Category: Money

How to Save Money at Whole Foods with Amazon Prime

Since Amazon bought Whole Foods it has made changes to our interactions with the store, including opportunities to save $$.  Most recently, they have launched discounts for Prime members at Whole Foods whereby you get discounts on select items for having a Prime membership.   If you haven’t looked into a Prime membership, there are also a ton of benefits to having this, and the discounts at Whole Foods are icing on the cake.

Easy To Use

Prime is at all Whole Foods Stores these days encouraging sign-ups.  If you are already a member, all you have to do is download the Whole Foods app and login with your Amazon account and you will get a barcode to scan at checkout.

Prices are Competitive Against Other Stores

In the summer, cherries are one of my favorite fruits, but they are sooo expensive.  With Prime, cherries are $3.99/lb, compared to the normal price of $5.99/lb and competitors of $4.99 – $5.99/lb.  That’s at least $2-$4 savings when buying cherries depending on how many pounds I buy.

Cherries – Whole Foods on Sale with Prime                                     Cherries – On Sale at PeaPod

ROI Calculator

Prime Membership:   – $119/year (Up this year)
Less Food Savings: +  $120/year (Assumes that you shop at Whole Foods twice a month & save on average $5 / trip).  This is conservative if you shop at Whole Foods more.
Less Shippings Savings: + $15 (Assumes you shop at Amazon 4 times a year and save $2.99 on shipping per order).  Again this is conservative.
Plus Other Benefits:  + $50 (Intangible Value includes access to free movies and books when you might otherwise order)
Net:  $304 in the Green

Conclusion

Prime Membership can save you money over the course of the year for things you would otherwise be spending on, or not be able to spend on.  The acquisition of Whole Foods and the price drops is making Whole Foods more competitive with other grocers at a high quality and can save grocery money if you manage to on sale items.

 

Are Online Surveys Worth It? – An Honest Review of Swagbucks

I have been looking for side hustles and ways to make money online.  I love the Penny Hoarder, the site has great ideas and constantly introduces me to new apps or ideas.  At the same time, I’m always looking to balance money vs. effort and am constantly testing some of the ideas to see how much of a return there is on them.

One of the ideas I consistently come across is online surveys.  There are several sites:  Harris Poll Online, SwagbucksPointClub, OpinionOutpost, Inboxdollars and more.  When i first saw this, I thought it would be a great way to make a few extra dollars when I was sitting around or otherwise stuck, like waiting in line, or something along those lines.

What I found was that online survey sites and apps has been extremely infuriating and not at all worth it.  Even though you may see many blog posts out there listing this as a side hustle, let’s not forget, us bloggers and affiliate marketers are recommending products in order to drive traffic and make money so sometimes the reality is often glazed over.

Below, I’ll walk you through what an online survey looks like, how much time it takes, and what the ROI is.

1.  How Much Survey Points are Worth

Just to show you what we are dealing with here…

It took me about 3 weeks or so to earn 156 SB.  This included a purchase through Swagbucks (which is a feature I do really like), and also some sign-up incentive Swagbucks (SBs).  I need 500 SB to get $5, however after the initial sign-up bonus SBs, I started averaging only a few SB a day.  I know these companies need to make money and I get that, so I’m okay earning a few a day…if it weren’t for the next things I’m about to show you.

2.  Choosing a Survey

Swagbucks outlines the surveys, how many SB’s they are worth, and how long it will take.  For this example, I’ll take a 5 min survey for 75 SB.  Not too shabby.

3.  Taking the Survey

Questions 1 and 2 ask me about my employment.  Notice the font and format.

 

After I answer the first two questions, it bounces me to some different data source.  Note:  This is STILL the same survey, but now the font and format is different, and it starts at question 1, which makes me think that it bounced me to another company that is going to collect my info.

 

Then it asks me if I’m a robot, which I assume is question 5, because then it jumps right to question 5.

And then last but not least….I get bounced to yet another site.  Different font and format, Censuswide survey consultants as the header…and all still the SAME survey.

4.  Completing the Survey

Now, I have answered several questions and it has taken me about 5-7 minutes and I’m ready for my Swagbucks.

But….lo and behold, I’m not going to get those 75 SB am I?  After all, that’s about 75 cents, nearly a dollar, and if I made a dollar for about 7 minutes I could make about $8.50 an hour.  Not too shabby for a quick side hustle, but probably not profitable for the survey company.

5.  Consensus

I am annoyed and frustrated.  I answered questions, I shared data and then at the end, I didn’t get the compensation that I expected.  Additionally, I don’t know why.  There is no reasoning and so I have no idea how to find the surveys that will be a good fit.

