10 Ways Parents Can Prep Financially for Back-to-School or Zoom-School Season

child coloring on a table with parent in background with laptop
Disclosure: We’re letting you know that this post contains sponsored links which The Smart Wallet receives compensation for, which may impact their order of appearance because talking about money should always be an honest discussion.

As the nation wrestles with the pandemic, it’s also battling the back-and-forth debate of how to handle back-to-school season this fall.

Even if schools do open, 58% of parents don’t think their children should go back.*

They’re also planning to spend even more money during home school or “Zoom-school” because indoor activities will be needed to keep children learning and entertained at the same time. More “busy work” to keep them occupied as well as more snacks, groceries, water, and sanitizing products too.

Obviously all these costs will add up. And if your financials could use a little boost to help prep for this uncertain school season, here are some useful (and fun!) ways below.

1. Get Extra Cash Back on Groceries, Delivery, and More

Getting cash back has always been important but even more so now, where every bit helps.

Use Ibotta, an app that pays you real money on your everyday purchases, from groceries/grocery delivery, essentials, personal care items, to meal delivery to online shopping.

It’s simple:

  1. Just check Ibotta first to find offers, and when you purchase your items, scan the receipt to get cash back. Popular stores include Target, Ralph’s, Trader Joe’s, and more.
  2. Online purchases including groceries? Just open Ibotta, and complete your grocery, Uber Eats, GrubHub, or purchase from 100+ online retailers that include Sephora, Under Armour, Gap, and more to get some money back.

And since these are especially trying times, Ibotta has teamed up with brand partners like Kellogg’s, always, Huggies, and Suave to be committed to giving $10 million in extra cash back. This means you get more cash back than normal!

Ibotta is free to download and you’ll also get up to $20 in Welcome Bonuses when you sign up so use it before buying anything!

2. Take Control of Your Money When Things Seem Out of Control

Investments are down. 401(k)s are down. As indicative of the red arrows aiming down, things just seem to be out of control during these uncertain times.

There are, however, ways for you to control your money now. Through proper budgeting as well as getting rid of any non-essential subscriptions through Truebill, a free finance app that helps you track your money and offers services to make your life way easier.

Quarantine life is the best time to really go through on what you need, so let Truebill find all your current subscriptions (even ones you forgot about) and have them cancel any for you. They’ll also negotiate for lower bills (like cable, internet, and cellphone bills) and with job insecurities at the moment, knowing that you’re not overpaying for bills is a relief!

In addition, their solid budgeting feature helps everyone see where their money is going and how to handle it. Even if you don’t know how to budget!

3. Try Games, Get Gift Cards. Play More to Earn More

Alice Ly | The Smart Wallet

We’ll probably be the only ones to tell you this but, please play more mobile games.

Play more games so you can earn more gift cards through the Rewarded Play app, a free to download game platform that lets you try as many games as you want.

Popular games include Yahtzee, Wheel of Fortune, Words with Friends, mystery games, fantasy games, puzzle games, and a lot more.

You can then redeem for gift cards from 20+ retailers including favorites like Target, Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, etc. The games are fun, it’s an easy way to earn some cash especially when we’re bored at home, and bonus, there is an active customer support team!

4. Free Money for Your Grocery Receipts Online, Offline, and Friends

If you’re already using Fetch Rewards, you’re ahead of the game and you know you can scan in any grocery receipt (both online and offline!) to earn points towards free money. Get bonus cash when you refer friends (2,000 points = $2) and your friends will get a bonus too! There’s no limit to referrals.

Take a picture of your receipt with the app as well as connect your email accounts to automatically earn points from your e-receipts from popular retailers like Instacart, Target, Walmart, Costco, and more. Yes, get points for cash for your grocery deliveries!

There’s no minimum spend, no need to manually select items, just scan in any receipt from a store that sells groceries (even if you didn’t actually buy any groceries) and boom, points for money.

Grab a $2 welcome bonus on us (2,000 points) when you use promo code REWARD before scanning your first receipt.

5. Never Overpay for Car Insurance - Save $826 a Year

Let’s talk about the not-so-sexy topic of car insurance. You need it, you have it, but you’re probably overpaying for it. By how much though? It can depend on your car, location, age, and more, but on average you’re probably spending $826/year more than you need to.

You’ll know how much if you use Savvy to check for fast and easy savings. There are no forms to fill out since it uses your existing insurance info, and the system will instantly check for a better deal. It literally takes 30 seconds and they protect your phone number and email from spam.

Once Savvy finds you a better deal and you choose to switch, they’ll help you cancel your old policy, enroll you in the better one, and get a full refund on the unused portion of your prior payments. It’s the simplest and easiest way to get a refund on your overpriced car insurance policy.

6. Scan the Stuff You Buy & Get Free Rewards

The exclusive National Consumer Panel (NCP) program is opening up again for more participants! This is your opportunity to make your consumer voice heard! (And get paid for it!)

When you become a panelist, just use the app to scan the barcodes of items you purchase, provide a few additional transaction details, and you’ll earn points for:

  • Gift Cards
  • Tablets
  • Electronic Equipment
  • Flat Screen TVs
  • and much more from their gift catalog!

