Living on a budget is hard. And telling yourself no can be even harder, especially when you want to splurge every once in a while, but can't afford it. That's why I love reward programs. They let you spend what you normally would, and give you an extra kickback for something you would do anyway!
A quick Google search will bring up all sorts of reward opportunities and results, but not all of them are worth your time. I've tried surveys, loyalty programs, points systems, cash back rewards, and product testing, and I can honestly say there are some good programs out there, but there are also a lot of bad.
Here are some “rules” I've set for myself to help maximize my rewards, and to make sure it's something that's worth my time. Follow these same tips and tricks and you will be well on your way to earning a little extra spending money on the side too!
1. Realize that You Won't Get Rich Quick
The first step is realizing that this is not a “get rich quick” scheme to bring in full-time income, or even part-time one. It just doesn't work that way! In fact, most rewards are not going to give you what 20 hours a week at McDonalds could.
Instead, view this as a legitimate method to earn a little bit here and there, so you can pad your grocery budget, or save for a rare treat at a local restaurant. Everything that is earned through rewards is like extra icing on the cake, and should be viewed as nothing more.
2. Set Up a Separate Email Account
Most rewards programs will have you sign up for email lists as a requirement for earning a reward, or they may send emails to your inbox multiple times a day. Do not drive yourself crazy and let them flood your personal email with these messages!
Open up a new email address and make this one your primary rewards/sales/coupons email that you can check just once a week. And if you really want to avoid spammy emails, give this one out to the checkout ladies who ask for your email at the store.
3. Be Smart About Rewards
Rewards are awesome, but they are not so awesome if you are purchasing items just to earn the rewards. The best programs help you earn cash and gift cards for things you are already doing everyday, or already buying at the grocery store. The reward isn't even worth it otherwise.
Also make sure to do your research before joining a reward program. If it seems spammy, or something doesn't sound quite right, don't join it! Internet safety is a must, so only join programs that are recommended by friends and trusted bloggers.
4. Stay Organized
If you really want to get serious about rewards, you have to get organized. Start a separate notebook or file with all the rules for each program you join. I like to print out a FAQ or rules sheet for each program for easy reference, just so I'm aware of how I earn rewards, when the points expire, and what the program offers in terms of rewards.
You also might want to keep track of all the “income” you earn in a separate account, or as a separate part of your Income Tracker. I like to see how much I earn over time from reward companies to make sure my time invested is worth it, and it's fun to watch that column grow!
Note: The IRS does not consider reward programs to be taxable, as long as it is a cash back reward and made by using a payment card. They just “deduct” it from the purchase price. However, rewards such as, a new appliance or gift card for opening a new bank account, are taxable. You might want to check with your CPA if you are worried about what's taxable and what is not.
OK, are you ready to start earning some rewards? I have a list of my absolute favorite programs on this page to help you get started!
What are your favorite ways to earn rewards?