If this happened once in a while, it would be fine, but this happens to me EVERY SINGLE SURVEY.  Since I signed up, I haven’t gotten a true survey since, just failures, earning 1SB at a time.

Additionally, some surveys will tell you that you need to answer a few prerequisite questions, but then after you go through that process, it will tell you that the survey wasn’t a fit for your profile.  Those questions are time consuming and a lot of times the data entry of it on a mobile device is very cumbersome, think lots of drop-downs with a lot of options in the drop-downs.

Essentially, to me it seems rigged that you answer the questions and give the companies data, with no compensation in return.  Maybe I just have a certain profile that isn’t what they are looking for, but I’m not sure.

And it isn’t just swagbucks, this has been consistent across the online survey polls that I have used.

Overall, I think this is a bit of a scam and I would definitely not consider this a viable way to make money online.  Definitely don’t quit your day job on this one.

 

Take Control of Your Finances – It’s All About Mindset

Feeling overwhelmed by your financial situation?

For most families, during the child-rearing time of our lives, expenses are high as we are still growing our careers, building income, or sacrificing income to be home with our kids.  Nerdwallet recently did a study and found that the average American household has a credit card balance of $15,654, of which, on average, American’s are paying roughly $904 in credit card interest every year.  Additionally, with the explosion of the internet, there are hundreds of personal finance websites advising on how to handle your money including saving for retirement, building an emergency fund, paying off debt, setting financial goals, and honestly, it can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, we can take control of our finances, and it all starts with attitude and mindset.

1. Wherever You Are…It’s OK!

I think we all have a tendency to think we are not stacking up.  We should be further along in our career, making more money, saving more, or something else.  I’m here to tell you, truly, wherever you are, it IS okay.  Whatever situation you are in, you are presented with a great challenge to turn it around.  In fact, life would be boring if we didn’t have challenges.

If you have no credit card debt or $80,000 of debt, YOU are going to be okay.  You may have different decisions to make, but you will still be okay.  I’ve seen friends, family, acquaintances turn around even the most dire situations and also have fun along the way.  But first, accept the situation you are in.  Then, once you have accepted it, embrace it.  Love it.  Be thankful for the lessons you are about to learn.  They are the stories you will be able to tell your grandkids about “walking to school uphill both ways.”

2. No Need to Keep Up with the Jones’

I can’t stress this enough.  I don’t even know who the Jones’ are, but I don’t think I want to be friends with them anyways.  But seriously, it is really easy to get caught up in trying to keep up, and sometimes not keeping up may make you feel like you don’t fit in.  I think in many ways it is harder when you have kids, because your kids will complain when their friends get to do things that they don’t.

Take stock of where you are, what you are spending money on, and question whether you are doing it for you and your family, or doing it so that you can fit in in whatever social circle you find yourself in.  It’s not always obvious, you may be spending money on certain things because you feel like you should, it was the way you grew up, or other reasons, but if it doesn’t fit with your current financial profile it’s okay to cut it.

Lastly, I think as parents we get extremely concerned about making sure our kids have the best future imaginable.  It’s a competitive world out there and we want to give our kids every opportunity and advantage.  However, there is great value in being honest with your kids on what your financial situation and goals are, if they are old enough, as they will learn that life is not always easy which will help them develop healthy financial attitudes as well.  If they’re not old enough to understand this, then they are probably content just spending time with you and could care less about the Jones’.

3. Having Less Spending Money Leads to Creativity

Try this.  Pick a weekend and vow not to spend any money, or give yourself a budget of $10 or less.  What will you do?  You can either think about all the things you wish you could do, go out to eat, take the kids to a museum or the zoo, OR you can make it a big challenge that your kids are in on too.

I guarantee you, you will come up with so many things that you never would have thought of by putting this boundary on yourself.  Try it – let me know what you come up with.

4.  Fun Stuff Really is Cheap or Free

This goes hand in hand with #3, but fun stuff really is free.  It costs nothing to go for a walk, to the playground, to the library or do some crafts.

When I was younger, my happiest memories were of sitting in my grandparents’ screened in porch and talking.  We would play I Spy, alphabet word games, sing, do puzzles, and just be together.  When we wanted an activity, we would go out in the yard and play whiffle ball.  When I wanted to work, my grandparents would give me chores and pay me a quarter per chore.  As a kid, I remember those times as the happiest times, so if you are worried about making sure your kids get to see every museum and event, remember, all they really want is to be with you.

5. Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin, Pick One Money Goal and Do It

This is a big one to me.  There is so much financial advice out there that it can be overwhelming knowing what advice to follow and where to start.  Additionally, if you have limited funds, you can’t do everything, and you won’t accomplish anything if you are trying to do a little bit of everything.

