Almost exactly one year ago, my husband and I made the mutual decision that I would stay home with our then seven-month-old son. Our two older boys were already in school, but the stress of paying for all-day kindergarten, private pre-school, and trying to figure out daycare – on top of all of the house chores that would inevitably stack up once we were both working full-time – was more than we were willing to tackle.

For me, this decision was huge. I had been financially independent since college, and I had never relied on a significant other for financial support. It was such a leap of faith, but I knew I wanted to find ways that I could contribute in small ways. I took a work-from-home position as a grant writer for a local youth-serving nonprofit, and I took the reins on our family’s finances: paying all of the bills, clipping coupons, and trying to figure out how to spend less + save more.

Downloading the Ibotta app was one of the first (and biggest!) steps I made.

I had heard friends talk about “cash back” or “savings” apps before, but like many people, I had always been skeptical. Like, what’s the catch? I assumed it would either be difficult to use, or that it would come with some sort of fee, or that it wouldn’t really contain a lot of coupons or opportunities for products that my family actually buys. In many cases, when friends would talk about it, they would include an affiliate link… which also led me to assume that it was some money-grabbing ploy for them and would include virtually nothing for me.

Boy, was I wrong.

First of all, the Ibotta app was incredibly intuitive and easy to navigate.

Upon downloading the app (which was TOTALLY free, by the way!), I registered for an account and could instantly redeem cash back. You can browse by stores or other categories to see what’s available. It seemed like new offers were added every couple of days, offering a combination of well-known brands and new, up-and-coming brands.

One thing that totally impressed me was the sheer volume of different retailers and offers that were on the app! One of our favorite local grocery stores, Sprout’s Farmers Market, is on the app, and it’s not uncommon for us to find a lot of our favorite products/brands on there – like Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze almond milk, Field Roast’s Chao dairy-free cheese, or Van’s frozen waffles.

But it also works for non-grocery items, too! We’ve gotten money back from purchasing laundry detergent, toilet paper, greeting cards, Tupperware, and so much more using Ibotta.

If you find an offer that you’re interested in, you simply add it to your offers tab by clicking a plus-sign (+). There’s no limit to the number of offers you can add (seriously, go nuts!). And then… it’s time to go shopping.

Simply shop, and then scan!

As someone who tries to live a “zero-waste” lifestyle and not accumulate unnecessary trash, this part still sometimes makes me cringe… but here’s the deal: you need to ask your cashier for your receipt. Recently, the app added the ability for you to connect your store’s loyalty card in an effort to eliminate paper waste, but unfortunately, this only works for certain stores and if you happen to have a loyalty card. For ease and consistency, I’ve stayed with the good ole’ paper receipt.

Once I get home, I start to unpack all of my groceries… usually setting aside the items that I know are eligible for Ibotta cash-back offers (you’ll learn why in a minute). Then, I open the app, open up the specific store that I shopped at, and click either “Upload Receipt” or “Redeem”. Both will bring you to the same landing page.

The app will prompt you to take a photo of your receipt. I usually lay my receipt flat on the counter (against a dark, contrasting background is best!) and start snapping away. If your receipt is super long, you have the option of taking multiple photos. Or, if you’re shopping at a certain store like Wal-mart, all you need to do is scan the QR code at the bottom of your receipt.

The app will search for keywords on your receipt and automatically add your eligible offers. However, sometimes it will miss an offer. This is why it’s important to know which products you bought with the intention of getting money back. I’ll usually scan the app to make sure that everything I’ve got laid out on my kitchen island is accounted for.

But if there’s something missing, you can manually “Add Offers” to your running list of cash-back offers. If it’s one of their “Any Item” offers (like Any Brand of Milk or Any Brand of Bread), then you don’t need to take any additional steps… but if it’s a brand-specific offer, then you’ll typically be prompted to scan the barcode on that product to verify that you (a) actually bought the product and (b) bought the correct product (e.g., correct size, correct flavor or variety, etc.).

But how do I get paid?

Here’s how Ibotta’s payment system works. Unfortunately, there is a $20 minimum threshold you must reach before a single dollar reaches your bank account. Don’t worry… this is easily reachable, and you actually can reach it a lot quicker than you think.

Once you’ve reached $20 or more, it’s time to transfer to your bank account. Ibotta uses both PayPal and Venmo, so if you don’t have an account set-up with either one of those payment processors, you’ll need to get one.

When you’re ready to withdraw cash, simply click on “Withdraw Cash”, select your payment processor of choice, and verify the amount you’d like to transfer. Then, voila! The process is almost instantaneous, and the funds will be in your account immediately. From there, you can transfer them from your PayPal or Venmo account to your bank account.

Are there any other perks?

In addition to scanning your receipts, you can also use Ibotta for mobile shopping (online purchases made through the Ibotta app) or by referring friends (typically $10 for each friend who downloads the app and scans their first receipt).

Occasionally, there are other “bonuses” you can earn… depending on what’s available. There are incentives for a variety of things, like the $5 Memorial Day Bonus (redeem 8 separate offers during Memorial Day weekend) or bonuses for buying a certain number of products from a specific brand (like $0.50 Milk-Bone bonus for buying dog bones).

So, what’s the verdict?

Since March 2018 (14 months from the date of this blog post), my family has earned nearly $800 cash back on products that we would be purchasing anyway. $800 freakin’ dollars.

In general, I find that Ibotta is way less time-consuming than traditional coupon-clipping. I browse the app for 10 minutes, approximately 2-3 times per week, to check for new ‘offers’ – and then spend 5 minutes max scanning my receipt and verifying barcodes when I get back from the grocery store.

If you’re not using Ibotta, you’re seriously leaving free cash on the table. It’s hands-down my favorite way to save on almost everything I buy. It’s so easy to use, and you could start earning money TODAY if you just bite the bullet and download it.

Ready to join?

If you download the Ibotta app using my referral code, then you instantly join my Ibotta team! Each month, there are extra “team” bonuses available (meaning, your team has to reach a certain threshold / number of offers redeemed), and at the rate I’m going, I’m pretty sure I’m the kind of person you want on your team.

Plus, if you download the app and scan your first receipt, we will BOTH get $10 cash right off the bat. That’s not a bad way to start your cash-back journey.

Interested? Click here to join my Ibotta team.