My Swagbucks Experience

I joined Swagbucks 3 weeks ago, and I have definitely learned some things. You should read this before you try Swagbucks (SB) for yourself. On a boring Friday evening, I was reading some blogs about bringing in extra money. I came across some information about Swagbucks and decided to give it a try. It was easy enough to sign up, after a minute, I was up and running. When you first begin, they have tutorials you can watch to learn how to use the site. You can watch them, but the site is very intuitive, it doesn’t take long for your clicks to add up some SBs.

I started with watching videos. There are tons of videos on the site; the types of things I was watching everyday anyways. The news headlines may not be as current as you would like. I watched a video about Hurricane Joaquin’s path, and how it might hit New England, the day after the storm had already passed us, way out at sea. As much as I liked the videos, they repeat day after day, normally being updated weekly. Which means I watched that hurricane video every day for a week. But, it’s not a big deal, because I just left the string of videos running in the background, and switched over to it when a story came on that I wanted to see. They give you 1 to 7 SBs for a playlist of videos.

You learn very quickly that 100 Swagbucks can normally be redeemed for about $1. This helps you figure out what is worth your time. So, the playlist of videos earns you just pennies. This makes it unlikely you will sit there and play videos that you aren’t interested in. I got a bunch of ideas for things to do at Halloween from the videos and I can’t wait to try them this weekend with the kids. So, they are entertaining and even useful videos.

Then you may want to start to branch out. The website sets a daily goal of SBs to earn, and you’ll find that watching videos won’t cut it. They have polls you can take, websites you can explore and even offer SBs for money spent at online websites, like Target, Groupon, etc. Generally, you would earn 1SB per dollar spent, which is like a 1% coupon. Would you even cut out a coupon for 1% off?

Well, I went for it, in the interest of seeing what this website had to offer. I needed some Polo shirts for my son, so I decided to buy them online at Old Navy, which for this week, you get 6 SB for every dollar spent. I was thinking, “Alright, a 6% coupon, that’s much better! I would maybe cut out a 6% off coupon…”  Well, I had some reward points from my Old Navy credit card, and decided to apply them to my purchase. Even though I spent $100, the amount credited to my Swagbucks was less the rewards, or $50. They only credit you for money that came out of your pocket. Same thing happened for another store, where I had a rewards check that I used during checkout, and I wasn’t credited for the full amount that I spent there either. I’m not saying this is right or wrong, I’m just saying it is what it is.

Being the competitive type, I pushed to see how much I could earn. I ended up with about $10/week, just over 3,000 SB in three weeks. I requested my first cash out yesterday, in the form of a Visa Reward Card. It turns out that has to be used online, because it’s a virtual Visa. You don’t get a card in the mail. They also have gift cards to just about any place you can think of, or anything you can think of (ebay, Amazon, Playstation Store, restaurants, etc.).

Overall, it seems harmless, and a way to make some pennies that you don’t have to dive through your couch for. But as I think back, I have to ask my self, was $30 worth it?

Some offers on their site should be avoided at all costs. The iPhone 6S release in September had a unique offer popping up on Swagbucks. To earn your SBs, you simply had to tell the site where to mail your iPhone 6S, and it would be on its way to you. This is a complete scam (read more here). To their credit, Swagbucks removed the offer fairly quickly, I only saw it offered that one day, but if you thought you could get an iPhone 6S for free, then you probably are too busy with the spam hitting your phone and email to even read this post.

I also took issue with some of the websites the Discover option took me to. Most websites were fine, you could explore stories from all over the web. Others were just blatantly installing cookies, without even the guise of having interesting content. My computer started having issues, and my web browser would close unexpectedly. I started noticing the ads on every page were things I had recently searched for online. I was definitely being tracked.

Undoubtedly, if you are on the internet, there is some tracking going on. Just by saving preferences on some websites, you are actually installing first party cookies. But if your web browser is crashing, you’ve got some cleanup to do on your system, if you haven’t inadvertently downloaded a virus somewhere along your travels.

I think that overall, Swagbucks could be a fun way to pass your time on the internet, but watching videos and visiting sites you aren’t interested isn’t worth the pennies paid for these actions. If you add the headache of selecting an offer that gives your email to third parties, or worse, your phone number, it’s worth it to pay them to leave you alone. In fact this week, that offer showed up on my Swagbucks page – I can earn Swagbucks if I let an app have access to my account:

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Um… no thanks. I don’t want to sell my privacy for pennies, which incidentally, is what I was doing for the past three weeks. Time for me to go to the National Do Not Call Registry, to re-register my number.

