13 Free Money-Saving Tools You Need Before Your Next Shopping Spree
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You love deals. Each deal feels like a win, almost as if you just won another hand of blackjack. So what’s better than a win? A bigger win.
It’s time to double down.
We’ll start with some tools you need to save money when you shop, then show you some tricks to combine them for even bigger savings.
12 Tools to Stack to Get the Best Deal on Everything You Buy
Like any good hand, you have to have the cards to play with and know how to use them. Here are some of our favorite deal-makers.
1. Paribus: Get Refunded for Price Drops
An ace-in-the-hole that gets you money back for your online purchases.
It's free to sign up, and once you do, Paribus will scan your email archives for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund anytime there’s a price drop.
2. Swagbucks: Get Paid to Shop Online
Swagbucks is a destination for online rewards on your computer.You can earn a huge variety of rewards for your online shopping, searching, watching videos and more. Swagbucks is free and is run by Prodege, a company with an A rating by the Better Business Bureau.
If you’re willing to put in some time, you can earn valuable gift cards to retailers like Amazon and Target. Different tasks will earn different amounts of rewards (called SBs), and each SB is worth roughly one cent.
3. Acorns: Invest With Every Purchase (and Get a Free $5)
With all these ways to save, why not invest a little? It’s like splitting your hand and doubling down. If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, Acorns is the card you want to play.
You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store on a connected debit or credit card, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account. Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.
Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get $5 just for getting started with Acorns.
4. Ibotta: Earn Cash Back When You Take a Picture of Your Receipt
Ibotta is an app that will pay you cash back for taking pictures of your receipts. Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes. Bam. Cash back.
5. Wikibuy: Find the Best Prices on Amazon
Add this Chrome extension if you’re an avid Amazon shopper. Whenever you browse the ’Zon, you can click Wikibuy to get more info about the items you want to buy.
Click it to find coupon codes, add to your watchlist (to be notified of price drops), see price histories or see a price comparison from sellers including Walmart, Target, eBay and Jet. It’s like having the dealer tell you if you should hit or stay. Brilliant.
6. Ebates: Get a Free $10 Walmart Gift Card
One of our favorite ways to start your saving is with Ebates, a cash-back site that rewards you nearly every time you buy something. Simply log in to Ebates before shopping at your favorite online retailers, and get money back.
For example, Ebates gives you 10% cash-back on online purchases from Walmart.
7. Shopkick: Get Paid to Walk Around Town
Once you sign up for Shopkick, the app pays you in “kicks” for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). You can redeem them for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy.
It pays you even more kicks for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you purchased in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases. You don’t have to do anything; your linked cards will automatically apply your rewards.
8. Chase Freedom Unlimited Card: Earn 1.5% Cash Back
A cash-back credit card is basically bonus money, as long as you pay off your balance each month.
Here’s an option we like: It’s the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. You’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases. Plus, if you spend $500 in your first three months of opening the card, you’ll pocket a $150 bonus.
There’s no annual fee, and the cash-back rewards don’t expire.
9. Fetch: Grocery Rewards Without the Work
Fetch Rewards is the grocery shopping app for the lazy saver.
If that’s you — the one who just wants to get in and out of the store and save money without doing much thinking — this is the app we recommend. All you have to do to earn rewards is take a photo of your receipt.
No scanning barcodes, searching for offers or store limitations.
Plus you’ll get a free $10 gift card to Walmart for giving the site a try.
10. Checkout 51: Earn Rebates on Your Groceries
Checkout 51 is a rebate app that is particularly useful for grocery shopping.
Using Checkout 51, you’ll find non-brand-specific deals for staples like milk, bread, eggs, and even fresh fruits and vegetables.
Instead of clipping coupons and holding up the checkout line, all you have to do is take a picture of your receipt when you get home. You’ll earn cash back for the groceries you were going to buy anyway.
11. Honey: Find the Best Deal Right in Your Browser
Honey is a web browser extension that effortlessly finds bargains for you. It scours the internet to find coupons as well as lower prices to make sure you’re getting the best price before you finish your online checkout.
12. BerryCart: Get Deals on Organic Food
BerryCart features cash-back deals on organic, gluten-free and non-GMO products. A few featured items we’ve seen include Sweet Earth Veggie Burgers, Hope Organic Hummus and Nasoya Tofu.
To earn cash back, you’ll have to rate the item (to earn 50 cents) then read a fact (another 25 or 50 cents). Then you’ll get the $0.75 to $1 back.
