Most garden-variety, money-savvy websites or financial advisors will tell you that the quickest way to build long-term wealth is by spending less and saving more. However, today's 'frugalistas' (like me, and if you are reading this, like you too), the in-the-trenches experts of penny pinching, understand that spending less isn't as quite as valuable as spending smarter and leveraging cash back technology when you do it. However, like anything else, you have to build that money habit over time. Thankfully, building that habit is as easy as four simple steps.
Step 1: Make a list
Make a list of your non-perishables: household cleaners, toiletries, make up, lotions and soaps. I keep it simple. I found that integrating cash back buying as part of my normal routine made the entire idea seem easier and more practical.
Step 2: Find a portal
E-bates is a powerful, user-friendly place to start, and is one of my favorite -- I earn about $45 from this per month, easy. Once you have signed up for a free account, browse your favorite stores and look for the stores offering the most cash back with the lowest prices.
Using this portal, I shop stores like CVS, Walgreens, Target, Wal-Mart and even Drugstore.com from the comfort of my pajamas. It saves me time, money, hassles, headaches and even my sanity.
Each affiliate offers portal users a cash back reward, and these rewards range from 2 to 12 percent of your total purchase. I log on, find my merchant, complete my purchase and see the money credited to my E-bates account a few days later.
Step 3: Search, comparison-shop and leverage the most cash back
The best way to shop using the E-bates portal is to find a store that has the best (overall) prices, has instant (online and on the site) coupon offers, offers free shipping and who has a rewards program of its own.
In my experience, when it comes to the bare necessities, that store is Drugstore.com.
Drugstore.com always has free shipping, stellar coupons and offers 5 percent back in the form of "Drug Store Dollars" on just about every purchase. For example, last time I shopped with them, I spent about $150 (after hefty discounts and coupons), earning $7.50 in drugstore dollars right off the top -- to apply as a discount toward my next purchase.
My E-bates click thru paid me eight percent cash back on the same $150 order, netting me an additional $12 -- $19.50 between the two. Still, I wanted more savings.
Step 4: Taking it up a notch
Each card rewards me one percent cash back, which on the same $150 order is another $3. Meaning that on a $150 order, I save $22.50 on top of merchant sponsored deals and coupons, each month -- $270 a year. And if that doesn't seem like much, imagine applying that to every other area of my life, and tripling that annual number -- because that is what I do.
It took me a little while, but I figured out that smarter spending is the new "it" kid on the block. Spending smarter doesn't mean spending more, it simply means learning how to monetize every part of your life. Spend smarter. Live better. I do.
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