I'm struggling to stay on the budgeting bandwagon and to improve our monthly spending habits. It's summertime--when I long for a cute, comfortable dress, a good book, and a cute new bathing suit to hide my stretch marks. Oh, and a white chocolate moccha frappucino from Starbucks to sip while I sit around reading that good book and wearing my new bathing suit. (Hmm..that sounds strangely like what vacation used to be like before our two little munchkins came along!)
The point is, it's tough to keep my spending in control sometimes. I am having to learn the value of waiting and saving my extra money for the bigger things I want. For instance, I am using a birthday check from my dad to get the super-cute Kindle cover I've had my eye on for the last month or so. I couldn't justify the cost just because I wanted it, but with that little additional "fun money", I can order it and not feel guilty.
Another trick I'm using to pay for my extras without taking a chunk out of the budget is by using a couple of reward websites to earn gift cards. My regular Visa credit card earns reward points for every dollar spent. I don't make it a habit to charge on that card, but when we moved and bought new appliances, it was convenient to put them on the card, then pay the bill when we got our income tax refund. That added up to quite a bit of points, which I just cashed in for a $25.00 Amazon gift card.
I recently opened a Gap Visa account, which earns reward points toward Gap gift cards. I found a great pair of jeans that were already on sale, plus I saved about $15 extra on my purchase by opening a card (don't worry...I am almost never talked into opening a store card. It just worked out that I would save enough on that day that I considered it to be worth the investment). I just earned my first $10 gift card, and I'm only 6 points away from earning another one. The cool thing about the Gap Visa is that I can use it anywhere--not just at Gap stores. So, for example, I can put my gas on it, pay it off each month, and earn points toward gift cards for something I would be buying anyway. Good deal, right? I also like that the Gap rewards can be used at Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Piperlime, so I'm not limited to Gap.
Another easy way I've been earning rewards online is by using Swagbucks. You earn points by using their search engine for everyday internet searches, by taking surveys, answering poll questions, etc. It's pretty easy and totally free. I just earned my first Amazon gift card today, and it really took very little effort. (yay!) If you might be interested in Swagbucks, click the link above and you can sign up as a referral under my account...that means when you earn points, I will too!
The last "easy money" program I've been participating in is MyPoints. This one is even easier than Swagbucks for me, and the points seem to accumulate a little faster overall. There are a variety of ways to earn with MyPoints as well. The easiest is by "reading" the email they send on a daily basis, then clicking the enclosed link to visit the website. You earn more for signing up for the offer they're promoting, but you get points just for clicking to the site. What could be easier than that? There are also surveys, special offers, etc. Oh, and with both MyPoints and Swagbucks, you can earn points shopping online. You shop at the same places you normally do, but you click through their site first, and you can earn points for every dollar you spend. MyPoints seems to have more participating retailers and offer more points per dollar, but I haven't earned by the shopping method yet. I have only been doing MyPoints for a few weeks, and I'm well on my way to another gift card. (I would suggest setting up a dedicated email for things like this...they can clog your inbox after awhile.)
With all the gift cards headed my way, it's shaping up to be a good month around here. I like to get Amazon cards, because you can order SO much off the one website. Of course, we all know what I'll most likely be using my gift cards for...books for my Kindle! : )
What are your secrets for squeezing extra spending money out of your budget? And what is your favorite thing to buy with that "fun money"? Any other good rewards programs I am missing out on?