It’s summer, yay! And, that usually means travel. Either we get to go somewhere, or we hear about all the places our friends went. I recently had a conversation with someone who was surprised that we’re able to travel still, even though we no longer have my teaching income.
She asked me how we’re able to afford vacations, and after I shared with her my strategies, I realized you might also want to know. After all, it is pretty nice to go to the Caribbean for 10 days and have half of the trip paid for with free money, right? Or, to have 3 plane tickets paid for so that you can go to a wedding out of state (and once we leave this coast, airfare seems to be at least $400 each person!).
So, I know your “if it sounds too good to be true…” radar is probably perked up quite a bit by now. And, I don’t blame you. Mine would be too. I’m not going to tell you to scan your receipts, pay close attention to the food you buy so that you can get credit through various apps, take surveys, or do anything else that I find to be both tedious and time-consuming.
Here’s what we do…
We use credit cards (find the ones with the highest rewards) and Ebates.
Why Credit Cards?
Some companies have rewards programs that basically pay you to use their cards. I’ve been using Discover for over a decade now because they have such an awesome cash back program. Depending on which card you get, you earn at least 1% on your purchases, sometimes as much as 5%. They have categories that change each quarter to help you earn more.
Now, I know 1% doesn’t sound like a lot, and it’s not, but it’s better than nothing, right? Plus, it adds up over time. They’re basically giving you $1 for every $100 you spend.
Think about groceries. If the average family of 4 spends $150 per week on groceries, that’s $600 per month. If you charged JUST your groceries to your Discover card, you’d earn $6 per month, which is $54 per year. Not bad for something you need to buy anyway, right? You can use that $54 just like cash OR use it to purchase gift cards through Discover and get even MORE back (some places offer a $25 gift card for using $25 Cashback Bonus money).
Ebates is basically a referral program. You register on their site and shop at places you’d normally shop and earn cash back because you shopped through their website. Sounds like a crazy way to earn free money, doesn’t it? Well, it is. It’s legit. I’ve been using them for a few years now and love that not only can I earn free cash back doing my online shopping that I was going to do anyway, but that I also have access to additional coupons and discounts because I’m shopping through Ebates.
The hardest part about Ebates is remembering to use them. I installed the add-on/plug-in to my browser so that whenever I visit a site that they use, a reminder pops up to remind me to activate the shopping trip. Easy-peasy! They also have an app, so if you find yourself shopping on your phone a lot, use the app. Again, it’s free to sign up and free to use, so if you consider trying it out, I’d be very appreciative if you used my link. I’ll earn a little bit towards our vacation fund for referring you and it won’t cost you a thing (but, you’ll get $10 from them after your first purchase!), I won’t have access to your info, or anything crazy like that. For more about Ebates, check out, “I got paid to shop today!”, which is a post I wrote a while back.
And, now for maximum rewards…
Now, if you’re still with me, let’s think about how we can make the most of Ebates and credit cards. You can use your credit card when shopping through Ebates and earn money through Ebates AND your credit card. Oh, and if you’re shopping at a place that has a loyalty program, or offers you other discounts for being a member of their store, you can use that TOO! Check out how I used this to my advantage at Kohl’s and earned free money from Kohl’s, Ebates, AND Discover!
How does this connect back to traveling?
Simple. We choose to save our “free money” as I call it for traveling. Once I have enough for at least half the vacation or for airfare, we go. This results in about one vacation a year, which I think is pretty decent. But, you could use your free money for anything! Save it for holiday shopping, use it towards season passes or a house project. The options are endless because it’s “free money!”
Thank you for taking the time to read through how I use incentives and programs already in place to save up money for our vacations! It’s nice to earn free money! And, some months, I make more in cash back from my credit cards than we do in our savings accounts because the interest rates on those are so low. So, if you’re so inclined, I’d love it if you’d use my referral links. You’d be helping me out, just as I hopefully helped you out by sharing this information with you. 🙂
Here they are for you one more time:
Ebates (Don’t forget! They’ll GIVE you $10 after your first purchase just for trying Ebates!)
To learn more about how I use these programs, check out these blog posts: