Websites Every Frugal Shopper Should Know and Use

Websites Every Frugal Shopper Should Know About and Use

Do you shop online? Do you search for things on the internet? Do you like free things? Yes, yes, and oh yeah! Then let me tell you about a few of my favorite sites for saving money. I am using affiliate links in this post.


I’m serious. Did you know that through Amazon you can get free ebooks for your Kindle? Did you know that you don’t have to have a Kindle to read these free ebooks? You can download a free app onto your desktop and then let the freebie shopping begin! You don’t even have to hunt down the freebies and deals yourself. Several bloggers I know compile lists of these ranging from monthly to daily!


Ebates has just about every store you can think of listed in their directory. Some only have coupon codes, but with most you can earn money back on you purchases. How does it work? Before you shop online, check the Ebates website to see if the website is listed. If it is, click shop now and you will earn 2-25% of you purchase total back in your Ebates account. It accumulates until you have at least $5 and then they send you a Big Fat check each quarter or you can get it deposited into your PayPal account.

Sign up now and get bonus $10 gift card or an extra $5 added to your first Big Fat Check free!

A few of my favorite sites to shop with through Ebates:

  • iTunes (3%)
  • The Children’s Place (2.5%)
  • Lego (2.5%)
  • Vitacost (6%)
  • Groupon (3%)
  • Zulily (2.5%) – I just discovered that Zulily was on Ebates!


If you use a search engine other than Swagbucks, you are missing out. Swagbucks has a search engine that works just as well as your mainstream search engines. I used to use Yahoo! until I signed up for Swagbucks a few years ago. When you search, occasionally you earn Swagbucks (the number varies from 5 to 50 and is random). These add up and you can redeem them in the Rewards Store for a wide variety of items. I use them for Amazon egift cards (450 Swagbucks = $5 Amazon card).

We homeschool. My kids ask me detailed questions that I don’t always have the answers to. Most of my free Amazon money has come from searching for things like “how fast is the fastest man?” and “what is the difference between a raven and a crow?” Seriously.

Other ways you can earn Swagbucks: online shopping, taking a daily poll, taking online surveys, playing games, watching videos, and printing and using coupons. Install the toolbar and you get one free Swagbuck each day simply for opening your web browser. You can search directly through the toolbar. There is also a handy little button called “Check for Swag Code” that, when clicked on, will tell you if there is an active Swag Code anywhere.

What’s a Swag Code? It is like a coupon code except instead of free shipping, you get Swagbucks. Codes are usually worth 3-10 Swagbucks.

Swagbucks is really, really easy to use. I know we have enjoyed our free Amazon spending money.


I don’t use this very often, but I have been happy with the results when I have. I use Hotwire to book hotel rooms when we travel. You do not get to pick the hotel, so this is not for those who need to stay at a specific location. However, we have been very happy to stay in $120/night hotel rooms for $74/night. I have not booked cars or flights, so I can’t share any experiences there.

Bonus? If you shop through the Swagbucks Shop & Earn link, you earn 2 Swagbucks per dollar spent. Or you can go through Ebates and earn 2% cash back. A nice little perk.


You may or may not be aware of this, but I kind of love Pinterest. As far as the frugal shopper is concerned, you can find how to save money articles, DIY projects to make instead of buying, and ways to recycle, repurpose, or reuse things. Be sure to visit my Pinterest page and check out my DIY boards!

DIY pinterest boars from @vicki_arnold


Not one of these will make you rich beyond your wildest imaginations, but if you use them together, you can earn a nice chunk of change to help your frugal ways. With Ebates, Swagbucks, and Zulily, if you tell your friends about the site, you earn credit. You can then use those to shop for free. What is more frugal than free?!

It really does add up!

Everything Frugal – Mom Tested, Family Approved Link-Up

Everything Frugal: The Ultimate Frugal Link-Up

Everything Frugal – April’s Mom Tested, Family Approved Link-Up!

