Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Make Money While Sitting On Your Butt

As a stay to home mom for the last 14 years, I have learned how to be frugal. As my kids get older, their needs get greater and their wants get even greater still. With the economy on the skids as it is, coupled with my kids ever increasing desires, not to mention appetites, I have had to find new ways to save money on everyday items and still be able to have the luxury of staying home. I thought it might be nice to share a few of my tips with everyone. I am sure there a lot of you who live even more frugally that I and could teach me a thing or two, but these are my offerings for today.

When I first started staying home, the internet was not what it is today. I got a set of books called The Tightwad Gazette and I learned so much about saving money and living on less when I read them. I highly recommend that you invest in these books (or check to see if they have them at your local library). They pay for themselves in no time. There are also myriad websites and blogs devoted to living on the cheap. Have fun exploring all the possibilities.

I have in my possession today $120 worth of 'free money'. This is how I go it. First of all I upgraded my Costco membership from the regular $50 membership to the $100 Gold Card membership. When I upgraded, my purchases started accruing a 2% rebate (up to $500). I didn't sign up until about 2 months after my initial membership date, so I didn't quite make back my $100 investment, but I did make $85. This not only allows me to save money on Costco's great warehouse prices, but also to shop without really paying for the membership.

I also have a check for $35 from Ebates.com. This is an on-line clearing house where hundreds of e-stores participate in a percentage off discount program. For every purchase you make, the stores have set percentages that they rebate to you. At the end of each quarter, Ebates sends you a check. They also have special promotions on certain days where there are no shipping charges, or double rebates, etc. You can get a notification right in your in-box of these special offers. There are no sign up charges or hidden fees, as a matter of fact, if you point others to the site and they mention you, you get an extra $5 added to your account.

Not only am I frugal, I am also very environmentally conscious. My husband was not very happy with me when I suddenly switched to Green Mountain Energy as our electricity provider. While I was happy with the fact that I was buying credits for wind energy, he was not thrilled with the 17.7 cents per kwh that they were charging us. I called them up and I was able to get a much better rate of 13.4 cents per kwh instead, if I signed a one year contract. This way we are both happy, I with buying wind credits, he with his wallet. They also send an e-newsletter ever month with tips on how to save energy (and money) in your home, which is a bonus.

My newest adventure is with freebies. Who doesn't love a freebie, right? It takes all the fun out of a freebie though, if there are special purchases, spam or hidden charges associated with it. I found a great website that boasts being the best at rooting out the legitimate freebies. They are also endorsed by Consumer Reports, which I think is great. It is called heyitsfree.com. They have everything categorized for you, so it is easy to click on what you want and get your free stuff sent directly to you.

I have also received free stuff from Cafemom. I have been given water, spaghetti sauce and cereal. My family enjoyed them all and I hope to be chosen again some time ;). I have friends who have received toys, gift cards and food just for being part of Cafemom. How cool is that?

There are tons of other ways I save money. Going to the Library instead of the book store, cutting my sons' hair myself, shopping at resale shops, going meatless a few days a week, reusing and re-purposing things, making my own cleaning and laundry supplies, taking all hand-me-downs that are given to me, drinking water instead of sodas, resisting the urge to eat out, etc, etc. A lot of these tips can be learned about without leaving your chair, but most of them can't actually be implemented while sitting on your butt; this post was 'how to make money while sitting on your butt', so I'll leave the rest for another day.