7 budget-boosting apps that give you free stuff
As I’m fond of mentioning, I’m the mother of three beautiful boys who tend to like little boy stuff. They absolutely love Star Wars, video games, and Marvel movies. They’re also kids, so they don’t always have the best grip on reality. For example, my youngest recently asked me what it would be like to meet Iron Man, and if he could invite The Hulk to his birthday party. It was adorable, and it also got me thinking about what kind of fictional character I would want to meet.
I thought about Princess Leia since I idolized her when I was a kid, and about Marge Simpson since her calm amid all the other Simpsons’ craziness has been an inspiration for me as a mom. But, I actually think that the fictional character I’d most like to meet is one of my own creation: the Budget Fairy. She’s like the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, except she visits me when I have my budget spreadsheet open and shows me really cool new ways to save money. I know, I know, it’s a fantasy.
Actually, I’ve kind of turned myself into the Budget Fairy in a way, mostly because I’ve discovered so many apps that earn me cash back and gift cards and other freebies. So now, like the Budget Fairy herself, I’m going to share some magic with those in need: a list of the seven best budget-boosting apps that give you free stuff. Most help you earn free gift cards or extra cash, but some are useful in other ways, too. Overall, with a little work—and using your favorite device—you may become your own Budget Fairy!
Budget-Boosting Apps That Give You Free Stuff
Free Stuff Times
There may be plenty of deals online to get free stuff, but when you’re busy raising three boys, you don’t have the time (or energy) to scope out all those deals. That’s where the Free Stuff Times app comes in handy. It’s essentially an aggregate site for finding free stuff on the Internet!
Many of the other budget-boosting apps that give you free stuff on my list work with a sort of points-and-rewards system, meaning they ask you to do a small task and in return, you receive points that you can later trade for rewards. The Free Stuff Times app, however, serves as a directory for ways to get free stuff. It contains things like digital coupons or a link to a list of ebooks that are free to download. Essentially, it’s an online newspaper filled with connections to ways to save. Or, as the name implies, ways to get free stuff! The app also allows you to set up push notifications which help ensure you don’t miss out on offers.
One of the most reliable ways to get free stuff and become your own Budget Fairy may be to clip paper coupons, but it feels so antiquated! Thankfully, the idea of coupons has been translated into digital apps like Checkout51, which solves the hassles of carrying around pocketbooks stuffed with coupons.
Checkout51 lists items you can buy at the store, and it also gives you digital coupons for those items. After purchasing of an eligible item, you simply scan your receipt and Checkout51 banks the difference between the full price and the discounted one for you. It might be a few cents on mouthwash here or a nickel for chips there, but it adds up, and eventually, you can get that money back through PayPal or gift cards to some of your favorite stores.
When I was a kid, my uncle would give me a stack of scratch-off lottery tickets and a quarter to go wild with every year for my birthday. I never won any big prizes, but I always had a ton of fun scratching off the silver paint. Well, it takes a bit of patience and luck, but Scratchy is sort of the digital version of that.
I generally spend a few minutes on Scratchy each morning. First I choose which brands or stores I want to win a prize from, then I scratch off a digital ticket in hopes of revealing three matching logos, in which case I get a prize. Scratchy has levels to advance through, and the more time you spend playing, the higher the level you’ll reach and the better the prizes. I once won a $50 gift card to Amazon. That was a lucky day!
Turns out you can now use your boring old smartphone lock screen to earn free gift cards, thanks to Fronto. All you have to do is swap out whatever photo is on your lock screen for news and ads that are selected by Fronto. Every time you view one of these ads, Fronto gives you points. Sometimes, it even asks you an interactive question that allows you to earn even more points. Once you’ve earned $10 worth of points, you can exchange them for gift cards. One word of advice: Fronto can seriously drain your data plan and battery life, so make sure you have data to spare and your charger in hand before you start using it in earnest!
Like Scratchy, this app requires a bit of patience and a lot of luck. It’s called Claim it! and it’s basically an entire social media network made up of free stuff! Individuals give away free stuff on Claim it!, and so do local stores.
The interface is super simple to use. Each week the app lists sweepstakes you can enter, and you throw your hat in the ring by simply clicking a button that says Claim it! For the data nerds out there, it also lets you know your chances of winning, how many other people have entered, and the value of each item. Just be aware that the more valuable an item is, the lower your chances of winning. For example, I found I had a 100% chance of winning a free yogurt at my local grocery, but a less than 1% chance of snagging a fancy pair of noise-canceling headphones.
When I have a chance to unwind, I usually spend it binge-watching shows or streaming music. I’ve always been a big fan of streaming media as it makes it so easy to access entertainment you might not have found otherwise. As it turns out there’s also an app that gives you free stuff for all the media streaming you do, and it’s called Viggle.
Viggle is an app on your phone that listens for music and TV shows, and then gives you points for all the shows and songs it’s able to identify. You can then convert those points into gift cards or cash. It does, however, tend to take a long time to accumulate enough points to cash out. For example, listening to a Drake song might earn you just two of the 20,000 Viggle points required for a $20 gift card. Then again, if you’re streaming regularly like I am, that might not be a big issue.
Shopkick is kind of magic itself, in that it turns every trip to the store into a super fun scavenger hunt for points, which they call kicks. It’s super easy to use, and all the tasks users do for kicks are ones you do whenever you shop, anyway. Simply put, Shopkick is a free app that pays you to shop. How it works is that basically, you download the app, then walk into one of the many featured partner stores—and earn kicks. Scan featured item barcodes, get kicks. Buy a featured item, get more kicks! You can even shop from your sofa using the app, and you still get kicks! Once you’ve earned enough kicks, you can trade them in for free gift cards to a super wide range of stores.
One of my favorite things about Shopkick is how I barely have to go out of my way for free stuff. And, you can combine Shopkick with other shopping rewards apps—including many of the ones listed here—to double up on rewards! For example, Shopkick works really well with Checkout51.
Not only is Shopkick easy and fun to use, it also has a great social media community full of other Shopkickers who love to share tips about everything from deals to ways to maximize the number of kicks you can earn. It’s a small thing, but it makes a BIG difference.
Let’s cap our list today at seven because it’s such a lucky number, and some of our apps—Claim it! and Scratchy—have luck as a main component. I love all the apps on this list, but if I were to pick a favorite, it would definitely be Shopkick. Maybe it’s because I have three hungry, growing boys and seem to be at the store all the time, but having a fun way to hunt down and redeem points (which also ease my budget) is invaluable. The Budget Fairy couldn’t have crafted a more effective way for me to save!
Ready to explore the best budget boosting apps that give you free stuff—and have fun doing it? Download Shopkick for free and join a community of loyal Shopkickers who’ve already discovered the rewards of shopping with us and become your own Budget Fairy.
And, if you love social media as much as you love stretching your budget, join us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily shopping inspiration.