13. Raise: Get a Discounted Gift Card for Instant Savings
Websites like Raise let people sell unwanted gift cards at a slight discount. It may not be a lot, but if you can get a $100 card for $95, why wouldn’t you? That’s a 5% savings right off the bat.
Deal Stacking — With Your Smartphone
You’ve learned about a lot of tools, apps and websites where you can save big bucks. Now here’s how you can pair up two or more of them — stack the deck, you could say — to make your savings pay off big.
How to Get the Best Price When You Go to the Store
If you’re making a trip to your favorite store, whether it’s a jaunt to the grocery store or a trip to Target for odds and ends, do some legwork before you leave your house.
Planning your strategy can help you stack those deals and come out a winner at the register.
- Look for store and manufacturer coupons in fliers and store apps.
- Buy a discounted gift card.
- Check the store’s price match policy. Can you save a few bucks because a different store has what you want cheaper? Bring along your proof, and get that cheaper price.
- Once you hit the register, use a cash-back credit card like Chase Freedom Unlimited or a store card like the Target REDCard to save even more.
- Once you get home, take photos of that receipt! Even if you don’t want to do anything else, this can be a game changer. Go ahead, scan it into Ibotta, Checkout 51, Fetch, and BerryCart to get the most bang for your buck.
Depending on what you buy, you could get a buck or two from each one. While none of these apps will likely provide a huge payout, it only takes a couple of moments to scan your receipt. When you stack a bunch of them together, they can add up.
If you don’t believe deal stacking works, ask Penny Hoarder writer Tiffany Connors. Here’s how she fared at a recent trip to Target:
- $25 Target gift card — just for applying for the Target REDcard.
- $100 Target gift card — She cashed in points from her CitiCard account to get this reward.
- $17.08 in coupons and Cartwheel discounts.
- $0.15 discount for bringing her own bags.
- $0.05 (5%) discount for paying with her REDCard.
“My total purchase without any discounts would have been $136.92 without tax, but combining my discounts, coupons and gift cards, I got out of Target for $1.14. The guy behind me couldn’t believe it.”
You read that right. $136.92 worth of purchases for $1.14. That’s one Penny Hoarder who does more than just talk the talk!
How to Get the Best Price When You Shop Online
Don’t want to go out to a store, touch those germy carts and talk with actual people? You know where your keyboard has been and you know you can get the stuff you need without putting on shoes.
No problem. You can stack your online deals like you’re stacking those browser tabs. (Why do you have so many open, anyway?)
Here’s your online-shopping game plan:
- Start with a cash-back shopping portal. Ebates, Ibotta, Swagbucks, and Shopkick all give options to shop through their sites and earn cash back. Check around to see which has the best savings on what you plan to purchase.
- Look for promo codes and coupons online. Use a browser extension like Honey or Wikibuy to see whether you can score some sweet discounts.
- Before you’re done, sign up for Paribus to make sure you get refunded if something you buy has a price drop.
- Just like you would in the store, use a cash-back credit card or a discounted gift card at checkout to maximize those savings.
- Look for free shipping. Don’t spend more money just to get free shipping, but it’s nice when it works out.
Here’s an example.
I like Crocs flip flops. Just as anyone at work. I flip and flop everywhere I go. #Floridalife! Because I wear them so often, I need both a black and a brown pair.
I did some experiments to see how I could save by deal stacking:
- Starting price: $39.99 x 2 is $79.98.
- I started at Ebates and saw it offers 5% ($3.20) back at Crocs.com. Nice.
- I saw a “Special Offers” tab. “Join Crocs Club for 20% off.” Cha ching! I signed up in about two minutes and had the code in my inbox three minutes later. That’s another $16 off.
- My checkout price was $63.98 before taxes. Shipping is free on orders over $35.
- I couldn’t find any Crocs gift cards discounted online. Bummer. (Do we still say that?)
- If I paid with a Chase Freedom Unlimited card, I’d get that extra 1.5% ($0.96) cash back.
So two pairs of flip flops that should cost $79.98 at regular price would be just $59.82 — shipped to my doorstep! That’s 25% off.
Double Down Those Deals
See? It doesn’t matter how you shop. There are always opportunities to stack deals and maximize your savings. Yeah, it might take a little bit of work, but the payoff can be significant. And when you do it consistently, you’ll really start to see the savings add up.
Why get just one deal when you can double down and get two or more on the same purchase? It’s a bet you’ll win every time.
Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He does not promote gambling, but he does encourage deal stacking and rampant flip-flopping. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.