If you aren’t sure where to start, check out my financial roadmap which outlines the steps to building a happy, healthy, sustainable lifestyle.

6. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Affirmations and Gratitude

Life is a journey.  Every situation that comes your way is helping you to grow.  The more you resist with worry and stress, the harder it is to turn the situation around.  However, if, when a challenge comes your way, you can be thankful for it, you will absolutely overcome it.  Car break down with no emergency fund?  Say a thanks for bringing this challenge to you as well as for the means to solve it.  Then, get to work on solving it.  If you need that car fixed right away, you do, but then grab that sidehustle to make that money back quickly.  In serious debt?  Be thankful that you have a challenge to overcome, then get to work.  Whatever creative ways you come up with to get out of debt, I’m absolutely sure you can write a blog about it later :-).

In addition to gratitude, I love affirmations.  Whatever you think or believe is what you are.  So if you are worried about money, affirm that your will is strong and you are capable of doing all of the things you need to do to get out of your situation.  If you think you never have enough, affirm that you always have enough and you are lucky to be challenging your personal discipline by living with less.  If you do both of these things, you will have a will of steel and the personal discipline to change your financial picture.

7. No Job is Beneath You

I work in a very professional environment.  I’m around successful people all of the time.  The one thing I have noticed though is that the people who stand out are the ones who will do what is needed to get the job done.  And so it is with life, if you need a financial lift, no job is beneath you.  A job is a job and it worthy of respect.  Don’t worry about what other people think.  The most successful leaders and entrepreneurs out there just did what needed to be done without worrying about what others thought.  Whether it is a part-time job, or trying a blog, or taking online surveys, whatever it is that you need to boost your income, it is fine.  Drop your ego, and you will reach success much faster.

Cut Your Grocery Bills by 30% or More

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin

Just as my good old friend Ben Franklin says, preparation really is the key to sanity.  I used to spend between $250-$300 a week on groceries for a family of 6.  Even though I made a list, I was completely overspending and found that for a family of 6, we can eat well on a budget of about $120-$150 per week.  Here is how I cut over $100-$200 off of my food budget by a little extra preparation and planning.

1.  Plan weeknight meals out in advance

This is the big one.  For a family of 6, I have found that it is really not that expensive to buy food for one week if properly planned.  I pick 4 weeknight meals that I prep and cook on the weekend.  One day, I usually recycle leftovers into something else.  For example, if I make tacos one day, with leftover beans (yes, I like beans with tacos), I use the beans the next day with rice and also make quesadillas.  That brings me to five days.  Then, inevitably, there’s probably a pasta day in there on the day that we are the most worn out.  Planning out the meals has been the single most important change I have made.  On average, it costs about $10-$20 for one meal for a family of 6.  For example, if I make lasagna:

  • Ground beef: $8
  • Tomato Sauce: $2
  • Ricotta Cheese: $4
  • Mozzarella: $4
  • Parmesan: $2 (as this gets multiple uses)
  • Noodles: $3
  • Total: $23
  • 2 days worth of meals
  • Daily Cost: $11.50

For some weekly meal plans, click here.

2.  Prep food on the weekend

This goes hand in hand with number 1.  Food prep on the weekend ensures that you actually follow-through with your plans for meals during the week.  Otherwise, if you are working, and get home tired, late, or other, even the best laid plans may fall by the wayside.  I like to prep whatever I can on the weekend to make weeknights super easy.  I also absolutely live by my crockpot and instant pot.  Examples of food prep:

  • Chop all veggies and put in freezer bags
  • Create spice packs in plastic baggies
  • Assemble baking meals (i.e. lasagna, stuffed shells) and store in fridge
  • Wake up 20 minutes earlier and prep the crockpot or instant pot for slow cooking

Click here to see the easiest meals to prep

3.  Get creative with snacking

I was drowning in snacks, snacks, snacks.  My kids love cheez-its, goldfish, nutrigrain bars, cookies, chips, fruit snacks, popcorn, you name it.  I have found though that beyond the basics, there is a lot that you can do to make snacking fun, recycling the same items over and and over into different uses.  Peanut butter can be used on celery or apples.  Add in chocoloate chips or raisins on top and you have just created 4 different snacks.  Recycle the celery and replace the peanut butter with cream cheese (and a little paprika if you are adventurous) and you have a fifth right there.  Some of my favorite snack ideas are:

  • Apples with honey or peanut butter, with or without chocolate chips or raisins
  • Celery with peanut butter or any other kind of nut butter
  • Celery with cream cheese and paprika
  • Sun balls (peanut butter, oats, chocoloate chips, and honey rolled into balls)
  • Date balls (almonds, dates, and coconut oil in a food processor and rolled into balls)
  • Make your own trailmix (nuts, raisins, chocolate chips)
  • Roasted nuts

