Frugal Friday: Ebates

Over a year ago, I posted about one of my favorite ways to get a little more bang for your buck: Ebates. With the new year here, and some changes to the program, I want to make sure everyone knows about it!
 Ebates is a way to get cash back on purchases you are already making. It is a website, but is also available as an app. You may have even seen some TV commercials for it. I’ve been using this site for nearly 3 years. I don’t make a lot of online purchases, and I forget about ebates almost every other time. Initially Amazon was not included, which is a majority of my online shopping, but it is now. However, in that time, I’ve gotten over $150 back on purchases I was going to make regardless. This cash is in addition to cash back from my credit cards rewards program. Cash back ranges from 1% up to 10% or more. Additionally, Ebates includes sales and discounts for some stores.

So how does it work? When you’re ready to do some shopping, go to the ebates website (or app) and log in. Then search for the store you want to shop at. Ebates will display how much cash back and the terms. Click the store, and a ticket will open into a new window, then the store website itself will be displayed. At this point you shop like normal. It sounds like a lot, but it honestly adds 30 seconds to your shopping experience.
Ebates actually has recently added the ability to get cash back for in-store purchases at certain stores if you link your credit card. Again, this is in addition to any discount, loyalty programs, or credit card cash-back programs you are already a part of.
Ebates policy allows for a certain number of days before your cash back appears, but I typically see it within 48 hours. Cash is sent back to you each quarter. Typically it’s sent back via paypal, but sometimes there are options for gift cards.
New users receive a $10 gift card after their first $25 purchase, so sign up today.


#TBT – Cooking at Home

Well, there have certainly been lots of changes in Kayte’s life since she originally wrote this a year ago.  The toddler she mentioned is almost 3 years old now, and he has a little sister who is 6 months old (meet Iris).  However, the basic information is still as relevant today as it was then (and adding an infant to the mix just makes it even harder to enjoy dining out).  

To read the original post, click here.

#TBT – Budgeting Can Relieve Stress

For these next three Thursdays, I am going to revisit the series of posts that we ran going into the New Year last year.  
I don’t know if you make New Year’s resolutions, but it is always a good time to step back, evaluate where you are, and decide if you want to make changes going forward.  If you do want to make changes, it is very important to be specific – not “I want to start saving”, but instead “I will put $20 in my savings account every payday”. A good change to make would be to take control of your money, and maybe this post can help you figure out where to start.  Click here for post.

Making New Year’s Resolutions?

Many of us start out the new year with lofty goals and unrealistic expectations.  Modern Mother Cubbard is doing a three-part series called “Making Changes” that may help you  come up with a plan that you can actually accomplish.
It is all about taking control of several of your most basic challenges that tend to be related to each other – when you change one, the other two are affected.  The three pieces to the puzzle are healthy eating, home cooking and budgeting.  Even if you opt out of trying to deal with one or more of these, the others are impacted by the very fact that you aren’t paying attention to them.  If you aren’t thinking about any of these, then chances are you are living moment-to-moment, struggling to get through each day, week or month (or have so much money you don’t need to worry about anything).
Before you throw up your hands in despair and quit reading (if you haven’t already), rest assured that I am not advocating huge, radical changes that force you to evaluate your whole life and vow to change everything right this minute.  That is a surefire way to fail immediately! You can join the journey right where you are, even if you hate (or don’t know how) to cook or have no idea of how to budget without being totally stressed out all the time – or don’t think you have enough money to be able to budget.
It is all about baby steps – start from where you are, use what you have, do what is realistic for you and your circumstances.  If you don’t like where you are, make a plan that will help you move to a better place.  Be sure your plan includes specific actions, not just good intentions.
If you want to get a jump on the series, here are links to a few of our past posts that lay some groundwork.
There are also lots of recipes in the blog archives, the great majority of which are quick, easy and budget-friendly.  The recipes can also be found on our recipe page (link is at the top of the page).