Do you know someone not watching their pennies these days? Yeah, neither do I. So for this round of the Mom Tested, Family Approved monthly link-up, we are asking bloggers to share their posts on everything frugal. If it helps stretch the budget, it fits. All we ask is a link to one of the co-hostess’s main post (you are reading mine).

When you link up, your post is in the running to be featured in next month’s main posts…on FIVE blogs. That is five backlinks, if you care about that sort of thing… For the featured Everything Gardening posts, please see below. Also, gardening can be a pretty frugal option. You may want to check out last month’s link up for ideas there.

So, bloggers share your best frugal tips, tricks, ideas, and advice. Readers, get ready to equip yourself with ways to stretch your budget even farther.

A Question for Readers

Do you have a specific area that you need help coming up with ideas on how to save money? Please share in the comments here. I will do my best to hunt down posts to help you out. If you see someone share an area that you have a link to help, please reply to their comment and point them in the right direction. This is a simple way we can help each other stretch our budgets.

Ideas for Bloggers

Would you like to link up, but don’t know what we are looking for or need some topic ideas? First, I am serious that if it stretches any budget farther, it fits. There isn’t a dollar limit, a frugal vacation will obviously cost more than a frugal dinner.

Beyond that, here are a few ideas:

  • frugal craft projects
  • frugal homemaking
  • frugal ways to take a vacation
  • frugal shopping methods
  • frugal homesteading
  • frugal decorating
  • how to stretch your budget when dealing with food allergies
  • making alternative health affordable

Everything Garden Featured Posts

Blogger Tested, Reader Approved - Featured posts for Everything Garden link-up





Last month we hosted the Everything Garden link-up. The featured posts are:

Be sure to check them out!

Mom Tested, Family Approved: Home Co-Hostesses

Next month we are talking Everything Summer!

And now, Everything Frugal!

23 Free Sewing Tutorials for Women’s Dresses!

23 Free Dress Tutorials for Women.

Sewing is one of my most and least favorite hobbies. Most favorite because I love fabric shopping, turning yards of fabric into something usable, hearing my kiddos rave about something made just for them, and wearing something fabulous I made just for me. Least favorite because my skills don’t match my imaginations and I am horribly impatient.

While I would love to bring you fabulous tutorials of my own creation, I only have so many hours in the day. Plus there are SO many great tutorials, patterns, and ideas out there. Twice a month or so I will be bringing you sewing related posts, like round-ups of free sewing tutorials, inspiration from around the web, and who knows, maybe a tutorial of my very own. The first one this month is, you guessed it, dresses for women (as opposed to little girls…)!

Between Mother’s Day, wedding season, and the fact that summer is a great time to wear a dress, now is the time to start thinking about making yourself (or someone you love) a new dress.

Ruffle Maxi Dress Tutorial

Photo used with permission. Click on the photo to go directly to the tutorial.

Blue Linen Dress Refashion

Photo used with permission, click on the photo to go directly to the post.

There are 23 dresses to get you started. Once you make your way through the list, hop over to my DIY :: Sewing Stuff board to see what other goodness I have pinned!

DIY :: Sewing Stuff - a Pinterest board curated by

I am linking this post up with Mom Tested, Family Approved Everything Frugal and Frugal Family.

Happy Sewing!

Download Sewing Patterns Today!

Heirlooms, Hybrids & GMOs, Oh My!

You may be wondering why I would include this in my series on saving money. To be honest, it’s about much more than money. There is one definite way heirlooms save you money, but this goes much deeper than money.

Heirlooms are open-pollinated. If you save their seeds, you can grow the same plant/fruit the next year. And the year after that. And the year after that. You get the point. You can turn your $3 investment into a lifetime of food if you use heirlooms. Not so with Hybrids and genetically modified (GM) seeds.

Hybrids are a forced cross between plants. These do have the possibility to be stabilized and become open-pollinated. There are markings in seed catalogs that will let you know this. A marking of F1 is a first generation plant. You can not save true seed from these plants. Therefore, you have to purchase your seeds annually.

