool today, I barely had time to just grab some jeans and a long sleeved gray t-shirt to throw on and get him out the door. On the way there, it dawned on me that the clothes I am wearing right now are the same ones I wore three months ago exactly.

Why would I remember such a mundane outfit?

Three months ago today I lost my brother. He was forty. He had a stroke, out of the blue, completely and utterly unexpected, while driving with my seven year old neice in the car. He had just dropped off his three year old son at daycare and was headed home, where he was a work-from-home dad. Luckily, my neice was in her booster seat in the back of the van, and she was unharmed when they struck a tree.

What followed was thirteen days of neuro ICU, induced coma, craniotomies, worry, fear, and love. My parents flew
in from Arizona, I flew in from Texas, and we converged the night after the stroke occurred. He was intubated, had already had a piece of his skull removed to try to give his brain somewhere to go as it swelled, but he was following commands and could squeeze our hands or raise his right arm or leg in response to questions. As the night wore on, those responses became less and less until they were simply gone.

Seeing my big brother, six feet tall, tan, in good shape, with half his head shaved, hooked up to all the machines and drips and monitors that I knew so well from work was jarring. I tried to be a good family member and balance that with being a good patient advocate. I thought back to telling the families of the kids I took care of to not look at the machines, the numbers, the monitors and to look at their loved one and focus on THEM. I tried. But I looked at the ventilator and wracked my brain for ways to make it breathe better for him. I looked at all the equipment and had to restrain my hand from suctioning his lungs or retaping his ET tube. I looked at the number of drips going into his IVs and thought back to day one of my clinicals in that very same hospital ICU (Instructor: How do you tell at a glance how sick a patient is? Look at how many drips are on the IV pole and how many sets of numbers are flashing on the monitor. My brother had almost as many as I had ever seen on a patient). I looked at the large black area on the CT scan, showing that 60% of the left side of his brain was no longer functional.

We sat vigil, trying to offer anything but feeling powerless. My sister in law is a cardiac nurse. He sister’s
husband was a Cadiac surgeon. I was a respiratory therapist with a decade of ICU experience. The hospital staff joked that we could open our own hospital. But none of us really knew neuro, and having just enough knowledge magnified the fear a thousandfold. I didn’t know everything they talked about, but I knew that overall it was bad.

We had moments of hope. But, as anyone who has watched someone go though an ICU stay, it’s usually one step forward, two steps back. And as anyone who has worked in an ICU knows, you can’t keep the mask on at all times, and after my brother’s third CT scan, one look at his nurses face told me.

It was time to have The Talk. The swelling had spread to his brainstem.

We weren’t going to get Eric back. We could keep going, but he would not be Eric ever again. It was time to make some decisions.

Organ donation was the first one. Yes. Absolutely. We all agreed that he would want to help others. He was a very generous person so this was the one gift we knew he would want to give.

After that decision was made, it dictated our other choices, because time is of the essence in organ procurement.

We had time to say our goodbyes, for his kids to come in and give him hugs and kisses and wrap his hand around theirs. I made a playlist of a few of his favorite songs.

I’ve been there in this situation before, only on the other side, helping parents say goodbye to their children
forever. I have been the one to turn off the ventilator or remove the breathing tube. I’ve always had empathy
for the families, but now I’m not sure I can go back to that. I appreciated our nurse, who shed her own tears.

We surrounded him in the OR prep room, dimmed the lights, had his pastor say a prayer, put our hands on him, played his music, shed our tears, told him it was okay and that we loved him. His wife was nestled in his arms, ear to his chest, and heard his last hearbeat. We all watched the man who my aunt aptly called Pure Sunshine dim and fade away.




Mom Solo

Solo Momming it…

My hubs works for a video game company. About twice a year, for the month or two before the game needs to be submitted for approval, they have what is known as crunch time. For me, this is when I find out what it is like to be a single mom. Now, I realize most single moms cannot afford to be stay-at-home moms, so my situation is different. Also, if something crazy happens and I absolutley need him to come home, the hubs can, so there is that as well. But for the past two months or so he has worked til past midnight and on most of the weekends and I am esentially raising kiddo alone. And I have to say, it’s rough.

Stay at home moms…people think we hang out on the couch, eating bon bons and watching daytime TV. The only TV I get to see is Disney Junior or Sprout, and lil man is not content to sit and watch by himself so I can brush my teeth or take a shower. Oh, no, it’s “mommy, come sit by me!” If I do not, there will follow a request for something that will lure me into his gravitational pull, a sweet “Can I have some juice, please?” with a bat of his long eyelashes. Then “I can’t seem to get this puzzle together…will you help me?” And I abandon hope of personal cleanliness for the next hour or so. Sidenote: his use of, ‘I can’t seem to…’ lately makes me smile every time I hear it. It reminds me of a date I was on with my husband (before we were married) when I heard a little British child at the table next to us say, “Mummy, I’m quite taken with this breakfast!” Adorbs!

Anyway, so this full time mom gig is hard. Three meals a day for His Royal Pickiness, plus snacks, and he won’t tell me what he wants unless I threaten to only feed him broccoli, and even then sometimes he tells me, “I want you to guess.” I did not get mind reading abilities delivered with my epidural. If I just make something he usually likes, I get the big saucer eyes full of tears and a sad, “but I just wanted a hot dog…not this.” I don’t give in and make him eat whatever I made anyway, but it still tugs a little at my heart (oh, how wrapped around that finger I am!).

My kiddo gave up naps around 20 months, and he rarely sits still for more than a nanosecond, so by his bath time (if I made it into the shower that day, it was interrupted about five times by little hands knocking on the glass…”are you done yet? Why is it steamy? I can’t see you!”) I am exhausted and just want to sit on the toilet seat (the throne of bathtime) and play a Words with Friends game, but I don’t. We play Mickey Mouse surfs on a whale and gets trapped in the bubbles or something else. Then there’s getting into jammies. And toothbrushing. And stories (he NEEDS three, and this one I’m happy to oblige since I am a sucker for Seuss and the like). Then we finally climb up into his loft bed together and he wants to chat and have a puppet show. I manage to get him to close his eyes and his jabberbox mouth and I’m usually out before he is. I wake up in a puddle of drool on his Mario pillowcase and watch his sweet little chest going up and down and realize I’m lucky. I get to spend the whole day with an amazing kid. One day he won’t want me by his side 24/7 but for now, I’ll take it.

And then I go downstairs and start to actually clean up the house, do the laundry, plan the menu for the week, catch up on e-mails…and once in a while say screw it, pour myself a glass of wine, and surf Pinterest and my DVR. I deserve a few minutes off! I stumble into bed around 1, read something on my Kindle app, and just as I drift off the hubs comes home. Next thing I know, I hear, “Mommy, the sun is up. Are you going to play with me?” and so the coffee flows.