Pay for Christmas with Gift Cards

One way I stretch our family budget is by using cashback rewards to purchase Christmas gifts, as well as birthday and anniversary gifts. Each year in October and November I start cashing in points I’ve collected on different apps for Amazon gift cards. It still surprises me each year how easily I built up a supply of Amazon credit while completing everyday purchases like groceries, exercising, and scanning receipts. Here’s a list of all the ways I earn gift cards and cash rewards. I’m also estimating how much time I spend focusing on each app and what the ROI is on my efforts.

Extensions for Your Browser

My Points

My Points sends daily emails that give you points for opening the email, making a specific purchase, or using a coupon. Additionally, extra points are earned for watching videos.

  • Time spent each day: 2 minutes
  • Amount earned each year: $15-20 without watching videos

Swagbucks

Swagbucks is a search engine just like Google, but you are randomly awarded points for searching. Additional points are earned when a Swagbucks deal is activated on an online purchase. You earn a percentage of purchases made back in points. For example, purchasing clothes on Old Navy.com can earn you back 3% of the dollar amount back in equivalent points. Swagbucks also offers the opportunity to watch videos for additional points. I’ve used this when I shop for my Walmart pick-up order, Amazon order, Kohl’s order for pick-up and delivery, and even Target.com.

  • Time spent each day: 2 hours doing work and blog research (bonus for getting to do this while I work!)
  • Amount earned each year: $100 minimum without watching videos

Rakuten

The Rakuten browser extension works the same as the others. They each have different deals at any given time so it’s worth comparing when you are shopping.

  • Time spent each day: 2 minutes or less depending on if you use their rewards card
  • Amount earned each year: the amount varies depending on your shopping 10% back on all purchases minimum.

Apps for Your Phone

S’more App

S’more is an app that allows you to earn points in exchange for allowing us to place ads & content on your lock screen. Every day we’ll give you points in exchange for having the S’more lock screen installed.  (use code YLRBLF to earn a bonus for you and me!)  Additional points can be earned by filling out qualifying surveys or filling out special offers.

  • Time spent each day: Zero seconds unless I choose to attempt a survey
  • Amount earned each year: $30 minimum

Ibotta App

I’ve been using Ibotta for 4 years and it’s improved drastically since it first came out. I’ve earned over $500 back just for buying the groceries we need. Although I prefer to cash my money in for Amazon gift cards, Ibotta offers multiple options including Paypal!

Read more about how it works here, but don’t forget to use my referral code for a bonus when you sign up!

  • Time spent each day: 5 minutes or less, 15 minutes after a shopping trip if not linked to my shopping card.
  • Amount earned per year: $300 per year or more

Fetch Rewards

My sister-in-law is always one to find a great deal, and originally found Fetch Rewards. I find it’s even more convenient than Ibotta because you don’t have to select the items ahead of time. The great thing is you can scan the same receipt for both apps every time you shop! Use B0HYE  (that’s a zero) for a bonus of 2,000 points when you get started with Fetch Rewards!

  • Time spent each time you shop: 1 minute or less
  • The amount earned per trip: minimum of 25 points just for scanning a receipt

Sweatcoin

Sweatcoin explains “We track & verify your outdoor steps using your phone’s accelerometers and GPS location. Those steps get converted into our currency — Sweatcoins” just like Ibotta sweatcoins are exchanged for several things including Amazon gift cards or PayPal.

  • Time spent each day: Zero seconds
  • Amount earned per day: varies up to $2 depending on if I remember to bring my phone with me everywhere I walk.

I just started using this app a month ago, and I’ve earned $35 Sweatcoins.

Achievement

How it works:
Connect the apps/devices you already use with Achievement to track healthy activities like walking, meditating, logging food. We support 30+ health, fitness, and lifestyle apps and are always adding new ones.
Take Achievement’s Health Survey to share more about your background. To start earning points, we’ll share tailored surveys, health programs, and online research studies which you can contribute to from wherever you are
Get cash rewards.

  • Time spent on app: Zero seconds (I have it linked to my Garmin)
  • Amount earned per year: $10-20 depending on qualifying surveys. I’ll hit $20 this month.

Harris Poll

A report on Amazon purchases is run each month. $3.00 in an Amazon gift card is earned each month.

  • Time spent on app: 2 minutes a month
  • Amount earned per year: $36/year

There are many additional options for ways to earn cash simply by checking in to a location or filling out a survey. For me, the combination of this list is perfect. Without adjusting my daily routine at all 4 of these programs earn me daily credit towards Christmas money!

I’ve included my referral code on each of the company links I featured. We will both earn bonuses when you sign up through me.

Shopping Rewards

Kohl’s Cash and Kohl’s Rewards

Kohl’s is one of my favorite places to shop these days. I have a Kohl’s credit card, and I’m in their rewards program called Yes2You Rewards. I can earn Ibotta money back by shopping through the Kohl’s app on my phone or I can shop online and earn points through Swagbucks, My Points, or Rakuten if I use my computer.

Kohl’s Cash, Kohl’s rewards, and Kohl’s percentages off can be stacked on top of each other. I can either pick up an order in the store, use a code for free shipping, or spend enough to tack on free shipping to my order.

Kohl’s prices on stables like underwear, socks, t-shirts, and workout clothes are often the same prices as Walmart and Target. I also love their athletic shoes and business casual clothes. Their clearance section is awesome and they carry all the major athletic brands.

I keep a running list on Airtable of all the things we need to replace. With growing boys, there is always something that wears out. When an email comes through with a sale or promotion, I compare it to my list to see if anything aligns. This strategy also works with Christmas gifts. If you know you will be buying your impossible to buy for a friend a cute sweater this year get it in October if the deal is right!

  • Time spent each day: 2 minutes or less depending on if you use their rewards card
  • Amount earned each year: the amount varies depending on your shopping

Store Credit Card

Whether it’s Amazon, Costco, or Target if you have a store that you frequent it’s worth investing in a credit card as long as you won’t carry a balance month to month. Earning cash back doesn’t equal the interest you pay with a balance.

I love these three cards in particular because you can store up the cash until you want to use it, plus you can buy just about anything. If your goal is to pay for Christmas gifts using gift cards this is the way to go.

I also use credit for birthday and anniversary gifts by the way! 😉

If you find that you love Rakuten check out their cashback visa program. You may find sticking with one browser extension and card ends up giving you more cashback in the long run.

  • Time spent each day: 2 minutes or less depending on if you use their rewards card
  • Amount earned each year: the amount varies depending on your shopping

If you find that cashback rewards don’t work to help purchase the gifts you prefer to buy friends and family use them to stretch your grocery budget. One thing you might consider doing is challenging yourself to a “no-spend month” where you only use the household items you have as well as money you’ve collected through cashback rewards. You’ll be shocked to see how much you can transfer to your savings account at the end of the month.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on November 14, 2017, and has been updated in January 2021 for freshness, accuracy, and completeness.

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