Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Nov 9, 2010 by

I began the countdown on facebook a few weeks ago, but it bears mentioning again:  Christmas is only 46 days away.  Let the holiday meltdowns begin.

Those of you who have read this blog…ever…know that I frequently get questions about what I “do all day,” and how much I really enjoy not only the fact that people feel like it’s OK to ask, but the hidden condescension behind the question. (AKA “Why don’t you contribute to the household instead of sitting on your ass all day?”  I’m not stupid.  That’s what people really want to know.) 

The truth is, I participate in several things which earn money on the side. (No, not THOSE things, pervs!)  I’m not saying this extra cash will have me rollin’ on 24s any time soon, but it might buy a new set of tires! 

With that in mind, here are my holiday money saving/general extra money earning tips which I know come in handy this time of year.

#1.  Shop@Home 
One thing that surprised the hell out of me after I moved to the Ridge is how much online shopping became a necessity.  Let’s face it, there’s not much out here in the way of clothing, shoes…basically anything without camo or polyester somehow involved.  Before I moved, I honestly thought my desire to visit a “real city” would be so overwhelming that I would find myself driving to Peoria/Bloomington at least once a week.  Wrong.  Instead, I’ve found myself talking to my UPS driver at least once a week.

This is where Shop@Home comes in.  Here’s a good example.  Next week, Gap is having another Give and Get 30% off sale.  Need Christmas presents and want to save even more money?  Sign up for a free shop@home account.  When you are ready to shop, go to their website, type in Gap, and you’ll see that Gap purchases are now earning 4% cash back.  (The percentages change from day to day.)  That means whatever you spend, even if you end up returning it, you get 4% of the total purchase put back into your shop@home account.  Then, click on “Shop Now” and it will take you directly to, but it tracks the amt. you spend in order to give you the right amt. of cash back.  So now you’ve saved 30% PLUS the extra 4% rebate in cash. 
It may sound confusing, but it’s not.  Every time you want to shop online, go to shop@home first, check to see if there are coupons or cash rebates.  They send you a check every month that you have more than $20 in rebates in your account.  For me, this has been every month for the last year.  I’ve earned almost $200 in rebate cash.  There are no tricks, no points, nothing.  If you think about it, living out here, you’re going to shop online anyway, so you might as well save some extra money doing what you’re already doing, right?  4% (or more) of your total Christmas spending=a lot of extra cash!  If 4% doesn’t sound like a lot, remember that is actually a low percentage.  Last year, around this time, Apple had 10-12% cash back (that’s over $20 if you’re buying an iPod!) and several other stores like Nordstrom, Sephora, JC Penney, hell…even Staples, have had rebates in the double digits.  There are some companies that don’t participate in Shop@Home (Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn for example), but not many.

Want to sign up? Go here:

#2 Swagbucks
Another site that is basically the same principle as Shop@Home, but honestly, not as good.  They don’t have as many stores available for rebates.  The only reason I use Swagbucks is on the off chance that Shop@Home doesn’t have the store I’m looking for…but that hasn’t happened yet.  Also, this site requires you to redeem “points” not cash back, which I think is a little more confusing.  To each their own.  My friend recently redeemed her points for a new bread maker, so it does work! 

Want to sign up?  Go here:

Now we get to the money EARNING part.  Before I run through the gamut of money earning, I should disclose that these do take some time, depending on how many you involve yourself in.  Again, you’re not going to get rich with these things.  In my book, extra money=extra shoes and makeup, so there’s my motivation. 

Are you the kind of person who can’t sit still?  The kind of person who feels like they need to be “doing something” when they’re supposed to be relaxing and watching TV?  I am, and that is where this next list of things comes in.  Surveys.  These companies will pay you to take their surveys.  They tell you up front how much you’ll earn and how long they will take, (some are 5 minutes, some are up to 30-45 minutes), which is great because you know right off the bat if you have time to take the survey right then, or not.  Each company has their own quirks, so here’s a quick description of each of them.

#1 Mindfield Surveys

These are probably my favorite surveys.  They want to know about anything and everything, which means there are a lot of opportunities for surveys and they don’t get boring.  They’ve asked me about health insurance, dishwasher detergent, granola bars, you name it.  They also had me do a 3 week study on new types of dog treats, where they sent me THREE full size boxes of treats, one per week, to test out on Bella and see if she liked the flavor (She did.  I asked).  Another time, I was asked to test out a new type of shaving cream, rate the scent, consistency, etc.  Then you get to keep the products afterwards.  This site pays in cash, in $5 increments.  So far, I’ve earned $31. 

