Saturday, February 2, 2013

Contributing

I am a stay at home mom.  It wasn't what our family had intended to have happen, but through circumstances, it just came to be an absolute necessity.  Peyton's health made it impossible for me to continue working full-time when she was about two years old.  It wasn't that we could afford for me to have this opportunity.  I couldn't juggle a full-time job and meet all of her needs.  At the time, we had no home nursing whatsoever.  Even now that she's pushing seven and a half years of age and we do have nursing, it's just not practical.  Sure I could work some sort of job, but the moment Peyton would wind up in the hospital, I'd have to take a leave or quit or something.  Then there's all the appointments.  It's just not ideal to work outside the home.  Not to mention how incredibly burned out I feel all the time and would be fairly useless outside the home.  Well, that's how I feel sitting here right now, eyelids heavy from lack of sleep.

I've tried in various ways to contribute financially to the family.  I have my Etsy shop.  I have sidebar ads.  I even worked for a few days in a flower shop last year.  None of these has resulted in significant contributions, but every little bit helps.  I truly appreciate everything I've received from all of these areas.  {just throwing in a plug for advertising here...promo code BEMINE gets you 14% off any ads right now!}

But there are other ways to contribute to the family.  I love freebies {who doesn't?!} so over the years I have looked for little ways to earn things while participating in fairly passive activities.  On the surface, it doesn't seem like these would be worth much, but they are!

Here are a few of my favorites:

Search & Win

Swagbucks.  What is Swagbucks?  It's an online tool where you can participate in a variety of activities with the possibility of earning "Swagbucks", or points, which you then accumulate and redeem for rewards.  You can use their search engine and, with every search, you might earn a random number of Swagbucks.  It could be seven, eleven, twenty-five - or any number in between or above or below.  You might earn zero for a search.  It might take you clicking that search button several times before you win any at all.  It's hit or miss.  You can do a daily poll once a day to earn one Swagbuck.  There's a "NOSO" {no obligation special offer} where you click through a series of offers {clicking on "skip" each time} and you earn two Swagbucks at the end.  Swagbucks TV is kind of like youtube where you click on videos.  There must be hundreds.  You earn three Swagbucks after you watch ten videos.  There's a mobile app where you earn two after every ten.  

How much time you have to devote to these activities obviously will determine how fast you will accumulate your Swagbucks.  There are tons of rewards available, but I always go for the gift cards.  Specifically the $5 Amazon.com e-gift card.  It's 450 points for one of these.  It's the best points to gift card value.  I did, however, run into an issue last month.  You can only turn in rewards points for a specific prize five times in one month.  Yes, I was turning in points that fast.  It's free money!  In mid-January, this happened to me.  So I looked for another reward option that would benefit our family.  We got an X-Box for Christmas.  There is a Swagbucks reward for an X-Box live gold membership for one year.  That is 6,000 Swagbucks - an offer I'm considering saving for.  But in the meantime, because of our X-Box purchase, we received Hulu Plus free for a short period of time and we got hit with our first monthly bill last month.  We already pay for cable {with our internet/phone/cable bundle, it's cheaper than not having cable} and Netflix {dvd and streaming}.  I am loving the Hulu Plus, but it's an added expense that we really don't need.  When I saw that Swagbucks had a reward for a free Hulu Plus subscription, I began working in earnest to accumulate enough points for this.  This morning, I turned in the necessary 2,500 points for a 3 month subscription.  That subscription is a $24.99 value.  It took me about two weeks to save enough points.  So, as long as I can put in the time and effort to earn the points, I can keep this nice little benefit for our family - for free!

Bing.  What is Bing?  Bing is a Microsoft search engine.  When you sign up, you earn points for searches.  Every other search you do earns you one point.  Again, there are rewards to choose from once you reach the required number of points.  It's a little slower going, as you can only earn so many points per day.  That said, I have my goal listed to achieve the 475 point $5 Amazon gift card.  As with Swagbucks, it's an e-gift card which you apply to your Amazon.com account.  These gift cards never expire, so you can just let them accumulate in your account.  I have used these cards to save up for a specific item which I personally wanted from Amazon but I have also used them to put towards gifts.  Imagine working between both Swagbucks and Bing to earn gift cards, applying them to your Amazon account and then, come Christmastime, you might just have a tidy little sum saved up in your gift cards to apply to your holiday purchases!


Birchbox.  How??  It's all about referrals.  I started receiving my Birchbox last April.  I love getting this box each month.  It's exciting to try all the new products.  You can rate the products you receive and earn points for doing so.  If you purchase full size products in their online shop, you receive points per dollar spent.  {note: purchasing the box itself does not earn you points}  If you refer people, you earn 50 points once that referral completes their first month.  100 points translates to $10 to use in their online shop.  Free money to spend on full size products which I would otherwise have to spend money out of our family budget.  I have paid $10 for each of 10 months of Birchboxes.  Actually, it's really only 9 months because I received the wrong box one month, talked to customer service, who then gave me the next month for free.  {boxes are not all the same for all recipients, so what it said I should have received online was not what was actually shipped to me}  If you've been around here since April, you've seen me post a review each month.  Thanks to referrals, purchase points and points received for rating products on the Birchbox site, I have turned in $140 worth of points for $140 in free products - and I have another $40 sitting waiting to be used.  Why do I share this??  Because that is a significant amount of money.  Am I using my points so I can purchase frivolous things like ridiculously priced perfumes and products that are truly just for fun??  No.  I am using them specifically to purchase items which I would normally use {not product brands necessarily, as they are typically higher end products and I don't typically buy higher end products outside of this site} or products which would be useful but I just don't have the money to spend on that brand.  For example, I love Ahava hand cream and foot cream.  My hands and feet get really dry.  But that lotion is more expensive than we can afford.  But if I get it for free, then it's all good!  I'm also buying makeup items which I would wear, in place of a drug store brand that I'd normally buy.  Sure, I could save up for the frivolous items and get those for free, but if I want to help my family budget, then it makes more sense to use the points on "everyday" items.

Those are just a few ways I have found to earn rewards which provide items for either myself or my family, but which all help out our family's budget in some way!  Have you found any ways to do this for yours?  I'd love to hear!!

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