I have recently delved into the world of Amazon reviews. I started it when I saw a Facebook ad offering a huge discount on some probiotics. I had been randomly breaking out in hives, and I was desperate for a natural solution. I clicked the link and gave my email address and soon I was receiving my $20 bottle of vitamins in the mail for $1. They worked great and helped me detox and heal.
There are ample opportunities to receive FREE and cheap products simply by leaving a quick, unbiased review of a product on Amazon. You don’t need to be a blogger with a huge following, anyone can do it!
So far the company I’ve seen the best results with is Elite Deal Club. I’ve gotten mostly discount vitamins and a few beauty products all for either $1 or free. I already have Prime so it’s free 2-day shipping too. I’ve been using this great $30 argan oil shampoo that I paid $1 for. Plus I got a HUGE bottle of peppermint essential oils for free, which I use to make toothpaste.
As soon as I have used the product, I make sure I leave a review. The review can be a sentence or more, and it just needs to be honest.
Oh, you also have to add this addendum:
“I received this product at a discount in exchange for my unbiased review.”
The products are random and go really fast. If you don’t login right when they “go live” they run out of coupons for the hot items. I’ve seen a lot of healthy and beauty supplies, pet supplies and phone accessories. But they have other things too, like electronics and kitchenware. I recently saw an $100 drone helicopter for $11! It was sold out of course.
I am excited to get more into this. I know there are other review clubs, I just haven’t had the chance to look into them.
Hopefully this will help someone out there save some money and stay healthy!
Today I did something incredibly brave. I took my 1.5-year-old to Toys “R” Us and let her walk around. I am pretty sure she pulled half the toys off the shelf. She especially went nuts in the Minnie and Disney Princess aisle.
Pre-child me would have scoffed at mom me and say, “My kids will not be obsessed with a corporation. And Disney princesses are terrible role models.”
HA! Pre-child me was pretentious and silly. But for real, all this stuff COST SO MUCH. I know she is super excited about it, which makes me excited, but does my toddler really NEED a $50 talking Minnie Mouse cash register?Probably not.
There are two extremes when it comes to Christmas presents. One is to Black Friday it up, put stuff on layaway and go into a little bit (or a lot) of debt doing Christmas.
The other is to spend $12 on yarn to knit crooked beanies for everyone, and wrap up used books you get for $0.10 at a yard sale.
I think there is a happy medium. So here are some real life tips that I am currently doing to have a fun, abundant Christmas without spending too much money, or spending hours Hobby Lobby only to burn my fingers with the glue gun and create a Pinterest-fail monster.
Stalk Local Yard Sale Facebook Groups
I love being a part of local Buy/Sell/Trade groups. Not only is way more visually appealing and less sketchy than Craigslist, but you can ask questions directly, join conversations and easily directly message someone if you want to buy their crap. Plus, everyone is on Facebook.
I was recently scrolling through a local group on my phone while I was waiting for my husband to finish a meeting. I found a FurReal Puppy, still in the box for only $6 (They retail for $25) that was just 10 minutes up the road from where I was. Score.
I’ve bought and sold plenty of stuff on Craigslist, but again, for some reason there tends to be more used stuff there. And sketchy people. Obviously, be wise and stuff. Meet in a public place. Don’t give them cash without looking at the item first.
Give An Experience
A great Christmas gift for your significant other could be a night away somewhere together, or a day at a local spa/masseuse. (Hint, hint!) But that can get expensive. Look on sites like Groupon, Living Social or Travelzoo for deep discounts.
I am not gonna lie, I am completely addicted to Groupon. I am pretty sure at least 75% of the new restaurants we try or the new things we do are because of this lovely company. I am not ashamed to use them for date nights with my husband.
I check the app at least every other day to see if they have flash sales. Often they will have up to 25% off any local deal and you can save even more money.
Make sure to do some homework and read reviews before buying the Groupon. If you’re too slow and miss the deal, sometimes businesses will honor the Groupon price if you call them and ask.
Earn Gift Cards
I’ve tried a bunch of different rebate and survey apps, but the only one that I’ve really stuck with is Shopkick. I love Shopkick because I am lazy and I really don’t have to do anything. Whenever I go near a store where I can get points, (think Target, Walmart, JC Penny, Best Buy and more.) I will get a push notification on my phone saying if I walk in I can get points.
Depending on the day, you can also get points for scanning the bar codes of certain products in those store. You don’t even have to buy anything! Sometimes I walk around a mall or shopping center with my daughter just collecting points. It takes a bit for them to add up, but if you’re out anyways it goes by quick.