4. Use Ibotta to get cash back

I was pretty skeptical about Ibotta until I tried it myself.  Ibotta is an app that will give you some cash back savings by scanning your receipt.  Warning:  It’s not completely automated, there is some work involved, and you won’t make that much money, but it is pretty much free money back for doing something that you do anyways.  For me, I get on average $1-$2 back per shopping trip.  However, I go to the store weekly, and that money adds up over time.  Using Ibotta does require you to select the purchases that you bought that also match the deals available.  It takes about 5-7 minutes to go through this exercise, and then you have to take a picture of your receipt.  So at $2 back for 7 minutes of work, there’s really no reason not to do it.  I’ve been using Ibotta for about 6 weeks and am up to about $15 in savings.  I’m going to cash out at $20 and it’s $20 that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.  Check out Ibotta here.

5. Add sauces, toppings, and sides to dress up plain meals

I find that sprucing up meals with sauces, toppings and sides makes basic meals more exciting and satisfying.  In fact, I actually use much less meat by trending meals away from one center piece and more to a set of different items.  Examples of great sides include:

  • garlic bread with pastalasagna or stuffed shells,
  • fresh baked bread with soups
  • naan or chapatis with Indian meals
  • tortillas or taco shells for Mexican meals and on and on…you get the point.
  • ricotta cheese on vegetables like baked broccoli or chickpeas
  • plain yogurt and cilantro
  • lemon butter with capers for fish dishes
  • chimichurri sauce on meats

6.  Keep your kids at bay at the grocery store…

I almost always bring my kids shopping.  I am at work all week so want to spend as much time as I can with them on the weekends, which includes a shopping trip.  However, the two boys can derail my best laid budget if I’m not careful.  My secret strategy?  Depends on the age.  For the little ones, I bring a few lollipops and that distracts them.  I also usually let them open one of the snacks we are getting in the store.  Older ones, I mean besides just saying “no” I do usually get them one treat if they help unload the car and put the groceries away.  I think it pays for itself.  The key is to try to stick to the list and keep the kids otherwise occupied!

7.  Check out your local Indian grocery store for cheap, fresh produce, beans, grains, and spices

If you can’t tell by now that I’m kind of obsessed with Indian food…I am.  I always look to find a local Indian store wherever I live, and usually go there every other week.  For one, the produce is usually dirt cheap, usually 99 cents for bundles of fresh herbs, greens or other vegetables.  Also, they have aisles and aisles of beans, dal (lentils), grains, and spices.  You can stock up on dried items for pretty cheap ($4-$8 for 3-4 meals worth of a beans/dal).  Also, instead of wasting a small fortune on grocery store spices, you can buy spices in bulk and refill your spice containers.  On average, I only buy spices once every 2-3 years unless I’m looking for something unique.  Lastly, I always buy basmati rice in bulk for about $20, and use an old animal cracker container to house the rice.  This often lasts me 1-2 months and we eat rice a few times a week.  Bonus: if you’ve never tried Indian tea (masala chai, or ginger tea), this is my guilty pleasure.

8.  Try beans or paneer cheese as the cheaper meat alternatives

I usually have one meal a week that has either beans, paneer cheese (I love Indian food!), or tofu as the main protein.  Beans are super cheap and when combined with a few basics can make for a delicious, hearty, and satisfying meal.  Combine beans with the sauces and sides that I mentioned above, and you have an extremely filling meal.  And paneer.  Well, if you’ve never had paneer cheese, you are missing out.  First of all, it is one of the few cheeses that are recommended in Ayurveda and it is considered easy to digest and high in protein.  It looks like tofu, but a bit more dense, but also less dense than a block of cheese.  It’s indescribably amazing.  It can be sauteed and added to some greens or made in a tikka masala sauce.  Some of my quick and easy favorite cheap, but satisfying family meals are:

  • Great Northern beans with carrots (and ham or bacon if you want meat)
  • Black beans or Kidney and rice with a side of avocados, taco shells or quesadillas and corn
  • Curried chickpeas with a side of onion naan
  • Split pea soup with a side of a fresh sourdough
  • Lentils with carrots with a side of naan or chapatis with a bit of plain yogurt and chopped cilantro to top
  • Paneer tikka masala with a side of naan and yogurt/cilantro puree to top

These meals on average cost less than $10 and are super filling and sides with toppings to make them fun!

Also, I always use dried beans and pressure cook them in the Instant Pot, which, if you don’t have one, I highly recommend as it will pay for itself over the course of one week of savings.  Amazon prices are reasonable and there are often specials. See here for the Instant Pot on Amazon.  This is the model that I use and I probably use it 5 out of 7 days a week.