“The more seasons you grow an heirloom in your particular area, the stronger the plant will be in dealing with that area’s specific set of gardening troubles.” —

Now, on to genetically modified organisms. Genetically modified food is more of a buying issue than a what-to-grow issue since the seeds aren’t readily available for backyard gardeners. However, this is what the majority of our commercial farms are using. You need to be aware of this.

Genetically modified seeds are something out of a science fiction horror movie, only real. Genetically modified organisms take the DNA from one species and insert it into another. They take genes from bacteria, viruses, animals, insects and humans, then insert them into the seeds along with antibiotic resistant “marker” genes (hmm, antibiotic resistant genes in our food…that sounds super).

Do you know what they are doing with genetic modification?

  • potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering (I’ll admit this one sounds kind of awesome, a plant that tells you when to water it…but what did they put in it to make it GLOW?)
  • corn engineered with jellyfish genes
  • engineering corn with hepatitis genes
  • inserting jellyfish genes in pigs to make their noses glow in the dark

You can visit the FAQs page at Seeds of Deception for a whole lot more on GM seeds. I’ll share some sections that jumped out at me:

Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant. This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides. The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die!

Hasn’t research shown GM foods to be safe? No. The only feeding study done with humans showed that GMOs survived inside the stomach of the people eating GMO food. No follow-up studies were done. Various feeding studies in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

In March 2001, the Center for Disease Control reported that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the U.S. compared to estimates just seven years earlier. This increase roughly corresponds to the period when Americans have been eating GM food.

Q. Didn’t the scientists at the FDA study GM foods themselves? No.  The FDA relies solely on information supplied by the biotech companies.

Some further reading on organic seeds, GMO and seed saving:

Books on saving seeds:

To bring this back to the point of saving money, here is a photo of last year’s lettuce bed taken yesterday:


Do you see all that lovely red romaine and gold rush lettuce?

I did not plant one single seed this year (well, that you see here).

To the left is the raised bed our lettuce occupied last year. As the weather heated up, the plants bolted. I harvested some of the seeds and have a legal size envelope full. Imagine my surprise this spring when all these little lovelies popped up, the plants reseeded themselves.

We had some for dinner the other night. Lovely. And free.

Further Reading: Where to buy heirloom seeds

My Absolute Best Money Saving Tip

My Absolute Best Money Saving Tip from

A note on the Frugal posts. I’m not going to do them on any special day. I’m going to share them as they are written. I’m always frustrated when I have a blog topic I’m interested in and have to wait a week between posts. Yes, I’m a wee bit impatient.

And now, My Absolute Best Money Saving Tip:

Grow your own food.

My Absolute Best Money Saving Tip from

Yes, it’s that simple. Yes, I know you are busy. Yes, it may take some creativity. It is so worth it.

No, I do not expect you to grow it all.

Why should you grow your own food? Well, I’m glad you asked!

  1. Gas – Saves you extra trips to the store. Plus, when gas prices go up, food prices go up.
  2. Better for you – You pick from your garden when it is ripe (full of nutrients). Commercial growers pick under-ripe because ripe does not travel well. Also, most commercial produce has been bred for uniform look and to hold up during travel, usually to the expense of flavor.
  3. Costs WAY less than buying produce – Bell peppers go on sale in our area for 3 for $5, which is $1.67 per pepper.  It costs $2.50 for a 4-pack of pepper plants at a local greenhouse.  Four pepper plants will grow many more than the two peppers it would take to come out ahead here. You compare the price to organic produce (which is the best way to grow your garden) and you are saving even more.
  4. Organic is better – Put it this way, pesticides = bad, bad for your health, bad for bees and bad for the environment. And now, there appears to be a link to the drastic rise in celiacs, gluten-intolerance, and IBS.
  5. It is easier than you think – Trust me. A lot of plants grow well in containers on a sunny porch. Herbs and spices grow well in a sunny windowsill. A little water daily and they will reward you handsomely.
  6. Did I mention it will save you gas and money? – ‘Cause it will.
  7. Security – Having food to feed your family if/when things are tight = priceless.

