Dear College Freshman: Unique Ways to Save Money & Have Businesses Paying You

As I start my Junior year of college and move out on my own, I started thinking about the ways that I save money and wanted to share them with you all, so you won't be the broke college kid at the end of the semester!


It’s the first of August and school is just around the corner! I am finishing some last minute packing before I move out on my own for the first time. So while I finish that task, I thought you might want to read an article about some ways to keep money in your pockets.

As college students, we are always looking for ways to save and earn money, but sometimes that can be hard to do without running into scams – oh so frustrating! However, the search is over! I am sharing my favorite ways to pad your pockets while still buying the things that you need and want, because even college students want to splurge every now and then!

ways to save money

Cash Back Apps:

  1. Ebates Coupons and Cash Back
    • I have been using Ebates for a couple of years now and it is the best thing ever! They have a huge list of stores that have cash back, which you can take advantage of when you are shopping online. Just recently, they added the option to add your card to the site in order to get cash back in store. I have added their button to my browser, so now it pops up in the corner if I am on a site that has an Ebates cash back option so I never forget to use it! If you only take one thing from this post, this is the one thing that you definitely need to have!
  2. UNiDAYS
    • This site is one that I stumbled upon just recently, but it has been so nice! After verifying that you are a student, it gives you access to a large number of stores with online and in-store student discounts!
  3. Checkout51
  4. iBotta
    • Checkout51 and iBotta are two “couponing” apps that give you cashback. Checkout51 is far simpler than iBotta, but they are both great apps. Basically, you buy your groceries and then you go through the app and select the cashback opportunities that you want and then you take a photo of your receipt through the apps that contain the items you have selected for cashback. Within 24 hours, you will have the cash added to your account. Both apps require for you to have $20 in cash back before you can cash it out. Both of them either give you the cash via PayPal or gift cards. I have had both of these apps for one month and I now have $25 on iBotta and $7.50 on Checkout51, so it is not hard to earn money by using these. I love them both and have so much fun flipping through them to find the cashback!
  5. Cartwheel by Target
  6. Walmart’s Savings Catcher
    • These two apps are very different. Target has coupons for percentages off certain products on their app, which you select and link to your account. At checkout, you show them the barcode on your app and the coupons are applied to your order. With Walmart, you snap a photo of your receipt in the app and Walmart compares the price you paid to other stores. If another store has it cheaper, then Walmart refunds you the excess that you paid which can then be applied to your next Walmart purchase. Whoop whoop!

Loyalty Programs:

  1. Sephora Beauty Insider
    • With BI, you get a free gift on your birthday, free beauty classes and a 10% off coupon during their bi-annual sales. Every dollar spent becomes 1 point, which can be spent on their 250 or 500 point perks. These perks are the best!
  2. Ultamate Rewards
    • The Ultamate Rewards is very similar to the Sephora BI program. However, every dollar spent at Ulta gives you 1 point toward money off. For instance, 100 points gives you $3 off on your purchase. I like the Sephora program, because the point perks and birthday gifts are amazing. But, I love the Ultamate Rewards because you can get money off and they always have a coupon in their monthly magazine. They do 2x, 3x and 5x the amount of points you can earn on a purchase several times a year and also give you 2x the points for your entire birthday month!
  3. CVS ExtraCare Rewards
    • This program gives you 2% back from your purchases, which add up to money off coupons, along with several exclusive coupons every month to be used at CVS.
  4. Walgreens Balance Rewards
    • Similar to the point system with the Ultamate Rewards, every dollar spent at Walgreens within this program gives you 1,000 points. For example, you get $5 off when you earn 5,000 points.
  5. Redbox Play Pass
    • Less that $2 movie rentals with new movies always being added.
    • With the loyalty program, you get a free movie rental for every 10 rentals, a free rental on your birthday and Play Pass anniversary plus other rewards and exclusives
  6. Chik-Fil-A One
  7. Smoothie King
  8. Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards
  9. Starbucks Rewards

These four restaurant loyalty programs are worth checking out! They each work pretty much the same. You can add your gift cards to them in order to pay with their app. You scan your special barcode at checkout and earn points toward a free item or coupon. Starbucks obviously doesn’t give you a free item or a coupon, as their stars build up to get you to gold level and that is where the discounts are. This one is probably my least favorite of the three, but it’s worth it for people who are at Starbucks all the time. There are several restaurants with these loyalty reward apps. These are just the three that I currently have on my phone. Some stores are still doing loyalty reward programs via a card, so always ask especially if it’s somewhere that you eat at a lot.


