Most Americans are living in financially tenuous situations.  In fact, according to a recent study nearly two thirds of the USA has under $1,000 saved and nearly a third have no savings at all (CNBC).  If you’re this situation and you want to get more cash banked, here is a five part cash back savings strategy.  There are five elements: using cash back sites, use cash back credit cards, scanning your receipts, using coupons and asking for discounts.  All of them are easy and require very little time. 

Use Cash Back Sites

The first part of the cash back savings strategy is using cash back sites.  Cash back sites are an old, but tried and true method than can give you 1 to 17% back.  How they work is you shop through the cash back site, click on the retailers site, and buy something through the retailer.  The retailer will pay the cash back site for the traffic they’ve sent, and the cash back site will give you a cut. 

The better ones are: ($10 sign up bonus) ($10 sign up bonus)

You’ll need accounts at all of these.  Rakuten and Swagbucks are the best known, but don’t always have the best deals.  Dollardig has better offers than Rakuten, and Swagbucks on some items, but not on everything.  Same with

Use A Cash Back Credit Card

The second part of the cash back savings strategy is to use a cash back credit card.  If you have a card that gives you cash back, and use it when you buy through the cash back sites. This should give you another 1.0% to 1.5% off.

Be sure you get the card paid off every month.  Credit cards can charge you 20% or higher – depending on how they’re calculated.  They’re a form of legalized usury which is a plague on America’s finances.  That said, if you can keep the balance paid off, cash back cards are basically free money. 

If you want a cash back credit card, kill two birds with one stone and sign up for Credit Karma, they’ll give you a free credit score and match you with card offers. 

Scan Your Receipts

Nobody really utilizes this option as much as they should, however scanning receipts is a great way to realize additional savings. 

Go with these smartphone apps. I’ve sorted them in order of hassles & payout, from best to worst.

1. Pogo
2. Receipt Pal
3. Bitmo
4. Fetch
5. Coinout
5. ReceiptJar
6. ReceiptHog
7. Ibotta

Scanning your receipt with these seven could take up to .5% off the bill. Because you’re basically trading your shopping data for money these apps are all slow payers. So you’ll want to work as many of these as you can.   A lot of people wonder if they can use more than one, but it looks like they’re all separate organizations, so you can use all of them without getting banned or dinged. 

Pretty much all these applications work on the same model.  You’re basically providing shopping data in return for compensation.  They all require a bit of set up – you’ll need to create accounts, add your email and Paypal information etc.  Usually most of them want you to provide read access to your credit card spending as well as any store accounts you have.  I have all of these on my smartphone and regularly use them whenever I buy something. 

Also, to avoid digital clutter, create a folder in your phone and add all of them in the folder.  Then, after you go shopping and you’re scanning your receipts, they’re all in one place. 

You won’t make a whole lot – the ones on my phone generate about $5 each every couple of months.  However, every little bit counts. 

Use Coupons

Item four in this cash back savings strategy is use coupons.  There are literally coupons for everything. Toys, cars, shoes, anything. You just have to find them and use them.  The only thing is – they’re not always called coupons.  For some things like houses, they’re called buyers refunds (here).  And with cars they’re called cash back deals.  Its all basically the same arrangement, its a deal that reduces the price you’ll pay for an item.   

proctor and gamble coupons
Example of a coupon from Proctor and Gamble.

How Do You Find Coupons?

Some good ways are to sign up for store loyalty programs or reward programs.  Also, if you know you want to buy a particular item, message the manufacturer and ask for a promo code or a paper coupon.  Another good way to find coupons it is just to check the weekly circulars that come to your house.  Or just get enrolled in your favorite stores coupon program.  And, lastly and the like have helpful apps also.

People want you to use their coupons, you just have to ask for them. 

A lot of people think coupons are too much trouble. However this viewpoint overlooks the value of having even paper coupons in your home.  For example, if you forget your paper coupons when you shop, you can always talk with the stores customer service department and have the coupons applied to your account retro-actively.  I’ve been able to get $10 off grocery bills this way.  You just need your receipt and the coupon. 

Haggle and Ask For Discounts

Americans don’t like to haggle, but it matters. Asking for discounts greatly increases the likelihood of getting them. So don’t let your middle class sensibilities get in the way of managing your finances well.  For example, I was buying some holiday presents for my kids and got a 20% off at the toy store by asking if they had any discounts available. 

The forums component of this website has several good threads on haggling.  They are: 

How To Haggle Like Your Old Man

Buying A Used Car 

Ask for discounts if you’re buying something damaged.

Put The Cash Back Savings Strategy Together With Investing 

So, lets put this cash back savings strategy all together. Use all five of these methods in combination consistently.

None of these specific methods will make you an overnight millionaire. But if you get in the habit when you’re shopping you’ll likely see good long term results. Even if you’re consistently shaving 1% or 2% off your bills, the difference will start to add up over time.  And, you’ll see even better results if you invest the savings.

Competition in the brokerage industry has virtually eliminated the barriers to investing.  A lot of newer companies like SoFi, Robinhood or any of the new bond companies will let you move transactions for a dollar or less seamlessly.  So, there really aren’t any barriers to investing small amounts of money.  Every dollar you save can bring you substantially more over the long run.  

By way of a conclusion here, if you’re savvy about investing your savings, even a small amount of money, saved consistently can add up very quickly.  Lets say you work these methods and come up with $25, and you generate $25 every month from using the.  Lets also assume you get 7% interest per year and it’s compounded semi-annually.  Here is a handy chart showing what your situation would look like in five years.

Compound interest from savings
Growth of extra money invested at 7% semiannually.

After saving for five years, you’d have about $1,794.87.  That enough for a car down payment, a nice emergency fund, a vacation, or your a college tuition payment. 

And if you think you can’t get 7% per year consistently, the reality is you can.  And you can do it today.  Inflation linked bonds from the Treasury are currently paying 7.12% (here).  Small business bonds are currently paying between 6% and 8% (click here to check them out). 

This strategy is comprised of simple and easy methods – all you have to do is make it happen.  

For More Great SavingAdvice articles, read these:

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