It’s the Holidays. Would you like some free money?

19 Dec

ISBU (Shipping Container Homes) often begin their lives as ideas passed back and forth across dinner tables. The people discussing these big metal boxes as housing are often rubbing pennies together to makes quarters to make it happen. I know this is true because it’s the way MY first “real” ISBU home happened. I’ve lived in “Corten Cabins” and even little “Corten Chateaus” before that, but we were eager to go “all the way” and live in a full-blown “Corten Castle”. That house was the predecessor to THIS house and it’s now been built by a dozen families scattered across three continents:


While we were trying to connect the dots, we spent a LOT of time trying to determine where all  the required nickels and dimes would come from.

We saved money every place we could. We didn’t go out to eat as much. We took lunches to work. We didn’t go to movies, we rented them. We found cool ways to celebrate family holidays without bankrupting ourselves. We didn’t go on luxury trips, we went camping. We just chipped away at the edges.

The “Happy Holidays” period was the worst. Between Hanukkah and Christmas, it just killed us.  (When our children were little, they didn’t miss a holiday, regardless of it’s origin. We figured they could choose paths later in life, when they began to form their own answers to hard questions.) I admit that quite often, everything we saved ended up in brightly packaged boxes clad with bows and candy canes, as we used them to build a pile under that tree that looked like a foundation.

If you’re like me, it’s that time of year when we give  Santa a jumpstart and order a ton of stuff on-line. While we watch our bank balance flow away like the current of the Bitterroot River, there IS a “silver lining”. You CAN earn some substantial cash back if you’re a member of the right “cash-back” sites;

cash-back shoppingWhat is cash back?

Cash back is money that you actually earn by making qualifying online purchases through participating retailers that participate in a rebate program through the use of an intermediary cash back website. What basically happens is that the retailers are actually paying you to stay home and shop online. The theory is simple; the more you spend, the more cash back you receive. With cash back being offered from 1000s of online retailers, you can get cash back on just about any kind of shopping imaginable.  We regularly see great rebates promoted from stores like Amazon, Home Depot, Lowes, WalMart, Kmart, Sears, Macy’s, and Target, just to name a few.

How do I earn cash back when shopping online?

There’s a method to “cash-back shopping”. Instead of going directly to the online retailer you usually shop at, you visit the cash back site they are affiliated with first and then click their link to your retailer’s website. This is important. By doing this first, your purchase will be tracked by the cash back site and they’ll keep track of what you spend. That means that you will end up receiving cash back after your successful purchase. Usually, you hit a target number/amount and they either send you a check or pay your reward money into your bank or Paypal account.

So, in honor of the upcoming Holidays  and all the sales that go along with it, here’s a list of the top 5 cash-back sites we’ve used:

Click the links to go to the sites:

BeFrugal offers a $10 sign up bonus, and you can request payment by check, PayPal or gift card once you have reached $25 in your account.

Ebates offers a $10 sign-up bonus.  Payments are automatically sent out, via check or PayPal, quarterly if you have earned over $5. If your account has earned under $5 that money is rolled over to the next quarter.

FatWallet  does not currently offer a sign up bonus, but it more than makes up for that in the generous percentages of cash back it offers. You can request a payment via check or PayPal once your account reaches $10.

Mr.Rebates offers a $5 registration bonus just for signing up, and you can request a payment via check or PayPal once you reach $10.

ShopDiscover offers many people’s favorite cash back program.  There is a catch. The catch is that you have to have a Discover card to join. Discover Cardholders earn serious cash back by shopping through ShopDiscover. If you become a Discover cardmember you can get a $50 Cashback Bonus with your first purchase within three months, and earn rewards on every purchase after that.

Top Cashback offers a $10 sign-up bonus and payment can be requested, with no minimum via check or PayPal.

How do I maximize my cash back?

If you want to really maximize your cash back potential, I recommend signing up for ALL the above cash back sites because there is not one clear-cut winner.

Every store has a different relationship with each cash-back site. So I suggest that you sign up with them all and then bookmark all the sites.

When you are ready to shop at a particular online retailer, check the cash back percentages offered at each cash back site and then shop using the one that offers the most cash back.

If you do this right, you’ll get the most possible money back. Add it all up and it can be several hundred dollars a year!

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