So, before I begin, please excuse any wonky text in this post. My computer is going nuclear on me again and I'm not sure how to fix it. I keep maxing out my CPU usage at 100% somehow and my physical memory (even though I have nothing on my laptop but a few programs) keeps maxing out as well, so I'm not sure WHAT Windows did to my computer when it reformatted it, but it sure didn't fix it. Blah!!!!!
I was watching a program on YouTube with my husband when it popped up in the "Recommended" list, mainly for kicks as we like to watch programs like the one that popped up to see if they could give us any new insight into saving money. "10 Ways to Save Money You Haven't Thought Of" the program proclaimed proudly, so of course we had to click on it and see what it had to offer.
Immediately I was a bit concerned as the woman started talking from her designer couch with about 300.00 worth of Pottery Barn throw pillows stacked behind her and so the program began. Confession: We didn't even make it half way through. I'm sorry but advice like, "Don't buy your dog organic dog treats for 40.00, instead make them at home with organic chicken from the store" didn't seem up my alley of frugality. I mean my cats don't SEE treats unless you count the free ones they get every once in a while from the store freebies and things.
So, after watching other advice that was just...well not what I would consider advice for the everyday person, I decided to start a series on the blog here with different SMALL ways that I've found I've saved money and hopefully it'll help someone out there come up with inspiration in their own life on saving some pennies to help them through tough times :).
So, let's begin with part 1, which is a small way you can save money, but also will cost you nothing but a bit of time to accomplish (at least if you are careful about your missions). And that is...
Consider Becoming a Product Tester
First a disclaimer: I am NOT posting any affiliate links in this post. I am merely sharing this information in an attempt to help others :).
Becoming a consumer who tests products for companies is becoming easier and easier. There are more and more online product testing outfits popping up all of the time. And hey, your opinion on new products is worth something! So, why not get some free groceries in exchange for you doing a bit of "product push" on social media and sharing your opinions on those products?
I know that some people out there don't want to be a part of social media and avoid it like the plague, and trust me I get it. But, you might want to consider doing a social media account with not a lot of "friends" just so that you can share product testing things, depending on where you are financially in your life. For instance, I don't use Twitter. I hate Twitter. But, I have a Twitter account just so that I can share my product testing things on Twitter and get points for the share. I also share product testing posts to my personal Facebook account (sorry friends of mine) and to an old blog page I created on Facebook as well to gain additional share points. If you have a legitimate Facebook page, or Instagram, or Pinterest...all of those pages can be used to share these product testing opportunities and get you points toward the mission completion.
You also get points through these outfits for talking to people in person and writing a report on the product testing site about the experience. I've actually struck up conversations with a cashier and other customers about products I was testing out just because they were a captive audience and I thought that the freebies were cool and wanted to pass along how they could sign up for the product testing site as well.
The product testing opportunities aren't really steady, so much as a nice bonus you get offered every once in a while that you see pop up in your e-mail. You won't qualify for every mission, and I've been known more than once to out and out turn down missions that required me to spend money up front for a product and get "reimbursed" for said product later, or in some cases where I would be required to drive an hour to go and sit in on a product speel before getting said product to test...those I simply decline as I just don't have time or the money to mess with those things.
I might miss out on some of the "big ticket" missions by doing things the way I do, but I always hit my minimum points for missions (usually no more than that as I just don't have a lot of time to mess with things) and through the years I've tried everything from crescent rolls (a Pillsbury product testing outfit that isn't around anymore, unfortunately), to tea, to razors, to vitamins, to pain killers, to cold medicines, to pet products (including cat litter) to feminine care products...you name it.
The biggest thing when it comes to the missions on product testing sites is, to me, making sure you stay on top of it. Before I even get the product, I share my first post on Facebook and Twitter just saying, "Hey, I got free stuff in exchange for this post" which immediately gains me 10 points toward my goal (which is usually somewhere around 40 points...some of the bigger ticket items, like the free razors I got recently, require you to do things like share an online review of said product and take a screen capture...look up instructions on how to do that online and away you go) and once I get the product I try it out as quickly as possible (I admit though, a few times I had to admit on reviews that I didn't get a cold and therefore couldn't review, say a cold medicine, before the mission time was up), share another post on Facebook and Twitter (which I, once again, just state I got free stuff in exchange for the post) and then fill in the actual review on the product testing field on the mission page and whatever else I need to do to get my minimum points for the mission done.
I know this sounds like a huge time investment, but it really isn't. The big thing is taking missions you WANT to do (and are willing to do the amount of work involved to get through said mission), sharing about the mission and getting to your minimum amount of points to complete the mission and get your "badge" (which basically means you fulfilled your part of the product testing mission) which helps you qualify for future missions (and over time qualifies you for better missions as they realize you are dependable to get the missions done you sign up for). There is a bit of time that you have to invest out of the gate with these outfits to fill out surveys so they can peg your demographics down a bit and make sure the mission they shoot your way is hitting the right demographics for their clients, so try to be truthful on the surveys so that your missions are geared toward what you would want to receive (versus getting offered like free bird food when you don't have a bird or something).
Will you get tons of products to try by signing up for these outfits? No, probably not (not unless you have a lot of time to invest in getting involved in their online communities and becoming a "featured" mission completer or something), but every little bit helps and I have to say I haven't had a product freebie through these outfits yet that I didn't appreciate getting. The free cat food I got recently really helped to stretch the dry food I had in the house, the cats and ate and liked it (which I reported on my mission that they did) and I got a 10.00 bag of cat food for free along with some free wet food and some cat treats. None of these were things I would have bought normally, but getting them for free was appreciated. Getting the free razors recently helped to extend the life of my regular razor heads that much more, which every little bit helps when it comes to saving money. Over time, the little things add up!
If you are looking to sign up for a couple of product testing outfits, the ones I can recommend at the current time (since I'm a member of them...heck I've been a member of Smiley 360, from back when it was just "Smiley" and I've been a member for YEARS):
Smiley 360 (all kinds of different products)
Generation Good (Seventh Generation products and green living topics)
MyMagazine Sharing Network (Kroger/Fred Meyer product testing outfit)
There are some, like Amazon Vine (I believe the name of it is) that I've SEEN people's reviews mentioning being a member, but I'm not sure how you would go about signing up for them, or if they are even still available.
So, there you are folks. One little way to save money in your life :). I hope you found this post the least bit useful. And hey, if you are a member of a product testing outfit, please let us know and what it's all about so we maybe can check it out.