Money at 30: Save Money on Essentials with These Apps and Tools
Over the past couple of weeks, life in America has unquestionably changed. Perhaps the best example of the fear and anxiety that many are feeling comes from grocery stores and warehouse clubs where bare shelves and long lines have been well-documented on the news and social media. Additionally, at a time when many local and state governments are ordering non-essential businesses to close their doors, supermarkets not only remain open but, in some cases, are hiring to help with the demand.
If you too have recently found your focus shifting to essentials, you may be looking for ways to save money on things like groceries. Thankfully, there are a few apps and other tools that might be of assistance.
Expanding upon my video here are a few options for you to consider:
Dosh is a cashback app that I’ve talked about multiple times in this column and on Moneyat30.com. That’s because the app features a number of locations I shop at with some frequency and makes it incredibly easy to earn cashback from them — just swipe your linked card and you’re all set. However, what landed them on this list specifically are two offers in particular: one from Sam’s Club and one from Walmart Grocery.
Starting with Sam’s Club, as a new member, I’ve been loving the 5% back I earn from my shopping trips. Also, if I may, although the Sam’s Club near my apartment was understandably busy the other day, their app that allows you to scan items as you go, pay on your phone, and skip the regular checkout altogether is great for these times. Plus, getting $7.50 back from our $150 shopping trip was a nice bonus.
Meanwhile I haven’t personally used Walmart Grocery — their online ordering and pick-up platform, not to be confused with the Walmart Neighborhood Markets that I tend to frequent. With Dosh, you can currently earn 2% on your online Walmart Grocery order. Sure it’s not quite as generous as the Sam’s offer but it could still be a smart solution (assuming that it’s not completely over capacity given the current circumstances).
By the way, there are some other Dosh offers that might be similarly useful. For example there’s also a 2% cashback on Instacart deal, 5% back on Schwan’s Home Delivery, and more. Therefore I definitely think it’s worth checking out.
Admittedly, I don’t utilize Ibotta nearly as much as I do some of the other apps on this list. However, given its bent toward grocery items, it’s practically useful for this post. With Ibotta, you can clip digital cashback coupons for specific items or take advantage of more generic offers by adding them to your account. Then you can either claim your cashback by submitting a receipt or, if your store of choice offers it, linking your loyalty account. By the way, one of the coolest features IMHO is the ability to scan products at the store to ensure you’re picking up the correct item — AKA the one that will trigger the offer.
With participating stores such as Walmart, Target, and even Aldi featured alongside more regional grocers like Price Cutter (in my area), there’s hopefully plenty of opportunities to use Ibotta’s offers. That said, don’t fall for the trap of buying things just because you have a coupon. Instead, I recommend looking over what items are available first and creating a realistic shopping list before heading to the store.
Your local supermarket’s app
While I’ve mostly focused on third-party tools so far, I do want to mention that your preferred grocery store might have a useful app of their own. Personally I remember using the Ralph’s app to load digital coupons onto my shopper card and even scoring free products on select Fridays. Although I’ve long since moved away from California and there are no Kroger-owned stores in my area now, this post from Andrea at Saving Joyfully would suggest that these types of promos are still happening! Thus, if you don’t have it downloaded already, it’s probably a good idea to see what your local stores have to offer.
Another cash back tool I often reference is Rakuten (formerly Ebates). Despite this online browser extension and app lacking a direct grocery benefit, the impressive line-up of other retailers it offers cashback for makes it worth mentioning once again. Besides, there may be other products you consider “essential” that aren’t of the edible variety. I will also mention that you can elect to receive a $10 Walmart gift card as your bonus for signing up and making an eligible purchase of $25 or more in your first 90 days — so I guess you can get free grocery items after all.
Unlike the other apps we’ve featured so far, Tally Save isn’t a cashback tool but an automated savings solution. While building up savings and goals such as having an emergency fund are always a good idea, how does this help you on the grocery front? Well, Tally Save rewards you for successfully setting money aside, allowing you to cash in the points you earn for various gift cards. Among the brands currently included in the $5 level are Amazon, Walmart, Target, Safeway, CVS, and others that could certainly be useful at this time.
If you don’t have a ton of cash to be tying up right now, there are two pieces of good news regarding Tally Save. First, you can earn points for contributing as little as $5 a week. Second, you can actually have Tally Save divert these funds to your credit card balance and have it make a payment on your behalf at the end of the month. Alternatively, you can pull the money out at any time — although that will reset your streak and prevent you from obtaining your free gift card as quickly.
Speaking of getting a gift card ASAP, Tally Save also grants you a healthy amount of points just for signing up and turning on the service. In fact, thanks to the 2,000 points you’ll earn during the initiation process and the bonus points you’ll score for reaching a streak, you should have enough points for a $5 gift card after four weeks of contributions. Sure $5 won’t make or break you but, hey, every little bit helps.
Select credit cards
Lastly, while now might not seem like the best time to be opening up a new credit card, there are some that might actually be beneficial to you given their perks. Among these is the Capital One SavorOne card, which offers 2% back on grocery purchases (along with 3% back on dining and entertainment as well as 1% back on everything else). Not to be confused with its “big brother” the Capital One Savor, the SavorOne has no annual fee and currently offers a $150 cashback bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months.
Another potential option is the Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express, which boasts 3% back at supermarkets (up to $6,000 in annual spend). There’s also the simply-named Bank of America Cash Rewards card with 2% back at grocery stores and warehouse clubs along with 3% back on the category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings). Lastly, I also personally like the Discover It card and its rotating quarterly 5% back categories (up to $1,500 in spend; $75 in cashback). Unfortunately, the current quarter — that just so happens to be 5% back at Grocery Stores, Walgreens, and CVS — ends on March 31st. Yet, with the April to June bonus being Gas Stations and Wholesale Clubs, there might still be some practical benefit there as well.
Bringing things full circle, these credit card rewards may also be stackable with Dosh or other apps (although Dosh sadly doesn’t support Discover yet) — just one more thing to consider.
Given the current crisis, many Americans are putting a greater emphasis on what is essential. And while you might not expect apps or credit cards to meet that standard, the truth is that there are several tools that can help you save money on food and other must-haves, hopefully making your grocery budget go further. With that, I wish the best of luck and health to you and your family during these trying times.
Also published on Medium.