Groceries and Money Saving Apps

As part of my May grocery challenge, I tried out three apps designed for smart phones: ibotta, Checkout51, and SavingStar.  I don’t have a smart phone, but I do have an iPod touch, which is very like an iPhone without the phone.  Or the enormous monthly bill.  But for all three apps, you need to be able to take photos of your receipts in order to redeem the offers.

First, SavingStar. This app just didn’t work for me.  For one thing, military commissary receipts are not accepted, and I do about half my shopping there.  (It’s convenient for me, if not often cheaper, and I do occasionally hit a great sale not available to civilians.)  For another, the rebates are usually on large purchases of name brands, like $5 back on $20 purchase of Orida potato products, or $3 off of $12 in Little Debbie snacks.  They do have one “Healthy Offer” each week for 20% back on a produce item.  I got 70¢ for bananas, but it took almost a week for them to process the purchase, so they’re slow, too.  One last negative is also true of the next app: You need to accumulate $20 before you can cash out.  At 70¢ a month, it’s going to take me a long time to get there.

Next up is Checkout51.  I’m withholding judgement on this one for a couple of months.  I suspect that their offers don’t refresh very often, so when I exhausted the ones I was interested in during the first week, there was nothing else for me, except a 25¢ pick-your-own produce offer.  Still, I’ve got $4.25 put by, and I’ll try it for the next few months to see how the offers go. This one also makes you save $20 before it pays out, but it does accept military receipts.

Ibotta is, by far, my favorite.  It’s annoying in that you have to do something, or two somethings, in order to unlock each rebate.  On the generic offers, it’s often watching two advertising videos, which gets tedious if you want to use several of them.  I turn the sound off and keep clicking while I do something more amusing.  Some offers are specific to a particular store, and that’s true of checkout51, too, but most are available at multiple retailers, including the military commissary.  The offers also open up again each week, so you can redeem them more than once, and there are many “any brand” offers that allow you to buy your favorite or the cheapest and still get the rebate.  The other thing I like about it is the Teamwork bonuses.  For this, you need a facebook account, but if any of your friends are using the app, their rebates automatically count toward your teamwork bonus.  I got an extra $2 last week, and I’m 90¢ from another $3 bonus.  If only my teammates were more helpful! Right now, my account is at $22.45, and I started in the second week of May, so that added up quickly.  You can cash out with $10, but I was waiting to finish out the month.

With all three apps, you can use coupons in store, too.  I redeemed a $2 French’s ketchup and mustard combo and used coupons in store to bring the price down to zero.  Later, Walmart sent me back 23¢ with their Savings Catcher app because they were cheaper at Dollar Tree. You can also double and triple dip, if the item is listed on multiple apps.  I claimed a single banana purchase across all three apps for a total rebate of $1.20, so this can pay off.  Also, for non-produce items, you need to scan the bar code to verify the purchase, so have the items in question handy.

If you sign up through my ibotta links, I’ll get a referral bonus when you redeem your first offer, and if you friend me on facebook, we can help each other earn the teamwork bonuses faster.  I say it’s free money for just a little bit of effort.  Kind of like ebates.  Also, I post lots of baby pictures on facebook.  I’m just saying.

You can print coupons here.