So far in this series, we’ve discussed how to save money on just about all retail purchases—but with one glaring omission: Amazon. I suppose it’s time to address this elephant in the room.

Amazon is arguably the most dominant retailer in the world right now, and their strategy has basically been to offer everything under the sun for ridiculously low prices coupled with the extreme convenience of the Internet. (Amazon Prime Free 2-day Shipping

, anyone?) Since they already have razor thin profit margins and they’re the 800-lb gorilla in this industry, they don’t really need to offer many incentives like coupons or rebates to gain new customers. Nevertheless, there are still strategies to be employed to save at the store with “Earth’s biggest selection”.

Today, I’m going to share one that has helped Deb and me save a lot of crumbs at Amazon.  $1,462 worth of Amazon gift cards (and counting) since 2010 to be exact.

Introducing Swagbucks

Swagbucks is an online rewards program where users can earn virtual currency through a whole host of activities to redeem for real-life rewards. They have tons of different rewards and we’ve compared them all: the $5 Amazon gift card has the best SB to dollar ratio (450 Swagbucks to $5 Amazon, at the time of this writing).  It’s free to join and there aren’t any crazy hoops to jump through for the reward redemption.  When you have enough Swagbucks to redeem, you simply claim the Amazon gift card in the online store and in a few days they’ll post the redemption code in your account which you can then use as you please on Amazon.

How to Earn

There are a gazillion ways that you can earn Swagbucks, some better than others.  Be sure to check out their site directly to see all the options, but here are the highlights:

  1. Search – By simply using Swagbucks as your search engine (powered by Yahoo!), you can randomly win Swagbucks in your search results.  This used to be the primary way to earn Swagbucks, and I still get some this way every other day or so.
  2. Paid Surveys – You can take market research surveys that are matched to your profile and get rewarded with Swagbucks. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get matched, but often you can earn several hundred Swagbucks for just a few minutes of your time.  These surveys probably have the highest earnings to time-required ratio.
  3. Videos – You can watch videos within Swagbucks (like a mini-YouTube) and accrue points as you watch.  They generally pay about 3 SBs for every 10 videos watched.
  4. Coupons – You can print out coupons for groceries and many household items, and not only do you get the discount from the coupon, but you also get Swagbucks awarded to your account when the coupon is redeemed.  We’re not into extreme couponing, but getting a half-gallon of Silk Almondmilk for $1.98 after a coupon PLUS earning Swagbucks on it ain’t too shabby!  (That’s even cheaper than ALDI!)
  5. SwagCodes – Fun little codes get published once in a while via their search toolbar that you can redeem for a few Swagbucks.
  6. Shopping Swagbucks also has an e-rebate program much like BigCrumbs (you can catch up on what BigCrumbs is all about in our previous post) where you get Swagbucks rewarded to you if you make a purchase at an online retailer after clicking through their links. After running the conversion of Swagbuck to Amazon gift cards, BigCrumbs’ cash back rate is nearly always higher (sometimes significantly so) than Swagbucks. So I’d recommend sticking with BigCrumbs for this one.
  7. Tasks – This is a creative idea, but I haven’t actually tried it. You can opt-in to perform a series of tasks that require human involvement for exchange of Swagbucks, somewhat like the Amazon Mechanical Turk idea.
  8. Games – There are also games that you can play to earn Swagbucks. (Beware of optional in-game purchases!)
  9. Credit Card – Yes, Swagbucks has its own credit card where you earn Swagbucks in your account for every real-world purchase. You can get much higher rewards with other credit cards, so you should probably pass on this one.
  10. Referrals – For every person you refer, you get 10% of the Swagbucks that they earn as well. So yes, the links in this post are referral links so thanks in advance if you click-through to sign up.

The people behind Swagbucks are always coming up with new things, so I’m sure there will be new methods of earning from them in the future.

Is It For Me?

Be aware that Swagbucks is not for everyone. It’s great if you’re bored and want something to make your time productive or a way to earn a little extra on the side, but just be careful not to accidentally sign up for things and give your personal information unless you really know what you’re getting yourself into. (And don’t waste your time playing games for a few Swagbucks when you could be working a real job!)

Despite all those things, Swagbucks has helped me get nearly all of my textbooks for free in grad school, it has paid for many a gift through the years, and it helped us furnish our house in a big way. (It even paid for our treadmill!) So it’s definitely worked for us, and maybe it will work for you too.

Best Way to Never Pay Full Price

Hopefully this series of articles has given you some new ideas to save on your purchases. With these three services that we have shared with you, we’ve truly saved thousands of dollars on our everyday purchases large and small.  Just remember that these tips and techniques are intended to help you take the edge off of the expenses that you were going to have anyway. Don’t let these things be an excuse to inflate your lifestyle!  Remember, the most important thing you can do to save money is to NOT BUY what you DON’T NEED!

The Rest of the Series:

1.  How to Never Pay Full Price for Anything (Almost): Cardpool – We share a technique to save on most retailers by purchasing discounted gift cards from a service called Cardpool.

2. How to Never Pay Full Price for Anything (Almost): TopCashback – We share about an online rebate service that helps you get back a percentage of your purchase from thousands of online retailers.