How to Make Money While Spending It
Since being stuck at home for COVID, I’ve been looking for additional streams of income to save for a rainy day, while also struggling with my desire to indulge in some serious online retail therapy. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on who you ask), I discovered the best of both worlds and — despite practically being raised as an only child — have decided to share my discoveries with you just in time for the gift-giving holiday season. So, without further ado, here are a few secrets on how to make money while spending it.
Shop on Cash Back Websites
Websites like Rakuten, BeFrugal, and Ibotta offer cash back, coupons, and rewards for shopping online at their partner stores. These stores pay the company a commission for directing its members to shop on their websites, and then the company splits that commission with you in the form of cash back. The cash you earn can range anywhere from 2% of your purchase, all the way up to 16%. To earn cash back, you simply click on a link that is available via the company’s website, app, or browser plug-in to activate your shopping trip. Within a few days of making a purchase from the partner store, the cash back you earned is added to your account. Depending on the company’s policies, these funds can then be redeemed within a certain time period or once you’ve earned a minimum cash back amount. Since signing up, I’ve already earned over $85 in cash back. Membership is free for most of these sites — and some even offer a cash bonus just for joining or referring a friend — so there is no reason why you shouldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to line the pockets of the new jeans you just bought!
Use a Credit Card with Rewards
If you don’t have one already, apply for a credit card that will earn you cash back (and other rewards) when you make purchases and use it to pay for everything — gas, bills, food, online shopping, etc. The cash back earned from these purchases can be redeemed to your checking or savings account, or applied as a statement credit to your credit card bill. Case in point — I earned $150 in cash back just from using my credit card to pay for over $3,000 in car repairs after getting into a 3-car accident (it’s a long story). It was a little anxiety-inducing to see such a high balance on my credit card since I normally try to keep my spending to under $1,ooo per month (which includes bills and excludes student loans and other credit card payments). But I was reassured by the fact that I was going to be reimbursed by the at-fault driver’s insurance company and that I would be making money from an unfortunate situation.
With that being said — and I seriously cannot emphasize this enough — there are two big takeaways to making this work: (1) do not spend more than you would in a typical month and (2) pay off your credit card balance in full each month to avoid paying interest on your purchases. Use the money from your checking account that you would have used to make these same purchases, to pay off your credit card. Otherwise, the interest charged to your credit card may cancel out any cash back that you earned that month (on top of creating or adding to your overall credit card debt).
Bonus expert tip: Make even more money by using your cash back credit card to make purchases on websites offering cash back deals.
Give Your Wallet a Break
Although I try to earn as much cash back as possible when making purchases, I try to save as much money as I can, too. When shopping online, I use browser plug-ins like Honey or Shoptagr to apply coupon codes to the items in my cart. Cash back websites may also offer discounts on certain purchases if there are no cash back opportunities available. Also, by shopping at outlet stores like Saks OFF 5TH, Nordstrom Rack, and Last Call Neiman Marcus (R.I.P.), I’ve never paid full price for the clothes, shoes, purses, and other luxury items in my closet.
Shipping costs can eat away at any savings you may have earned while shopping online. A credit card reward that I take full advantage of in this situation is my free membership with ShopRunner, a site that offers free two-day shipping and free returns for select retail stores. When ShopRunner is not available, you can still try to avoid shipping costs by buying the minimum dollar amount needed to get free shipping. You can always return the extra items later in-store, if there are no free shipping returns (although this strategy has backfired on me many times because I ended up keeping the extra items that I purchased).
Overall, by utilizing these strategies, you can indulge in your desire to shop guilt-free. Not only will you be making some extra cash, you’ll also be saving your hard-earned money for another day.