Want to sign up?  Go here:

#2. Ipsos i-Say

These are really fun surveys.  Sometimes they show you movie trailers, sometimes youtube video clips.  Sometimes it’s just regular surveys.  The best part is, when you finish the survey, they ask if you want to play a quick trivia game for entries into various $1000 sweepstakes.  They’ll ask you a trivia question like “What percentage of American men have been kicked out of a bar?”  You guess, and depending on how close you are to the correct answer, you get that many sweepstakes entries.  Your surveys earn points, which you redeem for cash.  1000 points=$10 cash.  Currently I’ve earned $35.90.

Want to sign up? Go here:

#3. My Points

This one I’m so-so on.  It takes longer to earn points and it takes more points to qualify for cash rewards or gift cards. 4500 points= $25 visa gift card.  So far I’ve earned 1285 points.

Want to sign up?  Go here:

#4. HCD Surveys

If you like politics (or even if you hate them) this one is for you!  It doesn’t matter where you are in the political spectrum, they want to know.  Usually what happens is something will go down politically and be all over the news (the potential mosque near Ground Zero, Sarah Palin running ads for president, etc etc.) and they’ll have a survey where you answer some questions about how you think things are going in the country, then you watch these ads/news clips/presidential speech clips for about a minute or two.   Then they ask the same 5 questions again to see if your viewing of the video clips changed your mind.  The cool thing about this site is, they will actually email you the results of the overall survey when they’re done.  For example, after I participated in the Sarah Palin ads survey, their study showed that Republicans are more supportive of Palin after watching the ads.  Just an example.  These surveys earn points for cash, and fairly quickly.  1000 points=$10.  So far I’ve earned 400 points, but I started pretty recently.

Want to sign up?  Go here:

#5. Inbox Dollars
This one is really different.  There are the usual surveys, but you can also opt to be sent “paid emails.”  A paid email is an email sponsored by a company, with a link at the bottom that says “click here.”  You don’t have to read the email, just scroll to the bottom and click the link.  Done.  You get paid.  The actual amount per email varies, and isn’t much, but on this site you also get to control how often they send you emails.  You could get up to 20+ “paid emails” a day, which is what I do, and it adds up.  This site pays cash as well.  So far I’ve earned $18.

Want to sign up?  Go here:

#6. My Survey

This one also has a lot of product testing.  They’ve had me test one of those automatic dishwasher detergent deals where you install it inside your dishwasher and it does the detergent for you instead of you doing it each time.  I didn’t know what an automatic detergent dispenser was when I signed up, so I sent it back without ever installing it, filled out the surveys they sent saying why I didn’t use it, and I still got paid.  These surveys are either really few points, or really large amounts of points, not much in between.  But they’re usually pretty straightforward.  They pay cash or gift cards (depending on what you want), 1100 points for $10.  So far, I have 1745 points.

Want to sign up?  Go here:

#7. Opinion Outpost

This one has the most available surveys by a landslide.  The topics are all over the place, so you don’t get bored.  They also have the option to limit how many emails you receive per day/week.  These surveys are rewarded with points, each point=$0.10, so 50 points = $5.  They send checks in $5 increments.  So far I’ve earned 369 points which equals $36.90.  You have a lot of opportunities to make a good amount on these surveys. 

Want to sign up?  Go here:

One tip I’ve learned while participating in these surveys is, if you’re going to really throw yourself into taking these surveys, you may want to get a separate email address so it doesn’t flood your “real” inbox.  Have an email address that you started in junior high?  One so embarrassing you can’t put it on resumes?  Well, “hottie69@ AOL,”  here’s the perfect opportunity to banish that turd of an email address for good.  Just sayin’. 

Again, these surveys do take time.  They’re probably not for people who have super super busy 9-5s and don’t even want to SEE a computer on the weekend.  But for those of us who ARE at home more regularly, check it out!  They really like moms.  Think of all the diaper, formula, baby food, baby ANYTHING product testing.  If your kid hates the new flavor of Cheerios, leaks through a new diaper, is still illiterate after a month of using LeapFrog…they want to know.   

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  1. Conan

    Hi, Lauren…

    I just discovered you added my blog to your blogroll, and I wanted to thank you! I hope your Christmas rocked and that you have a great New Year.

    Conan the Grammarian

  2. Lauren

    Conan! You are my favorite, so of course I added you to my blogroll! 🙂 Although you may be a kU graduate (hey, we can't all be perfect), I welcome any and all grammar nazis. In fact, the more the merrier. Americans need all the grammatical help they can get!


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