Thursday, October 29, 2015

5 Ways to Get Free Money for Christmas

Are you an heiress? Independently wealthy? Yes? Then this article isn't for you. This is for those of us who need to pinch our pennies and make every dollar stretch, especially during the most wonderful time of the year which, incidentally, is also the most wonderfully expensive time of the year. The following are five different ways to get money or gift cards to help stretch your Christmas budget so you can buy presents and surprises for those you love.

Swag Bucks
OVERVIEW: Get rewarded with 'Swag Bucks' by completing activities, quizzes, trying out new products, and searching the Internet. Redeem these 'Swag Bucks' for gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks, Visa, etc.

PROS: You can get Swag Bucks for doing things you'd likely already be doing or for purchases you'd already be making. Planning on buying some clothes from Kohls? Go through the SB website to get to Kohls and you get Swag Bucks. I've also found quite a few amazing trials of products that I would have been interested in purchasing anyway, but with Swag Bucks, I get a bonus gift card along with it. One Swag Buck is the equivalent of one penny when getting a reward.

CONS: This website is confusing. There are so many offers, so many ways to get rewards, it's difficult to manage. If you aren't careful, you can waste time doing projects and offers that give you almost no Swag Bucks- be selective about which offers your complete.

CONCLUSION: Although you can waste time here, if you are careful not to get overwhelmed, you can really get some savings and get lots of good gift cards.

Image result for ibottaOVERVIEW: Ibotta is essentially reverse couponing. Instead of presenting a coupon for a dollar off of a package of diapers, you buy the diapers, come home, scan your receipt, and get a one dollar rebate. Using an app on your phone, you scan the available offers, buy them at the store, then come home and scan your receipt and the product's bar code to get your rebates. The money you save accumulates in your account until you are ready to transfer it to either a PayPal or Venmo account or else a gift card to Amazon, etc.

PROS: You can use a coupon for a product at the store AND get a rebate through Ibotta on it, so it's double the savings. There are rebates for things like milk, eggs, bread, and produce. The offers are always updating and there are hundreds of offers at different stores at any given time.

CONS: It's a bit time consuming. You have to go through the app, select offers and interact with the product information, then scan the bar code AND take a copy of your receipt. It's not a terrible amount of effort, but it does take a bit.

CONCLUSION: I'm a fan. I use Ibotta every week and am able to accumulate a fair amount of money, which I usually use to surprise my husband with, since he doesn't have any idea how much money I have in my Ibotta account. It's my favorite.

OVERVIEW: Bing is a search engine owned by the Mircosoft. Create an account and use Bing to complete your searches. By doing so, you can get 'Bing Rewards' points, which are redeemable for gift cards and prizes.

PROS: It's simple. You just make sure you are logged into your Microsoft account and then all the web searches you do earn you a certain amount of points.

CONS: It takes a little while to actually get a prize.

CONCLUSION: Honestly? You're gonna be searching the web on your phone/computer every day any way, so why not use Bing and get rewarded for it? I have found I prefer Bing to Google in several aspects anyhow, so using Bing feels like a win-win.

Savings Catcher
OVERVIEW: Walmart promises that their prices are the lowest. If they aren't, they will give you back the difference in price in the form of a gift card. You use the Walmart app to scan your receipt after you shop, and if a competitor has advertised a cheaper price somewhere else, you get that money back.

PROS: Simple. Just scan your QR code on your receipt as you walk out the door. Whatever you have overpaid goes onto your account, which you can turn into a Walmart gift card whenever you want. No minimum amounts.

CONS: Doesn't work for produce and some more expensive items.

CONCLUSION: No reason not to use it. It's really easy, and if you just scan your receipt each time you go, before you know it, you'll have a pretty sizable amount in your account that you can easily turn into a Christmas surprise.

Walgreens Balance Rewards
OVERVIEW: Shop at Walgreens. If you buy selected offers, you get points added to your Balance Rewards account (requires card sign up). 5000 points=$5 Walgreens gift card.

PROS: I've found that many of the selected offers that give me Balance Rewards Points are products that are on sale, have a coupon, and I would normally purchase anyhow, so a little extra bonus makes shopping there extra appealing. You also get a small number of points for every purchase, regardless of what you buy.

CONS: Sometimes the offers are on products I don't want? Maybe you don't like shopping at Walgreens? I don't really have cons for this one.

CONCLUSION: Walgreens is already my pharmacy of choice. I get points for each prescription, plus random purchases I make on diapers and shampoo. Once I get enough for a reward, I find there are more than enough fun things to use them on, as their seasonal selections are surprisingly diverse. Candy, stockings, toys, nail polish.... And all at rather reasonable prices, especially for a drug store.

Bottom line: I use Swab Bucks sometimes, but the rest I use regularly. I'm mostly buying and doing the things I would normally be doing and buying without any incentive, but by following these programs all year, once Christmas rolls around, I have MORE than enough money for gifts, surprises, expensive dinners, and crazy amounts of Amazon shopping. (I'm all about shopping online during my kids' nap time. ) So, it takes a little effort, but when you're on a budget, taking that little bit of effort is entirely worth it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What if Breastfeeding

I am a run-ragged mother of two toddlers and one tiny, precious nursing baby. She is a very content, happy baby- except when it comes to nursing. She doesn't want to nurse in public. Or in front of her siblings. Or while I hold her. In fact, she won't eat at all, unless I am lying down to feed her. She won't eat if she can tell I'm reading or holding my phone. She won't eat unless I lie there, doing nothing.

Which got me to thinking,

"Man! This is relaxing! I LOVE laying down while I nurse. It's like a mini break or tiny vacation. Like, I can almost take a nap and not even feel guilty!"

Which led to a simple hyptothesis.

What if... we were made to nurse that way? What if..... God knew what an exhausting ordeal childbirth would be. What if He knew mothers would be up all night feeding, swaddling, rocking, and changing their babies, all the while expected to do our normal duties during the day?

Could He, perhaps, have engineered us so that being a mother of an infant comes with built-in breaks? Time so that we could nap and relax in the midst of all of our duties?

Because, like many women I know, I have a hard time taking care of me. My kids? No problem. Husband? Of course! Neighbors? Friends? Acquaintenaces? Random people at the grocery store?? You'd better believe I'm sharing meals, baked goods, babysitting, and being friendly and helping out every person I possibly can. It's easy to make time to help another person.

But myself? Permananet back burner.

And could it be that God, knowing the proclivities of women, knowing our desire to nurture and love, made a way for us to take a break without guilt? Because it's difficult to feel guilty about taking care of your baby.

So what if.... What if those nursing breaks were created to help us, too? Allow us to rest and recharge. Because if I'm nursing laying down, you'd better believe it's not too tough to get a moment or two of shut-eye.

And yes, I know the battle cry that comes from this. "TIME? I don't have time to just lay down every time my baby's hungry! What about my other kids? Other duties? Internet? E-mail? I CAN'T just LAY DOWN and REST while feeding my baby?!"  And perhaps it takes a bit, just a bit, of planning to give yourself a break while feeding your baby.

But maybe, just maybe, God wants us to have  a moment of rest when we feed those little ones. To recharge. To breathe. Nursing or bottle feeding, perhaps He is OK with me napping.

And maybe I should be OK with that, too.