Once you have a certain amount you can turn them in instantly for gift cards. It’s fast and legit. So far I’ve earned $62 in Target gift cards, which is basically gold currency. (By the way, if you sign up through this link I will get points!)
Make Some Side Money
It may be super hectic the next few weeks, but it’s possible to make some extra money without getting a seasonal job. One of my favorite side jobs is Mystery Shopping which I talk about here. I have a couple coming up this week that will take about 30 minutes of my time, give me free gas and Chinese food and make me about $13 richer. Hey, every little bit counts!
What are you doing to save on your Christmas shopping this year?
Some days, being on a tight budget sucks. Sometimes it’s fun and I can see it as an adventure. One thing is for sure: it forces me to be creative! I want to share with ya’ll some fun ways I’ve found to save money. This is my current favorite.
I eat out at restaurants for free. Sometimes I even get paid to do it.
This is for real. I know, there are a lot of scams out there, I’ve been duped a few times by “work from home” opportunities. But I got smart! Now my family and I are eating out for free at least once a week. I’ve been doing it for several months now, and it’s easy.
We’ve had anything from anything from cheap burgers to fancy sushi. When I get home, I fill out a simple survey then a few weeks later I get reimbursed what I spent, plus sometimes a little extra. (So in that case, I am getting PAID to eat good food!)
I’ve also scored free food from a grocery store and a free oil change, and next week I’ll get free gas. Twice last month I spent about 20 minutes touring a day care with A.C. (my 1.5-year-old daughter) pretending like I was interested in sending her there, and got paid $50 for my time.
This is the magic of Mystery Shopping!
Let me tell you, I am seriously addicted! If you want to start, here are some tips.
1. Make Sure You Find a Good Company
Mystery Shopping gets a bad rep, probably because there are too many fake companies out there that will try to con you by asking you to send them a money order or something. Don’t do that.
Be smart. Make sure they are accredited with the Better Business Bureau. Do a simple search of the company’s name plus “scam” to see what comes up. There shouldn’t be a signup fee or anything. My general rule of thumb with any company is this: if the website looks like it was made when Angelfire and Geocities pages were a thing, don’t trust them.
I use Market Force which has mostly fast food and casual restaurants. Another favorite company is A Closer Look which tends to have nicer restaurants, as well as hotels and other businesses.
One of my favorite money-saving blogs, The Penny Hoarder, has a great list of the best mystery shop companies to work for.
Like any job, you have to apply. Depending on the type of shop, you may need to read a manual and take a test to qualify. The first shop always takes the longest, but once you start it’s pretty simple.
2. Plan Ahead
For someone who is spontaneous, this is a challenge. But hey, FREE FOOD. Usually, this doesn’t work if you do it last-minute. So, every few days I log on the websites to see what new shops are up.
Next I pull out my calendar and coordinate. I look at other appointments to see where I’ll be in relation to the shops that need filling, and go from there. It’s a great chance to grab lunch after the chiropractor.
Just make sure you double-check your availability as most companies don’t like when you have to frequently reschedule or cancel.
3. It’s All In the Details
Before you do a mystery shop, make sure you read through all the paperwork and know what’s required of you. With fast food, some shops are drive-thru and some are dine-In. I’ve found drive-thrus are bit better to do when A.C. is teething and cranky.
Make sure you pay attention to small details like the name of the employee who serves you and whether or not there are fingerprint smudges on the windows. Memorize what you need to know ahead of time so you won’t be stressed and forget important things.
4. Be Normal!
Mystery shopping is fun because you get to feel like a secret agent! (Or maybe that is just me…) On that note, never let the employees know you are anything but a regular customer. Don’t bring the paperwork in, instead type notes on your phone discreetly. You’ll probably need to take pictures of your food, which is fine because everyone does it to post on Instagram.
5. Fill Out the Report ASAP
If I have time, I try to do the survey as soon as I get home so the details won’t be lost. Usually, you have to turn them in within 12 hours, and if my day has been particularly busy I end up staying up late trying to remember what happened. Sometimes when my husband is with me he’ll help me remember stuff.
Mystery shopping has changed my life!
I am a super nerd about saving money and I LOVE food. Mystery shopping has been amazing because I get to go out to eat without feeling guilty if it’s not in our budget. My husband and I have even incorporated some of the nicer restaurants into our date nights. We make a game out of noticing the details…. like we’re spies .;)
Also, it’s been amazing to do a side job with A.C. in tow. She USUALLY behaves. 😉
As a writer, it’s a great way to exercise my creativity and it’s fun to write details about the food and service. I love having the freedom to pick shops that work with my schedule when we’re tight on cash.