Thrifty Thursday: Five easy ways to get Amazon gift cards!

Last year, I “paid” for most of my family’s Christmas using Amazon gift cards that I earned throughout the year.  This year, my goal is to have another 100% cash Christmas and to use Amazon gift cards to fund a large portion of our Christmas.

Here are five easy ways to get Amazon gift cards:

1.  Coinstar – I posted earlier this year about starting a “change jar.”  When you visit a Coinstar machine, you have the option of “cashing out” but then you have to pay 9.8 cents per dollar. They also have an option where you can get “free coin counting” if you opt for a gift card or gift certificate instead. Amazon is one of the choices and the e-certificates you get for Amazon never expire! They also offer gift cards for Albertson’s, Borders, Cabela’s, CVS, Eddie Bauer, iTunes, JC Penney, Lowe’s, Old Navy,, Regal Entertainment Group, and Starbucks.  We started filling a change jar at the beginning of the year and it’s already almost full.  I’m looking forward to cashing it in for an Amazon card and finding out how much money we’ve saved so far!

2. is a survey site that I have been with for several years now.  The surveys are typically fairly easy and usually relate to TV shows.  I usually get 2-3 surveys each month.  You earn points for completing the surveys which can then be exchanged for gift cards to Amazon and a number of other retailers including Best Buy, Target, Home Depot, and Red Lobster.


3.  My PointsMy Points is an easy way to earn gift cards for Amazon or a number of other retailers.  All you have to do is read the e-mails they send, print and redeem coupons, shop through links on their site, or submit Bzz Agent reports.

4.  Opinion OutpostOpinion Outpost is a survey site that I just joined recently.  You earn points for completing surveys and for every 50 “opinion points” you earn, you can choose to cash out for a $5 Amazon gift card.

5.  SwagbucksSwagbucks is one of my favorite “rewards” sites.  You earn points just for searching the web, which is something you do are probably doing on a daily basis anyway!

Also, check with your bank to find out if they offer rewards if you use your debit card.  We recently found out that we can earn points from our bank for using our debit card and one of the retailers when we cash out points is Amazon!

Do you know of other ways to earn Amazon gift cards or do you have another thrifty tip to share?  Feel free to link up below!

For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.

Tip of the Day Tuesday: Budgeting for Bargains

One of the questions I get asked a lot by people is “How much do you budget for bargains?” My response is, “Nothing.” If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know that I’m a big fan of Dave Ramsey and that I budget for EVERYTHING, so I think that response probably catches people off guard.

The thing is, I don’t have a budget set aside specifically for “bargains.” All of my “bargain shopping” comes out of our other regular budget categories.

So, if there is a big grocery deal like the Mega sale that has been happening at Kroger the past two weeks, I have to figure out how to do the deals I want to do and stay within my grocery budget.

If there is a big sale at Walgreens or CVS (like the diapers and Dove deals this week!), I use my “toiletry” or “miscellaneous” budget envelopes.

So, I know what you’re thinking because it’s the next question I always get as I explain this. What if you don’t have enough money?

If I don’t have enough money in one of my envelopes to do a deal, sometimes that means that I sit that deal out. When you’re just getting started with bargain hunting, this can be a tough thing to do because you get so excited about all of the deals. Since we’re really trying to stick to our budget right now, a deal isn’t a deal if I don’t have the money to get it.

Having said that, I have to add a few disclaimers. First of all, I have a good stockpile of things that we “need” already, so I can sit out a deal knowing that I will probably have enough of a certain item to get by until the next deal comes along. Over time, I have also developed an understanding of the “sales cycles” to know about how long it will be before the next deal like that comes along. I’ve also gotten a good idea over time about what’s a really HOT deal that probably won’t come around again for awhile, if ever.