My Absolute Best Money Saving Tip from

Quick Gardening Basics


You need a sunny spot with good drainage with easy access to water. If deer or pets are a problem, be sure to fence off your garden.

What do I grow?

Well, what does your family eat? Obviously you can’t grow pizza, but you can grow tomatoes to make your own sauce, basil to season it, peppers and onions for toppings.

Easy Garden Plants

Easiest to grow:

  • tomatoes
  • corn (10/19/12 Update – Yeah, corn easily cross pollinates and if you have feed corn or GMO sweet corn growing nearby, it can ruin your corn. Also, we have only had success growing corn 1 year out of the 4 we tried. Start with something else.)
  • zucchini and yellow squash
  • cucumbers
  • peppers (these do really well in drier conditions)
  • lettuce
  • bush beans (for green beans)

If you can cultivate the ground 8-12 inches or have a raised bed, try carrots, beets, radishes and turnips. They are super easy.

Herbs and Spices to Try Growing

Herbs and spices to try:

  • basil
  • dill
  • oregano
  • chives
  • parsley

Herbs and spices could be the best spot to start if you don’t want to do a full garden since they are often an expensive addition to the grocery list. It is easy to dry and store your own and no more little bottles that cost $3+. The bonus to the herbs and spices in your garden, they keep a lot of common garden pests away.

Next we will discuss if you should buy heirloom plants and seeds or hybrids. I’ll give you a hint, heirlooms are gonna win.

Further Reading

And don’t forget to sign up to receive my posts on your email!

Image credit for the money photo goes to 401(k) 2013 on Flickr.

Who Knew I Could Save $4600 on Vacation?

Trio in the Morning

I’ve had this idea rolling around my head for a while now. It first started when I almost passed out when it took $86 to put half a tank of gas in our Suburban. Then I read an article on Yahoo! about a couple who cut their monthly expenses by $500.

Enter yesterday.

The featured article on Yahoo! this time was about a family and how they were going to save over $12,000 this summer. Well, I suppose there are people who are contemplating the tough decisions between serving hamburger or steak for their 10 family get-togethers this summer. I suppose there are families who will only be spending $400 on vacations instead of their usual $5,000.

I’ll give Yahoo! credit that not every family is like mine, my family, friends and community.

I know there are those to whom these situations are real.

I also know that a lot of families are feeling the pinch when they grocery shop or fill up their vehicles.

I also know that food pantries in our area are seeing record numbers.

I also know that a lot of people are looking for ways to save money when their budgets are already bare bones.

It seems to me that the majority of Americans are not worried about summer entertaining, vacations, house painting, landscaping and having a great summer wardrobe.

After all this knowing, behold…a new category of posts here at the Vicki Arnold blog. I will be writing a series of Frugal posts. I have a list of 18 different post topics and ideas to start with.

Ready For My Close-Up

What the Frugal Posts Will be About:

  • how I’m saving money with actual figures
  • the reasons behind the changes
  • saving money on household, grocery, utility and other family expenses
  • sharing resources that I find helpful- books, blogs, websites, articles, etc.
  • eating healthfully on a budget

What the Frugal Posts Will NOT be About:

  • how to save money with extreme couponing
  • best deals at CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid
  • how to get chemical-laden cleaners & beauty products or junk food for cheap

While I will cover couponing and Walgreen’s a little, I won’t be providing the week-by-week breakdowns or how-to’s. Just the basics and then I’ll point you where all the experts share their expertise.

I hope you will follow along and share your comments as we go. You can subscribe via email to make sure you don’t miss any of the posts. You could also join us on the Vicki Arnold blog Facebook page.

Up first will be my absolute best money saving tip.