Tighter than a Shoestring Budget

As of April 2018, Mr. Loper and I have begun a new journey – he was suddenly fired, and we went from almost $50k/year to about half of that. Fortunately, we already have a good savings cushion, but then our car also died a week into his new (much lower paying) job. As of putting together this page, I have no idea how we are going to acquire a replacement vehicle. We are borrowing a family member’s vehicle currently until we can figure out that situation.

This page will become a hub, of sorts, for all the budget stretching tips I find, etc. I will likely be doing a coinciding series of blog posts as well.

Cash/Rewards Earning Sites

One of the ways I supplement income, though not quite to the extreme that I need to currently, is through cash earning sites (and now apps, because smartphones have taken over the world!) If, like me, finding a job outside the home isn’t the best option for you, whether because of health, other commitments, or the fact that you already work from home, cash earning sites might be an option for you to consider.

General Tips for Cash Earning Sites:

SET UP A SEPARATE EMAIL ACCOUNT. You do not want your regular email account to get inundated with everything that will show up through completing offers on these sites. Use the same email for setting up your accounts as you will for completing offers – some places cross-check.

Only complete offers you feel comfortable with. I don’t do anything that requires my phone number. I never do offers that require payment unless it’s for a product or service I was already considering, regardless of the reward/cash back offered. When I do, I make sure it’s something I won’t regret buying if I accidentally forget to cancel during a trial period (did that once, never again.)

Take screenshots of survey completion pages. If an earnings site offers you a survey ID, write it down before you start the survey. If anything goes wrong and you don’t get your credit, you will almost always need both a screenshot and a survey identification (whether a link or a number) to submit a support ticket. Also, sometimes you’ll get redirected back to the cash earning site VERY quickly, so be on the ball about that screenshot!

You might have to pay taxes on your earnings. Check your local laws. In the US, any place that pays out more than $600 to one person is required to furnish a 1099-misc to the IRS and to the recipient.

This is in no way a substitute for a day job. With very few exceptions, you will be making nowhere near minimum wage. For the most part, I supplement the budget with this for things like holiday gifts, and random spending money. It’s a more prudent use of your time if you’re multitasking and doing it while you’re doing some other leisure activity (like watching TV). If you’re just going to sit and do nothing, you might as well do something that brings in a few more pennies at the same time.

Here are the cash earning sites & apps I use most often:

Skip ahead: Cash Crate | Cash Show | FusionCash | iRazoo | Microsoft Rewards | MyPoints | Receipt Hog | Swagbucks

Cash Crate
Available: Mostly US Offers (click banner to sign up)

I have not used this site consistently in the past, because I personally find it to be the most glitchy out of all the ones I do use. However, it has one very simple thing you can do – a daily check-in. The check-in is worth a whopping 3 cents, but if you keep a month-long streak, you get a bonus of 50 cents. $20 is required for cash out, and until you hit a certain tier of earnings/referrals, they send you a physical check.

You get $1.00 for free when you join CashCrate, and another 50 cents when you fill out your profile.

Time involved: If all you do is the daily check-in, you’ll earn $16.95 (including the month-long bonuses) over the course of a year. But it only takes about 10-15 seconds of your day, so it amounts to about 1.5 hours over the ENTIRE year.

Cash Show
Available: pretty much everywhere

Use my invitation code JGBNBJ to get a free “Extra Life” when you sign up!

Ever wanted to play on a game show? This is for you! Cash Show is a phone app, available on iOS and Android. There are several games each day, and it’s just trivia questions. Each game consists of 12 questions – 6 non-prize questions, followed by 6 prize money questions. For each prize money question, the pool is split between everyone who answers correctly. If it amounts to less than 1 cent per person, the prize money is rolled into the next question. You have to have random knowledge lying around your brain, but at the very least, this is FUN.

The minimum cash out amount is $10, but it goes straight to Paypal.

Time involved: Approximately 20 minutes per game.

Available: US & Canada (click banner to sign up)

Free Money at FusionCash!

FusionCash has one of the better referral programs that I’ve ever seen – every time a referral cashes out, you earn $5. FusionCash is probably the 2nd glitchiest site I use, though (CashCrate being the first). However, you can generally earn 23-25 cents per day in very little time between the daily paid emails (2 cents) and daily paid-to-click (15 cents) and earning the minimum 5 cents to qualify for each day’s paid-to-click. Another trick: anything you earn for the day AFTER completing the paid-to-click offer counts toward qualifying you for the NEXT day’s paid-to-click.

On FusionCash, I mostly focus on the daily emails, paid-to-click, and videos. I’ve had little luck getting surveys to credit but there isn’t a limit on the 1-cent bonus you can get for disqualifications on certain surveys (not all surveys offer a DQ bonus). They also offer a monthly forum participation bonus (restrictions apply), and also a bonus for submitting a picture of your payment when it’s received.

