Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to make "money" online

I am a stay-at-home-mom who works 24/7 in exchange for kisses and hugs. Sometimes I want to make money too.

This post is not about a pyramid scheme or investing in an envelope-stuffing campaign or anything like that. I just wanted to share some links with you in case you want to make "money" online, too.

dollar sign
Photo: nuchylee
{Be sure to also check out my post on How to make money online for charity.}

Why am I putting "money" in quotes? First of all, I "love" quotes (remember that Friends episode?) Second of all, most of these sites don't make me literal dollars and cents but, in my opinion, what I make is just as good. So what am I talking about? I get tons of airline miles to use towards free flights, plenty of free meals at restaurants and even a little bit of real money towards Little Sweets's college savings account. With a small investment of my time, I contribute towards my family's income, even if that just means saving money on flights and meals. There's a ton of information here, but don't feel overwhelmed. Just start with one or two of these programs and see what you think.

 Here are the websites I use and recommend:

  • Mystery Guest (mystery shopping):  I have been a mystery shopper for this company for 5 years and I've gotten free meals at The Cheesecake Factory and Smokey Bones. They also have mystery shops available for free merchandise at places like The Disney Store.

    • A Closer Look (mystery shopping): I've eaten for free at Buffalo Wild Wings, O'Charley's and local restaurants. They also have opportunities for free movies at movie theaters and free stays at hotels.

      •  Ann Michaels & Associates (mystery shopping): I've gotten free merchandise at Charlotte Russe and a little bit of cash for making a quick phone call and for stopping in a local shop to ask a few questions. 

        • Thank You Network: We get at least one free flight a year because we charge EVERYTHING to our CitiBank credit cards. You can choose any airline to redeem your points with, which is why we use this credit card rather than one specific airline's card. We've also used our points for merchandise like baby gear. The conversion rate is essentially $1 in spending = 1 point = 1 cent in redemption value. A $300 flight costs you 30,000 points, which you earned after spending $30,000. It sounds like it would take a long time to earn flights, but if you charge everything, it will add up quicker than you think. The caveat here, of course, is that if you don't/can't pay off your credit card fully each month, it's probably not going to make you any "money." Also, don't pay annual fees for credit cards! There are plenty out there that give rewards and do not charge an annual fee.

          • e-rewards: This program allows you to take surveys in exchange for points that can be redeemed for airline miles, gift certificates, magazine subscriptions and more. The only caveat I will mention here is that their points are in the form of dollars, which do not equal actual dollars. For instance, you can redeem $25 for 500 airline don't actually get $25.

            • emiles: Watch a 30-second commercial and/or answer a couple of questions for 5 airline miles. Sounds paltry but they add up! You're also going to get access to coupons or special deals, though just like with real coupons, don't be sucked in to something that you weren't going to buy anyway or it's not worth it.  

              • Bonus Airline Miles: Go to your favorite airline's website and check out their frequent flier program. Click on the link about earning miles with partners. Most of them have links to online shopping programs where you can earn bonus miles just by clicking through their links. The ones I have used are Delta (shopping), Delta (dining), Hawaiian and United

                  • UPromise: Their college savings program gives money towards college savings accounts when you shop through links on their website. Since we joined in 2003, we have contributed $266.66 to college savings plans for my nephews and my daughter. (Yes, that's a lot of online shopping... the big bucks came from booking vacations on travel websites.)  

                    • Another way to earn money with UPromise is by registering all of your grocery store cards. When you buy certain products and scan your card at the grocery store, you will automatically get the bonus dollars added to your account. 

                      • Many retail stores have online reward programs (cash back, free products, etc.) such as Pampers and Best Buy. Don't forget the real-life version of these programs at stores like Babies R Us, Panera, PetSmart, CVS and of course the traditional punch cards (buy 12, get 1 free). I know that all these programs are collecting my demographic and purchasing information, but I figure it's worth it. Plus I have a specific email account set up for all the junk emails I'm going to get... that way they don't get in the way of my real emails.

                        I can vouch for these programs because I've been using them all for at least 2 years. There are plenty more like them that I have not tried, such as The Grocery Game, Huggies and Bing. Also check out Rat Race Rebellion for a ton of links to other work-at-home opportunities. Again, I can't vouch for these links because I haven't tried them out myself.

                        One more tip on making "money". Saving money is also making money. My Sweets and I have lived on a budget since we got married 9 years ago, thanks to my dad's guidance in teaching me how to budget. Living on a budget is actually very freeing to me, not constraining like it may appear to be to those who have never done it. If you're a Christian, you can understand this concept: living with freedom in Christ makes Christianity not about following a set of rules but accepting the fact that we are fallen and sinful, yet have been forgiven by His sacrifice: We have been freed. Living on a budget has set us free to truly enjoy tithing, saving and spending without second thoughts or guilt about where the money has gone.

                        Now, if you made it this far..., how do you make money--real or the kind in "quotes"?


                        1. What great tips! I found a way to get all five of my children's clothes for very little money. We are fortunate to have a large family and many friends; I am often given bags of children's clothing from people who don't do hand-me-downs, or whose children have outgrown them. I sort everything, and everything that is brand-name and pristine gets taken to a children's consignment shop for store credit. I recently took a box full of clothes my aunt gave me, that were styles, sizes and brands I don't use; I kept those items I could use, and the rest were consigned for $38. That may not sound like much, but if I shop carefully at the same consignment store, that was enough for 17 items of clothing and shoes I COULD use, some with tags still on them, many brand-name and excellent quality. I spend about $200 PER YEAR on all five children for clothes. I do buy them new shoes before school, so that's another $75 dollars because I go when they have the "buy 2 get 1 free sale", and those are sturdy, good-quality shoes. My husband thinks I'm a miracle worker, and my children always look nice!

                        2. WOW, Brandi, I am so impressed that you can spend just $200 a year to clothe 5 kiddos! Thanks for the tips on consignment selling/shopping... I am going to my first big kids' clothing consignment sale next month to stock up on the next size for Little Sweets.

                        3. You are so savy trish! I love your tips, thanks friend!

                          We use the same citi card you do. Instead of using it for miles though we usually purchase items- we recently bought a new baby gate and other gear using our points. My hubby has gotten an Itunes card too (for a special treat). We like redeeming the points for gift cards to buy presents with too.

                        4. Behk (I can't call you Rebecca, it just sounds weird to me =) ),
                          I love that idea of using the points for gift cards. Especially since we live on a budget, it is always so fun to have extra non-budgeted money to spend! When we stop flying so much, we'll probably use the points for that, too!

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