What I Ate Last Week … Meals On The Cheap

While I absolutely love to take a meal out of my freezer and pop it into the pressure cooker or slow cooker and walk away, then come back to something hot and delicious…I do also really enjoy cooking. These BBQ ribs were pretty much the bomb. They were super easy. Pre-cooked in a pressure cooker, then broiled following Mrs. Vickie’s recipe. We ate them with some costco Cesar salad, and asparagus and butternut squash. . Both of these veggies came from my freezer stock pile, at less than $1 each! (and that is Why I Coupon).

I tend to save my freezer meals for crazy days, or when I am working, particularly since we have a baby coming. Menu planning works best, when there some predictability to your schedule. Between traveling, family visits, and pre-term labor scares, life has been far from predictable for me lately. That is when a stocked pantry and freezer, and the means to bulk buy comes in handy!

At the beginning of last week I stopped at Kroger, purchased some fresh groceries and stocked up on a fantastic meat deal: Pork Shoulder was only $1.99/lb. This was a great stock up price! I purchased two 8 lbs pork shoulders, but you’ll have to check back later to see what I did with it. I also got the rack of ribs at a great stock up price.

After this I stopped at Costco and purchased a Costco Rotisserie Chicken ($4.99) and a Prepackaged Cesar Salad ($8.99). I’ve already written about my love for the rotisserie chicken, though I often forget how much I really do love it until its in my possession. This wonderful blog post, breaks down the cost of making one’s own chicken vs costco chicken – honestly, the price and convenience can’t be beat! We had chicken salad sandwiches, chicken Cesar salad, chicken quesadillas. My kiddo had some quesadillas, and dipped chopped up chicken in BBQ sauce.We always have shredded Mexican cheese, BBQ sauce, sour cream, and tortillas on hand. This chicken fed two adults and a toddler for more than 3 meals! The salad was used for one of those meals, and a side for two others. We easily spent less than $5 a meal for all of those meals.

More Bang for Your Buck

Previously, I posted about my favorite budgeting software – YNAB. While YNAB keeps my budget in order, I use coupons, and a few apps to get a little more for my money, and keep my budget on track. There’s a lot of coupon apps out there. There’s a lot of cash back apps out there, too. More importantly there is a lot of time-wasting apps that don’t work. I follow quite a few finance/coupon/budgeting blogs, and have tried quite a few apps. These are my favorites!

First up is Ebates – this is both a website and an app. You may have seen commercials on TV recently, or you may have never heard of it. You can get cash back at some of your favorite stores for online purchases – and it works! I’ve been using Ebates for about 2 years, I’ve gotten $140 back on purchases I would have made regardless. (This is in addition to any cash back you get as part of credit/debit card reward program). Basically, stores pay Ebates a commission for sending shoppers their way (via the internet), and they give it back to you.

So how does it work? When you’re ready to do some online shopping, all you do is go to, search for the store you want to shop at, click the link and the store will open in a new window. Ebates tells you to allow so many days, but over the last year, I’ve been seeing my cash back within 48 hours. Every quarter, cash is sent back to you via paypal. Sometimes they have the option for an amazon gift card also.

New users receive a $10 gift card when they make their first $25 purchase, so sign up today, and starting getting a little more back for your money.

Shopkick is a phone app that rewards you for simply going into the store. You receive points every time you walk into a participating store. You can also receive extra points for “scanning” items. I’ll be honest, I never scan. You can use your points for gift cards. So far I have used Shopkick to redeem $40+ in gift cards. My favorite store to get points at and gift cards is at is Target.

Generally speaking you get 35+ points for entering a store, that’s not including bonus days of 150-200+ points (or scanning bonus).  I hit up target multiple times a week. Literally all you have to do is pull up the app when you walk into the store. This is convenient for me since I’m already pulling up my phone for cartwheel and target mobile coupons (I’ll post about these later). Click here, and give it a try.

