This Woman Added Over $400 to Her Retirement Savings by Grocery Shopping

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Nancy Frost is a library services supervisor in Cumberland, Maryland, who likes to save money. To her, it’s not a chore she has to slog through, but a challenge she meets with enthusiasm.

It hasn’t always been that way. Frost, who is in her early 50s, got a late start on saving.

“I’ve always been interested in saving money but never really was able to make that happen,” she said. “We have six kids between us and several grandchildren. Also, my husband and I enjoy our four Jack Russell Terriers. They bring a unity to our family and provide lots of entertainment and companionship.”

With a sizeable family, including those four-legged mischief-makers, every dollar counts. So, what does Frost do? She uses a cash-back app to earn money when she shops — and she’s saved $432 since last August.

An App That Pays You for Shopping

Frost uses Ibotta after returning home to photograph her receipt from a Walmart shopping trip. Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

Frost, whom we connected with through The Penny Hoarder community on Facebook, uses Ibotta to earn cash back for stuff she would have bought anyway — by taking pictures of her receipts.

In the app, specific items are listed at various stores. When you purchase those items, you simply select the deal in Ibotta and take a picture of your receipt, and you’ll get cash back in your Ibotta account. Once you’ve reached $20, you can swing that money into your bank account.

Frost uses the Ibotta app when she makes grocery runs and trips to Walmart.

“I use it at home before I go to the store, almost like a grocery list,” she said. “I find the offers that the vendors have available.”

A woman shops for groceries at a Walmart.
Frost shops at the Walmart in LaVale, Md. She uses Ibotta to earn cash back — and she’s saved $432 since last August. Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

By looking at the offers before she sets foot outside her door, she can plan her shopping trip. She knows ahead of time which brand of yogurt or cottage cheese will save her money. She might try new things she sees on the app, but she usually sticks to items she had already planned on buying.

Once she’s at the store, it’s a matter of finding the products. Thanks to the app’s “My Offers” tab, Frost can see the offers she selected in organized categories. Even dog treats pop up on the app on occasion.

“Yes, my Jack Russells are benefitting from Ibotta.”

Once she’s made her purchases, she pauses before sending that receipt, checking for any impulse buys that might be on the app.

“It’s probably no more time consuming than clipping coupons,” she said. “To me, the difference with Ibotta is that a manufacturer’s coupon comes off your overall order and you don’t really think about it. But Ibotta, to me, I look at that as earnings.”

Beyond the Grocery Store

A woman getting things out of the trunk of her car is welcomed home by her dogs.
Frost’s Jack Russell terriers welcome her home after a shopping trip. Thanks to the Ibotta app’s “My Offers” tab, she can see the offers she selected in organized categories. Even dog treats pop up on occasion. “Yes, my Jack Russells are benefitting from Ibotta,” she says. Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

Because Frost wants to maximize her money back, she looks beyond the standard grocery run to earn her rewards. One of her strategies is embracing the Ibotta Teamwork feature.

To use the feature, you link your Ibotta account to your social media accounts, such as Facebook. Your connected friends and family who have also linked their Ibotta accounts automatically become part of your team. From there, you can reach out to others to increase your team size.

Team goals help you earn extra money by completing up to four levels based on specific goals each month. Each level has both a personal goal and a team goal. Once the goal is reached, everyone on the team receives a reward.

For Frost, this seemed like easy money.

A woman looks at paper print-outs of information.
Frost looks at a print-out from her Ibotta account at her home in Cumberland, Md. “What I do is I let my [Ibotta] account build up to $100, and then I cash my Ibotta money in, and I transfer it into my stock portfolio,” says Frost. Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

“I’ve connected with different people on The Penny Hoarder on Facebook,” she said. “You tell people about Ibotta, and then people say ‘Add me! Add me!’ It doesn’t really clog up my Facebook, but you can see when they make their purchases. And you’ll see, ‘Your team reached Level 4!’ I’ve made an extra dollar; I’ve made $5 before on different team efforts.”

Frost also looks beyond the basic grocery items.

“One of the other things is bonuses,” she said. “[For example,] it said do one mobile app purchase, so I went into Amazon and bought some music, because I do that anyway.”

By finding ways to earn extra money on Ibotta without making purchases she doesn’t want or need, Frost is able to maximize her earnings.

Her Ibotta Money Is Making More Money

A woman sits in a kitchen and holds one of her three dogs.
Frost gives her pups some love in the kitchen of her home after a shopping trip. Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

As a child, Frost watched her father clip coupons. He saved enough money that way each year to fund a deep sea fishing trip for himself and his buddies. Frost wanted to make sure her money was also doing something special. She decided to invest it.

“The ultimate/main goal is saving for retirement,” she said. “Retirement is approaching so fast it is scary. What I do is I let my [Ibotta] account build up to $100, and then I cash my Ibotta money in, and I transfer it into my stock portfolio.”

In other words, she’s using her Ibotta earnings to earn even more money for retirement. She finds using her money this way motivates her and makes the whole process a bit more fun.

“It’s empowering because right now, I’m at about $87, so I know that’s 13 more dollars until I can cash that in, and I’m already thinking, ‘OK, what stocks am I going to buy?’”

Just the Beginning

Frost enjoys photography as a hobby, so it’s only natural that taking pictures of receipts now could help her prepare for a comfortable retirement. Then, she’ll be able to take pictures of whatever catches her eye.

But for now, she has no plans on stopping. In fact, she plans on ramping up her efforts and recommends that others take advantage of Ibotta and other savings tools as well.

“Check your bonuses,” she said. “Recruit new people to your Facebook team. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot more that I can do, but if there is, I want to learn about it!”

Tyler Omoth is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder who loves soaking up the sun and finding creative ways to help others. He’s determined to build the biggest, baddest Ibotta team out there. Catch him on Twitter at @Tyomoth.

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