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A Penny Saved…

Why is a penny saved, a penny earned? Anyone that uses coupons and rewards programs can tell you it can be hard work maximizing your savings.

I remember when I was young, clipping coupons with my mother. I liked looking at all the lovely things we could buy with the slips of paper. My mother would have us clip every single coupon in the paper, because who knows what you’ll end up needing. She would tell me that coupons were free money that came in our newspaper. Free money!? Sign me up!

My mother spent 3 hours organizing her coupons yesterday. Always clipping every single coupon she comes across, she has substantiated this chore with the excuse that she clips not only for herself, but she shares her coupons with her children. She clips diaper coupons for me, and dog food coupons for my sister, and she even finds Costco coupons for my sister in California. She carries little scissors around in her purse, in case she comes across a coupon she needs to clip in the field. Every time I see my mother, she has a little envelope filled with coupons for me. Aw, thanks Mom!

It’s great that my mom has time to do this, but even she can recognize that sometimes it’s not worth the effort. For instance, our local grocery store offers a rewards system where you can earn points, and then use those points toward discounts on gas. But she found out that her local gas station normally sells gas at a price that is the same, or even lower, than the discounted price she would receive from the store’s gas station. Not only that, she would have to drive farther to get the store’s gas station. So, she just doesn’t use the program, it really isn’t worth her time.

And that is the key to using your coupons and rewards to your benefit, not detriment. Your time has value. If clipping coupons takes up all your time, or you have to run all over town (or the next town over) to use your rewards, what is the point?

So, here are some tips to streamline your savings process:

Use an online coupon site. What I have found that works for me, is a free service, like coupons.com. I can open my store’s sale paper in one window and the coupon site in another, and go through and clip coupons for the items on sale. Why would I need coupons for something already on sale? Because I’ve been burned, that’s why.

I have found in the past, after coming across what I thought was a great coupon, only to find out that the item was still more expensive than its competitors items. For example, I once had a coupon for $1.50 of General Mills cereal, which would make the price $2.79 at my store. But when I checked my store’s deals for the week, they had Post cereal on sale $2.00. That coupon was really useless. It wasn’t saving me any money at all, and I spent time to obtain it.

Don’t spend too much time organizing your coupons. I normally split the coupons I get into 5 categories, I put them immediately into my coupon binder and the process only takes a few minutes. My coupon binder has 6 pockets. I leave the first one empty, then the other five are split into Non-Food, Pantry, Refrigerated, Frozen and Store.

The first pocket is empty, until I am actually shopping. When I’m in the store, and I have picked up an item, I move the coupon into the first pocket. then when I check out, I don’t have to fuss with the coupons I haven’t used on this trip.

Non-food is just that, anything that you don’t eat. From cleaning supplies to personal hygiene items; medication to dog food, it all goes into the same pocket. Why? There is no point to separating them out further, as I normally only do my shopping for household items once a month or less. Why spend time organizing them? How many dog food coupons can you have? Just lump them together.

I think the Pantry, Refrigerated and Frozen sections are self-explanatory. When I’m in the middle aisles, looking at Pop-Tarts, I don’t want to have coupons in my hand for frozen chicken. And vice-versa.

The last pocket, Store, is reserved for coupons that must be used in a particular store. So when I get my coupons printed out from my local grocery chain, I stick them straight into that last pocket. Then, if I find myself out and decide to do some shopping, all my coupons are at hand. I stuck some Macy’s coupons in that last pocket that I got in the mail. I didn’t think I’d get to use them, since I had no plans to visit the mall anytime soon. Then, when we were coming home from a family outing, we decided to talk a walk through the mall. We ended up at Macy’s and my older son asked for more school pants. (He has a strict school dress code this year, so I didn’t buy much at the beginning of the school year.) As I paid for the pants, I pulled out the coupons and ended up getting 20% off khakis that were already on sale. Score!

Post in the comments your favorite coupon cheat and look for future posts on rewards programs and my recent experience using Swagbucks. I look forward to hearing from you.