After a few weeks, I quit. It just wasn't worth it! I wasn't good at collecting Red Plum adds, I didn't have a phone to download rebate apps (because there are like a HUNDRED of them!), and it took too much time to get a free product that I would never use.
Recently, Hubs gave me his old phone and I've been experimenting with rebate apps again. And guess what... it's worth my time! Using the apps only takes a couple minutes each week. I get FREE produce and save money on groceries that I actually use (unlike the ranch dressing dip, which is still sitting in my pantry).
My 15-Minute Strategy for FREE Produce & Saving $$$
Now that those two things are out of the way, let me share my system for using Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Receipt Hog. You can download all of these programs from the app store for free.
1. Take 5 minutes per week to unlock rebates. I've found that Thursday is a good day, because both Ibotta and Checkout 51 have added new rebates by then (we shop on Sunday).
2. Only unlock rebates that are "any brand". I typically find one usable rebate on Checkout 51, and 3-4 rebates on Ibotta. These are for things like onions, carrots, bananas, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, bread, pasta or milk. Don't bother looking for name brand rebates, because you will just end up wasting time and money.
3. Add these items to your grocery list.
4. At the grocery store, be sure to spend LESS money on each produce item than what your rebate is worth. For example, I often get $0.25 rebates for "any brand banana". One banana costs $0.20, so if I only buy one banana, it is free (and I get an extra nickel!). During my latest shopping trip, I also had $0.25 rebates for tomatoes and carrots. I bought one single tomato ($0.17) and three bulk carrots (@$0.67/lb=$0.36). So for this trip I spent $0.73 on extra produce, and will get $0.75 in rebate money.
In addition to getting free produce, I also use "any brand" rebates for things that I might buy anyway, like bread or milk. Then I always pick the cheapest brand. For example, if I have a $0.25 rebate for bread, I will buy hotdog buns that cost $0.88. Or a $0.25 rebate for milk, and I buy milk that costs $1.79 instead of $2.00 or $2.50.
5. Go home and take a picture of your receipt with your phone. Ibotta only requires you to capture the QR code at the bottom of the receipt, but Checkout 51 still makes you take an actual photo. The receipts will upload and rebates added to your total amount earned.
6. Also upload pictures of your receipts on to Receipt Hog. This is a new app that I've been experimenting with. While you can't get rich with it (my average receipt is worth $0.02-$0.05 to upload), I figure that since I have my phone and receipts out anyway, I might as well snap a few pictures. The nice thing about Receipt Hog is that it also accepts receipts from non-grocery stores like Sears or the Home Depot. Instead of "coins", for these receipts you earn "spins" on a digital slot machine. Sometimes you win coins from spins, but more often than not I don't win anything. But it's still fun. Recently I tried uploading a McDonalds receipt. It was accepted, but instead of coins or spins, I only earned a drawing in the "sweepstakes", which is actually probably worthless.
I haven't come to a conclusion whether or not the Receipt Hog app is worth my time. If I entered one $10 receipt every week, it would take me almost two years to earn a $5 Amazon gift card. However, you do get a lot of coins for signing up, some free spins, more coins for adding your email address, etc. And with the occasional coins from spin receipts or "leveling up", I'm hoping to earn a $5 gift card in less than a year. After that I will probably find a new app to use.
How to Use Rebate Apps Effectively
1. Realize that rebates are not "free money". You have to SPEND the money before you get the rebate. If I have a $0.50 rebate and buy a $0.50 apple to use the rebate, I get a free apple- NOT a free fifty cents. If you spend less than what the rebate is, you get free products, and maybe a tiny bit of free money (remember how I bought $0.73 of produce and got a $0.75 rebate?).
2. You must only buy things on your grocery list, unless your rebate makes the item absolutely FREE. If you go out of your way to purchase a $3 box of cereal because there is a $0.50 rebate, you are still spending $2.50 on a box of cereal that you never would have bought without the rebate. However, milk is something I buy every week and if Ibotta has a $0.25 rebate for it, of course I am going to use that rebate.
Using Ibotta and Checkout 31 saves us about $1.50 every month in regular purchases and gives us about $3.50 in free produce. I think this is worth doing. If I can get $5.00 of value per month with one hour of work, my hourly wage is $5.00. This qualifies as "worth my time" because it is 1) over $4.00/hr., and 2) enjoyable for me.
Another Tool in the Kit
Like shopping at a bent 'n' dent, rebates are another small thing you can do to cut grocery costs. Saving only $5.00 per month really adds up. Over the course of a year, you could save $60!
What are your favorite rebate apps? Do you think they are worth your time?