Sometimes, if the deal is really a “hot” deal and it’s for something we really NEED or I know we will need soon (most likely before the next deal comes along), then I will re-evaluate my budget categories and if we have enough money to cover it in another envelope and I feel like we’re pretty “set” in that category, I will borrow from another envelope. The bottom line for me is that I won’t spend money that I don’t actually have for any bargain shopping.

What about rebates?

I often get asked about rebates, too. Specifically, what if you don’t have money to cover something but there is a rebate offer of some sort, so you can just “replace” the money when you get your rebate? From my experience, it usually takes 4-8 weeks to get a rebate check back. By the time that rebate money comes, it’s pretty easy to come up with some other use for it, so more likely than not, you’re not going to pay yourself back. I only do rebate offers where I can get things for free or close to free (using ECBs or RRs) to start out with or when it’s for something I really need and would be buying anyway. When I get the rebate check, it goes into our “100% cash Christmas” fund.

It’s a great time to start "Swagging"

Search & Win

If you haven’t signed up for Swagbucks yet, now is a great time! Every day this week, they will be posting a Swag code on the Swagbucks toolbar. You will also get three bonus Swagbucks if you sign up using this link here.

If you’ve already signed up for Swagbucks, but haven’t really started using it, this week is a great time to start!

If you’re not familiar with Swagbucks, you earn “Swagbucks” by searching online and your Swagbucks can then be redeemed for gift cards or other prizes and merchandise. I joined Swagbucks last January and spent the whole year cashing out for Amazon gift cards (you can cash out for a $5 gift card for every 45 bucks you earn). I was able to save these and used them to pay for a large chunk of our Christmas. If I had to pick a “favorite” site that I discovered in 2009, this site was definitely it!

Here are a few tricks that I have learned to help you make the most of your Swagbucks account:

*Do a few searches every day until you earn at least one Swagbuck. I search from things that I would normally be searching for online anyway and I have found that I can easily earn 1-3 Swagbucks each day by doing this. Your searches do need to be “natural” searches. If it does not seem like your searches are legitimate, they may freeze or even close your account.

*If you have a Facebook account, become a “fan” of Swagbucks on Facebook. Click here to do this. If you check out the wall, there are bonus codes posted from time to time that you can add to your account. (To add bonus codes, log into Swagbucks, and then click on the icon that says “You have X Swagbucks.” There will be a box that says this: Have a SwagCode? Just enter it here and receive your SwagBucks instantly! Enter your code and click GIMME!)

*Publish your Swagbucks winnings on Facebook – when you “win” a buck, you now have the option of posting your win on Facebook. It shows up on your profile and it’s another way to promote your Swagbucks account (and get more ‘friends’)

*Read the Swagbucks blog (you can access this here). Bonus codes are posted here, as well.

*Sign up for the Swagbucks newsletter. They send bonus codes embedded in the newsletter, so it’s an easy way to earn extra Swagbucks!

*Download the Swagbucks Toolbar onto your internet browser – Click on the “toolbars” option on the left hand side of the website after you log in and follow the instructions!

*Post the Swidget on your blog or your Facebook page. You can download it here.

*Tell all your friends – When your friends sign up under you, you win when they win for the first 100 Swagbucks (this does not include any Swagcodes that they enter)

I have found that I typically earn at least 3 Swagbucks per day just by doing the things listed above. That adds up to 90 Swagbucks in one month’s time (or 2 $5 Amazon gift cards!). I work full time and I only do searched from home (non working hours) and I’m able to do this, so it isn’t something that you have to spend a lot of time on, but you should easily be able to earn $120 in Amazon gift cards in a year’s time. If you’d rather have gift cards for somewhere else, that would give you enough to cash out for $100 in Target gift cards (these can only be used online) or for 8 $10 Starbucks gift cards. If your goal is to do a 100% Cash Christmas, this will help you get started!


Thrifty Thursday: Start a change jar

About a year ago, my husband and I took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class and it was life-changing for us. One of Dave’s big recommendations is that you use a “cash only” system for paying for things. At first this was an adjustment for us, but we quickly realized how much money we had LEFT at the end of the month when we started doing this. It was powerful.

