Right after Troy and I moved to Los Angeles, I met a girl named Kristina at work. We had the same role in the company, but other than that we seemed to have little in common. She was from the South, and I was from the Pacific Northwest. She loved to work out, and I would rather do almost anything besides that. She was short with dark hair, and I am…not.
As a hater of traffic, and someone who has always been an early riser, I used to go and do all my errands at 7:15 am on Saturday mornings. Grocery store, Target, Trader Joes, and Costco in that order, simply based on their opening times. The crowds in Los Angeles are no joke, and I found that getting to Target a few minutes before it opened meant I would be able to have a tiny bit of elbow space in the aisles.
While I stood outside of the Culver City Target holding my coupon book, I locked eyes with a short dark-haired girl who was also waiting for the store to open. As we looked at each other, I glanced and saw a coupon book grasped in her hands. It was at that moment, Kristina and I became inseparable. We quickly bonded over our love of saving money, early morning rising, dark and super gross potty humor, and our distrust of the Culver City Target, which was so junky we started to refer to it as “Targhetto”.
Kristina is a frugal saving fiend. She once taped a receipt to my Christmas present to show me how big of a discount she got on it. We used to send photos to each other of receipts bragging about the “you saved this much on this trip” amounts. We still share deals and steals to this day. She turned me on to ebates, and has helped me navigate the murky waters of how to save through that awesome site.
A few months ago, I learned about the grocery app ibotta. The more I read about it, the more I seemed to be the last person on earth who hadn’t heard of it. Assuming Kristina knew exactly what it was, I asked her about it. Turns out she hadn’t heard of it either. If the two of us didn’t know about it, I’m assuming that there are some of you out there who aren’t familiar either!
Let me start this next section by saying, I’m not an expert by any means with this app. I’ve used it, found it simple, and am so far a fan of it. It won’t be for everyone, but it seems to be a pretty decent way to get a few bucks back. My hope for this post is to gleam information from you, dear readers, about how you use the app. I’m sure there are loads of things I’m not thinking about when I use it!
- ibotta is an app that gives you “cash back” for certain purchases. They have a huge range of stores that qualify, so chances are a grocery store near you is part of it. They also have some retail stores like Joann Fabrics and some clothing stores.
- They list “deals” by store, and if you see something you like, you “unlock” that deal by doing any number of things. Sometimes I have to take a one-question survey, watch a 15 second video, or other little mundane things like that. Once the deal is unlocked, you need to purchase that item within seven days.
- After you purchase that item, you verify your purchase via the app by taking a picture of the UPC of the item and then your receipt. Items such as produce generally don’t have a UPC, but somehow it just verified it for me anyway. Within a few days, that item will be verified and that money will be in your account.
- Once you hit $20 in your account, you can withdraw the funds via Paypal, or in the form of giftcards. Once you download the app, if you verify a purchase in the first seven days, they give you a $10 bonus. After you receive that $10 bonus, you’re eligible for another $5 bonus if additional purchases are made in the next few days. Apparently there are teams you can join, so if you are super competitive, you can battle them for savings domination.
- It seems like bananas and other common produce are always a staple on ibotta. A gallon of milk (any brand) seems to be standard as well. Many of the rebates are not brand specific.
- You can still receive your “cash back” amount even if you use a coupon or the item is on clearance. For example, let’s say I have a $1 off coupon for my favorite cheese – Tillamook Medium Cheddar. And perhaps ibotta is offering $.50 cash back for any brand two pound loaf of cheese. And as I am strolling through the store and see that this one brick of cheese is on clearance because it is going to expire in about two weeks. So, maybe it was $7.99 to start with, but is now discounted to $2.99. I can use my $1 off coupon and only pay $1.99 for it. Once I verify the purchase through ibotta, I still get the $.50 cashback, bringing that cheese down to $1.49 overall.
- There are random bonuses throughout the week. I haven’t really nailed down how often they come out or when, but I see them occasionally.
Now, here is where I think this can go wrong for some people. Having to occasionally answer survey questions might be too personal. Knowing that you are uploading your receipts to a clearinghouse may be giving away info you’re not comfortable with. Given that I put my life out on the internet, it didn’t give me pause, but I’m sure it’s not for everyone.
Any time you get excited about something like ibotta or another method of saving, you may find yourself tempted to buy items you don’t really want just to get the savings. Resist that urge! Getting $.25 back to beat your friend that you’re competing with is not worth spending $3.50 on mustard that you will never use.
I’m going to keep feeling this app out to see if it something I see myself using long-term. In the end if it isn’t my jam, I at least have $20 I can withdraw later this year and put towards Christmas presents, or something like that.
What I would like to hear from you ibotta devotees is how do you use this? What am I missing? Is there a way to maximize strategy? Also, how quickly do you think I can eat those Justin’s Peanut Butter cups???
Disclosure time: if you sign up for the app using my referral, I get a small kick back so to speak. This post is not sponsored in any part by ibotta.