Last but not least are two coupon apps Ibotta and Checkout 51. Both apps offer cash back on purchases you make. Both require you to scan your receipt, and may also require you to scan your product. Ibotta focuses mainly on grocery items but also includes specials at different stores. Additionally if you sign up using Facebook, and have any friends using the app you get more cash back for the activity of your team members (no referrals necessary, its automatic). You can cash out at $10. Checkout 51 features fewer products but changes them weekly. You can cash out at $20. I’ll be honest, I don’t use these apps as much as I should. I forget they are there. I remember if prompted by a coupon blog/site (stay tuned for that post). 

YNAB – An Effective Way to Budget

One of the things all three of us have in common here at Modern Mother Cubbard is our use of YNAB. YNAB is not only a budgeting software; it’s a different type of budget philosophy. YNAB stands for “You Need a Budget”. It’s true. You do. Everyone does. You’d be amazed at what can happen when you really put your money to work.
What’s more amazing is the freedom that comes with budgeting. Yes, that’s right – I said freedom. When you are in a good spot financially, you can afford to make more guilt-free choices, you can worry less about the future, and you can roll with the punches much better. Yes, budgeting requires rules, some self-control, and sometimes denial of self-gratification, but it can bring much more good with it. 
What I love about YNAB (that is besides the philosophy, free online classes, and all the info available on the YNAB website) is that it’s digital. Currently, you have to have a desktop or laptop computer to perform the initial set up, but YNAB is available for your phone, tablet, and iPad. You can sync your account on the go. I can check out at the store, enter my transaction in YNAB, and all the devices are updated. My hubby immediately knows where we stand on our “fun-money” budget. 
So how does it work? Once you install YNAB, you’ll need to set up a tentative budget. If you don’t already have a budget, websites like Mint are a good way to figure out what you are spending on average. That last sentence may have you asking, “Why not just use Mint?” Budget trackers are a passive way to see where your money is going. YNAB is actively putting your money to work for you. 

Once you know where your money is going and you set up a budget, you can make informed choices about how to change where your money is going. The first time my husband and I made a budget, we were appalled to see how much money we spent on groceries and eating out. (Now, as a family of 3.5, we spend half that total and we haven’t suffered at all). 
The first items you should budget are your financial obligations: your bills (minimum debt payments included). You should include bills/expenses that are not monthly also. For example, we get a discount to pay our insurance every 6 months instead of monthly, but we include it as part of our monthly budget. This way when the bill comes it’s no surprise. We also use this method for pet meds (those are purchased twice/year) and car taxes. Next, you should set up all your general spending categories: food/groceries, entertainment, fun money, gas… Whatever categories work for you and your family. It can be a shocker to see what’s left over.  Finally, you should set up a “rainy day fund”. These are just-in-case line items. For example, maybe you want to have a line for car repairs and Christmas gifts. 
While the budget in YNAB is flexible and it can be changed at any time, it does remind me a bit of an electronic “envelope system”. The money is set aside for different things. When it’s out it’s out, unless you take it from somewhere else. Technically, it’s all in your bank account as one lump sum, but in YNAB it’s predestined for different categories.  If you don’t spend it, then it sits there for next month. This part is really great for more flexible spending items like clothes or fun money. Perhaps the last few months we haven’t needed any new clothes, but suddenly the weather has changed and my son’s had a growth spurt. I can buy what’s necessary and not feel bad or worry bills won’t get met because that money is already there. This built-in savings allows you to roll with the punches. The eventual goal of YNAB is to get ahead of your paychecks and live on last month’s income.
Things can get way more complicated. You can choose to snowball debt, to add to savings, create a new savings. I could literally go on for days about YNAB, but I’ve tried to give you a pretty good idea about how it all works.
There is a 35-day free trial available on the YNAB website. While this is enough time to get set-up and learn to use the program, in my experience it takes at least a month to get results. Current purchase price is $60 (get $6 off with this link!). I have yet to meet someone who tried it and found it “wasn’t for them.” 

Have you used YNAB? What’s your budget preference? Let us know what you think!
(note: we are not affiliated with YNAB. We just love it so much we had to talk about it :-D)