The minimum required for cash out is $25 and $15 of that has to come from non-bonus credits. Bonus credits are, mostly, referral earnings, survey DQs, forum participation, and payment pictures. FusionCash also puts a time limit on credits – most of them must be redeemed (cashed out) within 180 days of earning them. You can keep track of your credits on the ‘my account’ page. It will show in the ledger when credits are nearing expiration.

Cash out is available via Paypal (US & Canada), direct deposit (US only), and paper check (US only). The cash outs take longer to process, too. If you’re going to cash out, do so right at the end of the month – it will process on the 20th of the FOLLOWING month. So if you cash out on January 31, you’ll get it around February 20th. If you cash out on February 1, you’ll get it around March 20th.

Time involved: about 20-30 minutes a day to hit the minimums, but longer if the site is glitching or there are few video offers.

Available: pretty much everywhere

Use invite code 8VU68V for your first 500 points when you sign up at iRazoo.com!

iRazoo.com is another of the slower earning sites, but it’s one to easily do in the background. The previous cash earning places mentioned have all been straight-to-cash rewards, but iRazoo offers a variety of different rewards (gift cards, as well as a PayPal cash out option). The minimum amount of points needed for ANY reward is 3,000. 3,000 points is worth a $5 gift card/PayPal deposit. There are also higher award amounts available.

iRazoo’s main benefit is their promo codes to earn points. Their weekly email newsletter contains a promo code, and there is a new promo code posted almost daily on their Facebook page. You must have earned offer points within a 24 hour period to redeem a promo code, though. And for that, I mostly rely on videos. iRazoo has one of the smoother video-to-points systems that I’ve worked with, and it’s easy just to pick one of the EngageMe.TV lists and just let it run in the background. I will poke through the surveys sometimes as well.

Once you earn 25 points within a day, you will also get 5 bonus points! There are more daily bonus tiers as well, it’s just up to you how much time you want to commit to hitting them.

Time involved: Mostly passive, but maybe an hour at most, unless you just want to keep going.

Microsoft Rewards
Available: US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia

This used to be known as Bing Rewards, and here’s a little surprise in store for you:

if you have a Microsoft account (do you use Office 365? Then you have a Microsoft account), you have Microsoft Rewards unless you have specifically opted out. If you don’t have a Microsoft account, just start one. You can access your Microsoft Rewards here when you’re signed in: https://account.microsoft.com/rewards/

There is no referral program for Microsoft Rewards currently, but it’s such an easy earning site to use that I want you to know about it. The first time you visit the rewards page, it will walk you through how to earn points, and if you just click around you’re sure to find your way. They don’t have new activities every day, though. Your main way to earn is going to be through searches.

You’ll want to click on ‘Points Breakdown’ to view how much you have earned (and can still earn) via certain methods for each day. There is also a streak bonus for completing certain activities more than one day in a row.

They do not have a cash equivalent redemption option, but they do have gift cards for Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Amazon, Target, Hulu, and a variety of other options. They also have a lot of redemption offers for their own products (Xbox, Microsoft products, etc.)

Time involved: 20-30 minutes, depending on how fast you can think of random searches to type in.

Available: US, maybe elsewhere – they don’t state for certain
You can sign up through my referral link here.

This is one of the more established and well-known earning sites, but they are mostly known for being a place where you earn points by shopping through them, and then redeeming those points for gift cards.

Things have changed a lot though – a few years ago, the company that runs Swagbucks (we’ll get to this one soon) acquired MyPoints, and there are now a LOT more options for earning points, and you can also redeem them for ‘cash’ via PayPal and Visa!

If you’re a big online shopper, MyPoints is definitely the site for you! Make sure to click through their shopping links and/or to get the MyPoints browser extension to take full advantage of this feature.

Also, if you sign up with my referral link and make a merchant purchase (excluding Amazon or Games) in the first 30 days, you will get 1,750 bonus points in addition to your purchase points! (I will get 750 bonus points if you make that initial purchase, as well as a 10% match of the points you earn certain ways for as long as you use MyPoints.)

As for what I focus on for earning points on MyPoints, I mostly just hit the Daily 5 list (you’ll see it on the upper right side of your screen when you’re logged in), and set a monthly goal (you’ll get a bonus at the end of the month based on your completion of your goals). Once you’ve completed 5 items on the Daily 5 list, you get 5 bonus points! Also note that monthly goals are OPTIONAL. It’s just a nice bonus to work for.

Make sure to check for MyPoints emails, too. Many of them are worth 5 points just to click-through to the sponsor page. It will say near the bottom of the email exactly what points you can earn and how.

There are also bonus points available in the form of Point Perks codes that are released via Facebook and Twitter. I never catch them before they expire, though, but you might have better luck!