Going to a “cash only” system meant that we did a “cash only” vacation last year (we used some of our cash to purchase gift cards beforehand so it was a bit “safer”) and that was the first vacation where we’ve ever come home with money left (it was $150 to be exact if I’m remembering correctly).

We also managed to do a “100% Cash Christmas” this year and I shared in my post here that we plan to do the same thing again this year. Planning for a 100% Cash Christmas means you need to start NOW. Some of you may be thinking “No big deal. We’ll set aside X amount of money each month and that’s how we can save for Christmas.” We tried that. But for us, I found that each month, Christmas seemed pretty far away and we needed that money from our monthly paychecks NOW for other things. Sound familiar? We decided that in saving up our cash for Christmas, we weren’t going to touch our monthly paychecks. We managed to do this last year and it worked and I’m hoping we’ll be able to do it again this year.

One of the things that we decided to do this year was to start a change jar. Using cash only to pay for things, we found out that sometimes we ended up with a lot of change at the end of the day. To be honest, I found myself leaving it in my car so that I could treat myself to a $.99 Sonic drink from time to time in the mornings or using it to buy a “treat” from the vending machine at work from time to time. With my new weight loss plan, I decided I don’t need to be doing those things anymore anyway. So, about a month ago, my husband and I decided to start a change jar.

I counted the change yesterday and I was surprised at how quickly those pennies, nickels, and dimes could add up! We had almost $30 in there already! Our plan is to just let the change accumulate throughout the year and then “cash it out” in early November so we have the money for our Christmas spending. I know several people who have found that they can easily save $200-300 throughout the year by doing this.

If you decide to take on this challenge, let me know how it goes!

Do you have your own Thrifty Thursday tip to share? Feel free to link up below!

For more thrifty ideas, check out The Coupon Teacher and Life as a Mom.

Tip of the Day Tuesday: Four Free Rewards Programs You Don’t Want to Miss!

If you’re on a quest to fund a “100% Cash Christmas” you should take advantage of these free rewards programs if you aren’t already and earn points that can be used toward gift cards or merchandise. You’re probably using these products already, anyway!

Disney Movie Rewards ~ When you buy a Disney movie, there is a small flier inside the box with a code on it. Enter the codes here and earn points that can be redeemed for prizes! Each month, you also get a newsletter with a free bonus code. I ordered a Cars scooter for my son’s birthday with some of the points that I earned!

If you haven’t joined yet, click here to join. Enter the code CELEBRATE (through 1/31/10) and get 50 bonus points in your account! Make sure you check the boxes of Disney movies you currently own and look for codes that you can enter, too!

Huggies Enjoy the Ride Rewards ~ Enter rewards codes from participating products (diapers, Pull-Ups, and wipes) and earn points for completing activities such as polls and videos on the site. Use your points to participate in sweepstakes, play instant win games, or shop for merchandise.

I won 3 $25 pre-paid Visa gift cards and a $25 Gap gift card last year through the instant win games, so if you haven’t signed up yet, you’ve got nothing to lose! You can sign up here.

Here are a few codes to get you started:

5 point codes:

1 point codes:

My Coke Rewards ~ If you drink Coke products, save your bottle caps or the codes on your boxes and enter them here to earn points! The points can be redeemed for gift cards, merchandise or more Coke products!


Pampers Gifts to Grow ~ Enter points from participating products (diapers and wipes) and redeem them for merchandise.

Enter this code for 10 bonus points: WELCOME2GTG2010

If you have not yet joined the Pampers rewards program, you can do so and enter your codes here. You will also be entered to win a year’s supply of diapers! Right now, they also have a promotion where you earn 50 bonus points when you enter and 3 diaper codes through 2/5/10.

Check out this post here for additional codes worth 140 points!