Plus, all panelists are automatically entered into weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual drawings to win extra points and gift cards – even a quarterly sweepstakes to win $5,000!

The more you share your shopping habits (scan barcodes), the more rewards you can get. You can also answer surveys and share information about your overall shopping trip.

“Scanning my purchases is fun! I also enjoy taking the surveys. Earning points is fast and easy and they have a great selection of rewards.” – Jennifer B.

It’s a fun way to earn more rewards on items you’ve already purchased and at no extra cost to you.

Register now to see if you’re eligible to be a National Consumer Panelist. Eligibility will be based on your location. If you don’t get accepted this time, don’t worry! They’re always expanding locations, so check back again.

7. This Paid Survey Panel Gives Out 7,000 Gift Cards Daily

There are a lot of survey programs out there, but none as popular as Swagbucks, a free rewards program where you can earn cash for your time and opinion. Members can earn an average of $50 a month!

You get rewarded for doing surveys, searching the web, reading articles, watching videos, and playing fun games but the one activity that earns you the most points is completing surveys. (Don’t skip out on those!)

Points can then be redeemed for free gift cards, cash, and sweepstakes entries. All just by completing fun activities and giving your opinions.

New members can get a free $5 just for signing up, so join the other 10 million members already part of Swagbucks and start earning free rewards!

8. Banking That Has Your Back - Easily Autosave & Never Pay Overdraft Fees Again

The best way to save money, if you didn’t know already, is to just automate it. Out of sight, out of mind, but works in your favor when you see your money grow.

Do it easily with Chime, an award-winning mobile app that’s got your back when it comes to banking. It helps you save money every time you make a purchase or pay a bill with the Chime Visa® Debit Card by moving your spare change from your transactions into savings. You can also set up automatic transfers from your paycheck too. Save at 1.00% APY!

Combined with no hidden fees, the ability to get paid up to 2 days earlier1, and the fact that you don’t need to worry about any overdraft fees because Chime will spot you up to $1002 when you need it, makes this a stellar online banking option.

It’s also free to use so give it a shot to see how it can improve your banking life!

9. Get Paid to Try New Games. Every Gamer’s Dream.

Adobe

Who would’ve thought you can play games to make some money? Especially now when that’s easy to do from home.

All you need is Mistplay, a game platform where you can try new games to earn points redeemable for gift cards like Amazon, VISA, PlayStation Network, XBOX Live, and more.

In the app, all available free games are listed so just take your pick to try! The more time spent on each game, the more money you can earn.

You’ll only get paid for playing games if Mistplay is running so be sure to always install games from the Mistplay app!

BONUS: You’ll automatically get 200 welcome points upon sign up but use promo code Bonus_100 to get an additional 100 points for a total of 300 total points!

10. Stack Your Cash Back Earnings with This App

When the coronavirus outbreak passes and the economy starts to rebound, we can get back to racking up rewards through our credit cards and travel reward programs.

In the meantime, free cash back apps like Drop, offers a practical and rewarding alternative that gives points back for shopping online at all your favorite brands, completing super-quick surveys, and playing fun arcade games in-app.

There’s virtually limitless earning potential and the points you earn turn into free gift cards that you can redeem at places like Amazon, Whole Foods, Target, Uber Eats and so many more. Double-dip on earning points with their Stacked Deals section too.

Here are some of our favorite offers on Drop right now:

  • Uber Eats – 50 points per $1
  • Walmart – 20 points per $1
  • eBay – 5 points per $1
  • Glossier – 80 points per $1
  • Lululemon – 120 points per $1 (limited time 3x boost!)
  • Disney+ – 10,000 points for new members
  • Instacart – 400 points for new members

This app is a no-brainer for anyone looking for new and fun ways to stretch their dollar at home!

Kickstart earnings today by using promo code SMARTWALLET to unlock 10,000 points ($10!!) automatically when you earn your first 1,000 points.

BONUS: Find Curated Remote and Flexible Jobs With This Site

@bongkarn-thanyakij | Pexels

With a record 40 million people that filed for unemployment,* it’s crucial to be able to hold a remote or flexible full-time or part-time position in these uncertain times.

Instead of searching through irrelevant job boards, use FlexJobs, a 13+ year old company that specializes in finding only remote and flexible schedule jobs. For a limited time, their membership plans are 30% off (with promo code SAVE30) making them just:

  • $4.95 /week
  • $9.95 /month
  • $23.95 /three months (most popular!)
  • $44.95 /year (best value)

Memberships include access to jobs as well as resources like Career Coaching, Resume Review, 170 expert skills tests to better assess and promote your skills, and more.

Lori S. from Colorado Springs, CO said, “I would have spent hours trying to find these jobs on my own. I LOVE this website!! These are jobs that are not easy to find—I found the membership fee very reasonable and worth every penny considering I have found two wonderful jobs through FlexJobs.”

Non-essential workers are being asked to stay home during these times but making money is essential to everyone so take advantage of the 30% off membership plans to look at what could be your next new job! Remember to use promo code SAVE30.


1Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the payer’s submission of deposits. We generally post such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the payer’s scheduled payment date.

2SpotMe limits start at $20 and can be increased to $100 or more based on factors like Chime account activity or history

*40 million unemployed source: Forbes