Time involved: usually 15-20 minutes, unless you want to do a lot of videos for points, in which case it will take quite a bit of your time. Video playlists don’t like to auto-advance, even though they’re supposed to. You’ll need to keep an eye and manually click through once the check mark shows up, which is why they’re so time-consuming.

Receipt Hog
Available: US & UK
visit the app website here

This is a smartphone app, and you literally just take pictures of your receipts and submit them. There is no referral program, this is just another awesome one I want to share!

Certain types of store receipts are eligible for coins, monthly sweepstakes entries, spins for the ‘Hog Slots’ game, or a combination of those. The dollar value of the receipt will determine which range of points you’ll get.

Receipt Hog works on a rotating weekly schedule. The week is determined by the start date of each month, NOT Sunday-Saturday or Monday-Sunday, etc. After you hit 100 coins, you’re capped at 5 coins per receipt for the week, if the receipt is eligible for coins. Which receipts are eligible for which earnings, as well as the coin scales for dollar amount, are addressed within the app.

You can submit receipts up to 2 weeks old, but you can only submit a receipt a single time. Your best strategy is to sort through your receipts and get your high-coin-earning ones through first, and if you have ENOUGH receipts, hold them off until the next week so that you’re not submitting a 20 coin receipt for 5 coins.

You can redeem coins for PayPal credit, Visa gift cards, and Amazon gift cards. Each of those is available in $5 (1000 coins), $15 (2000 coins), $25 (4300 coins), or $40 (6500 coins). Obviously, the higher payout you hold out for, the better use of your coins. UK users: The ‘exchange’ is slightly different for coins to pounds.

Time involved: about 5-10 minutes a week. Maybe 20 minutes if you have a LOT of receipts.

Available: US, UK, Canada, and many other countries
my referral link

Sign up anytime between May 1 – May 31, 2018 and earn 300 swagbucks by May 31st, and you and I will both get an extra 300 bonus swagbucks each! (Awarded by June 6th, 2018)

Join Swagbucks!
You Can Get Free Gift Cards For Shopping, Searching and Discovering What’s Online at Swagbucks.com

This is probably my favorite earnings site. I’ve been using Swagbucks for NINE YEARS. I used it way back when it just a search engine. It has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, and is now one of the most reputable and consistent cash/gift card earning sites on the web.

There are many ways to earn on Swagbucks – surveys, offers, videos, search wins, etc. They also frequently offer bonuses through Swagcodes – the most reliable way to be notified of those is the Swagbucks browser extension.

Swagbucks also offers three kinds of daily bonuses – the streak bonuses, daily goal bonuses, and the to-do list bonuses. The streak and daily goal bonuses accrue and are awarded at the beginning of the NEXT month. So any bonuses you earn from those in May will be awarded at the beginning of June. The daily goal and streak tracker is found at the top of your Swagbucks screen when you log in.

The streak bonuses are awarded for 1 week, 2 week, 3 week, and whole month streaks. Streak bonuses do not stack. You earn streak bonuses by hitting your minimum daily goals for that set amount of time.

Daily bonuses are earned for hitting either a lower goal (Goal 1) for the day, or an upper goal (Total Goal) for the day. Each goal also has its bonus (Bonus 1, Total Bonus). The bonuses do not stack. You get either the lower bonus, or the total bonus. Just be warned: your goal will fluctuate, and if you consistently hit the upper goals, you will notice your lower goals gradually creeping up as well.

The to-do list is found on the lower left, in the sidebar menu. This resets daily. You get a bonus for completing 6 items, and ANOTHER bonus for completing the entire list (8 items). The to-do list bonuses are rewarded immediately upon completion!

Otherwise, I mostly do nCraves, surveys, and offers on Swagbucks. Their survey selection is among the best, and for me it’s not uncommon to get 1-2 surveys per day if I just sit down and click through them. Swagbucks does make its searches more fun, though. They will often run special events with Swagbucks ‘Collectors Bills’ where you get a bonus for collecting an entire set through the search engine, etc.

Every so often they also run team events! If you choose to participate in the event, you will be randomly assigned a team, and everyone on the team works together to complete certain activities and accrue team points. The team with the most points will earn the highest Swagbucks bonus at the end of the event, and usually there is an overall bonus awarded to members of all teams who contribute a minimal specified amount of points.

There is a large selection of gift cards to redeem your Swagbucks with, as well as a PayPal credit option. Your first $25 gift card redemption within a calendar month is discounted 12% (2200 SB instead of 2500 SB), excluding PayPal.

Swagbucks is also the most mobile-friendly out of the cash/rewards earning sites (not counting Cash Show and Receipt Hog), with several different apps you can use to earn on the go.

Time involved: 30-40 minutes, easily far more if you want to keep earning beyond hitting the minimum.

Thanks for stopping by! If you’re in a financial bind like we are, but have a decent internet connection, I hope this will help you some! If you sign up for anything and have any questions, let me know through my contact form.