  1. Publix
  2. Bi-Lo BonusCARD
  3. Groupon
  4. RetailMeNot

Publix has so many things to offer, but I may be a little biased because it is my absolute FAVORITE grocery store. They have their weekly ad along with digital and printable coupons. The digital coupons connect to your telephone number, which you put in at checkout and all of your coupons are added to your order. I find this to be so much easier than printing off coupons. However, they also have printable coupons which I also always check in case the two are different. Publix also has a Coupons Saving Helper, which puts together the store sales and the coupons so you save as much money as possible. Whoop whoop!

Bi-Lo is always running sales and dropping prices, which you get to take advantage of if you have a BonusCARD. With you BonusCARD, you can also rack up fuelPERKS with every dollar that you spend. The fuelPERKS give you cents off on gas at Spinx, which could easily drop your gas down anywhere from 1 cent to a dollar off per gallon. Who doesn’t love that?! Besides the dropped prices and sales, checking their weekly ad always has great information. You can see what sales are going, what items have lowered prices, what items are BOGO free as well as see what the Meal Deal is for the week. Now, how does that work? Every other week or so, Bi-Lo does a Meal Deal. Their tagline for it is you buy the entree and they’ll provide the fixin’s. They have a pizza Meal Deal at least once a month, so we’ll use it as an example. Basically, you buy two frozen pizzas (think DiGiorno’s) which will be anywhere from $10 – $15 and then you get a Tyson Any’Tizers, a quart of Ice Cream, Bread Sticks and a 2-liter for free. All of that for $15 or less and you have a complete meal to pull out of your freezer!

Mr. Man recently bought a new truck, so we have really been having to watch our spending and these Meal Deals have become our best friends along with couponing. Maybe I should write a post about what goes into creating our grocery list. Hmm… *quickly jots the idea into my notebook!* Anyway, you can’t beat free so if there is a Meal Deal of things you like, you had better throw it in your buggy! Apart from the in-store sales and Meal Deals, Bi-Lo also has printable coupons on their site just like Publix. These are always great to look through just in case there is something you are buying that has an extra coupon. Save money everywhere you can! Some other great places to look for printable coupons are: P&G Everyday, RedPlum, SmartSource, Walmart, Target, and your Sunday newspaper.

Groupon and RetailMeNot are two other websites to look for great deals and more coupons. I love to check RetailMeNot for Redbox codes and I have actually found a few that have worked too!

Online Shopping:

  1. HauteLook
  2. Nordstrom Rack

These sites are all under the Nordstrom umbrella. If you already have a Nordstrom account, then you are already halfway there! Hautelook and Nordstrom Rack offer regular and luxury products at prices that are anywhere from 60% to 80% off. Hautelook typically gives a higher percentage off, but Nordstrom Rack has actual storefronts that you can shop in whereas Hautelook is only online. Both sites offer sales on Women’s, Men’s and Children’s clothing as well as Home decor, handbags, shoes and more. Hautelook also includes beauty products, which is one reason why I love it so much!

One time, I bought the full size Mary Lou-Manizer by The Balm from Hautelook for $12 when it is regularly $24. Half-off baby! I’ll take it! My thinking is, why pay full price for something when I could get it from Nordstrom Rack or Hautelook for half-price and it is the exact same thing?! Now with Nordstrom Rewards, you earn 1 point per dollar spent in store or online at Nordstrom, HauteLook or Nordstrom Rack. When you earn 2,000 points, you are credited a $20 Nordstrom Note to use at any of the three store. If you shop at Nordstrom frequently, I would say it is definitely worth your while to join this program, because who doesn’t love $20 credits?!

There are so many ways to save money and to have places paying you back money. You just have to know where to look! I hop you found this post helpful and will be able to implement these programs into your finances.

Do you know about any other money saving apps, tips or tricks? Or if you try any of these, I would love to hear about it and talk with you in the comments below.

Extra Cat Meows

  1. Always ask about student discounts before paying!
  2. If you want to see my picks for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, click HERE!
  3. Follow my “College Life” Pinterest Board to find everything a millennial college student should know!





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