9 Ways I Found/Saved $135 in a Month (February 2018)

There are a lot of articles about how to earn extra income, but I want to show you my personal results so that you can learn from someone’s actual experience not just from broad strokes of “do this and do that”. Most of you are already earning “No Effort” income, but being conscious and intentional about it can increase your earnings. This is my first month of documenting it; the intent is to improve on this process and generate additional streams of income. Here’s how I did for dates of February 15 to March 16 and I will talk about each venue later on. Let’s begin the Fact Finding.

So I call this income “No Effort” because “Little to No Effort” isn’t catchy. This $135 is generated from a blend of different types of income, as well as savings.

  • Active Income
    • Freelance (Taking Surveys)
  • Passive Income
    • Interest from my bank account
  • Portfolio Income
    • Any interest that you earn from funds in a brokerage
  • Rewards and cashback programs
    • From a credit card or rebate programs

Fact: You do not need to pay taxes on cashback rewards, because this is considered to be a discount or price adjustment by the IRS.

The Breakdown

Here’s a quick summary of how this was earned / preserved.

  • USAA Credit Card (1.5% cash back) – $21.00
  • Chase Freedom Credit Card(1% – 5% cash back) – $22.11
  • USAA Performance Savings Account (0.30% APY) – $19.96
  • Ibotta – $40
  • Fetch Rewards – $6
  • Checkout 51 – $10
  • Receipt Pal – $2
  • Swagbucks – $9
  • Stash – $3.32
  • Google Opinion Rewards – $2.19

Total: $135.58

Disclaimers

I chose electronic Amazon gift cards for Fetch, Swagbucks and Receipt Pal because I can get those faster than a PayPal payout. This works for me because I know that with a pregnant wife that I will eventually be using Amazon to purchase something like diapers, crib, stroller, etc.

I only claim earnings that were paid out to me, and not any extra credit that I have on the account.

1. Credit Card Cash Back

If you aren’t doing this already, get yourself a rewards credit card now! NerdWallet has a great list of recommendations for everyone’s situation in this post.

I have USAA for my general purchases because USAA has great financial products for military, veterans and their family members, therefore I’m a loyal customer and a permanent 1.5% cash back is good enough for most purchases.

The Chase Freedom Card is on a different level when it comes to cash back. You can earn 5% cash back on special categories every quarter up to a limit of $75. I highly recommend this card and only using it when you are making purchases in these categories. They made 2018 Q1 simple: Gas and Internet/Cable Bills. Those are expenses that almost everyone has! If you still have room to go to $75, Q1 lets you use Chase Pay or Apple Pay. Easy! Looking ahead: one of Q2’s categories is grocery stores, this too is a no-brainer.

March Chase Rewards

If you want to give chase a try, you get a signup bonus if you use my personal referral link here. The bonus is $150 after you spend $500, so you are basically getting a 30% discount on whatever you are buying. Just make sure you have enough money to pay it off right away so that you don’t accrue any interest.

2. Interest

Everyone earns interest on their savings. Just make sure you are getting most that you can. I plan on switching to Marcus by Goldman and Sachs (1.5% APY) as soon as I close on my house. Whether or not you consider interest to be passive income, it is still taxable by the IRS. Don’t forget to get your account’s 1099-INT when filing your taxes. I’m only earning 0.3% APY on my savings account. It’s not great, but not horrible either. You may want to consider a Certificate of Deposit (CD) if you are ok with not having immediate access to your money.

USAA Interest and Cash Back Rewards

3. Ibotta

Everyone’s gotta eat, so why not make it as cheap as possible. This app is really a gem. It gives you cash back in almost every grocery store, even the Military Commissary! All you have to do is claim an offer and then scan your receipt.

With these cash back apps, just make sure that you are only buying what you need and redeeming offers if it happens to be there. This app becomes useless if you are just buying things to get money back. The payouts require a $20 minimum balance. I cashed out twice, once in February and once in March. Stack these cash back apps with in-store and manufacturer coupons and you’ve got some major savings!

IMG_6322

If you want to download ibotta for yourself, check it out using my referral link here.

4. Fetch Rewards

Another receipt scanning app. This one is more convenient because you don’t have to select offers to redeem before you scan your receipt. It just automatically gives you rewards!

Fact. You can only scan a maximum of 14 receipts per week for fetch.

March Fetch Rewards

5. Checkout 51

Our third receipt scanning app. Like Ibotta, you need to claim an offer before you scan your receipt. Also, don’t try claiming things that are not on your receipt. You will lose the offer.

March Checkout 51

6. Receipt Pal

The rewards on this one are minimal. But hey, if you already got a receipt why not scan it one more time. You get 100 points for every four receipts you scan. Also connect your email (or a fake one) for another 150 points. 400 points gets you a $1 Amazon Gift Card. You can wait until 7500 points to get $25, bring down the cost per dollar to 300 points, but I want my rewards immediately because some users report losing their points after app updates, switching phones, etc. So get your rewards as soon as its available on this one, because it can take a while to get to 7500 points.

For the math geeks out there:

$25 at 400 points per dollar = 10000 points
$25 at 300 points per dollar = 7500 points
10000 – 7500 points = 2500 points

If you trade in at 400 points per dollar, then you are losing out on a total of $6.25. If that is important to you, then hold off on claiming your rewards. However, the reviews on this app don’t inspire a lot of confidence.

7. Swagbucks

This one might seem like work to some people. But I just used it to pass the time when I’m waiting in my car to pick up a friend or waiting in line at the store. I’ll take a high paying survey every other day, answer the daily poll, watch some videos (up to which you can earn 500 ‘swagbucks’ per day which equals $5). I didn’t spend too much time on this, but I got three iterations of $3 Amazon Gift Cards.

8. Stash Invest

This is an investing app I played around with to learn more about investing and taking baby steps into the world of stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, etc. If you are new to investing, I recommend this app. They hold your hand and explain investing in easy to understand language. Their article library is also very helpful for beginners. I’ve decided to move on from this app though and use M1 Finance because of its ‘pie style’ investing. I’ll talk more about these apps in later posts.

March Stash Portfolio

9. Google Opinion Rewards

This is the ‘lowest effort and highest paying for your time’ survey app out there. Each survey is 2-3 questions. The app notifies you when one is ready and doesn’t waste your time with pre-qualifying questions. Once your 15 second survey is over, you get paid anywhere from $0.15 to $0.49 (from what I’ve seen). Payouts happen automatically at $2.00 to your PayPal. The payout doesn’t seem big, but it is very efficient for your time, and barely takes any effort.

March Google Rewards

Conclusion

This is a poor turnout for extra income and savings. However, I would rather have an extra $135 than not. It may seem tedious, but tracking your income down to the penny can help you identify where you are falling short and improve on the process. If you are looking for more ways to save and earn, I hope this inspired you. If you are doing better than this, I would love to hear your methods. Fact Finding concluded.

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