Whether you have student loans, credit card debt, or car loans, you’ve probably found yourself wondering, how can I get free money to pay off debt? Keep reading for one tried and true method to get a little extra cash that any mom can use — without relying on government grants or handouts.

We all know there’s no free lunch…or dinner, or money to pay off debt. Or so I thought as I sat at the kitchen table holding my newborn. I stared out the Plexiglas windows of our single wide trailer and wondered where the extra money was going to come from to pay off our student loans.

While I felt completely stuck at that moment, I had the will of a mama bear intent on being able to stay at home with her cubs.

So, I created a spreadsheet (as one does when you’re a bit nerdy like that). It held a list of the coming months and included all the little bits of extra money I could add to our budget that would take us closer to being debt free.

And I was encouraged that even the small extra payments promised to help us pay off our debt years faster.

While we were able to become debt free in less than a year, today I want to talk about one way to get extra money to pay off debt that I wish I would have known about back then. It will legitimately give you a little free money so you can pay it off faster.

It doesn’t require any grants or government money. And it’s something any mom can do.

How Can I Get Free Money to Pay Off Debt?

Today I want to introduce you to Rakuten. This is something one of my Budget Breakthrough students encouraged me to look into (thanks Bethany!). And I have been amazed at how simple it is to earn some extra cash with zero effort.

When you sign up for a free account and use Rakuten (formerly Ebates), you earn cashback on purchases you’d make anyway.

Even though I don’t have any non-mortgage debt anymore, we can all still use a little extra cash, right? So, I took it for a test drive about a year ago, and I can confidently tell you that this is something every budget-conscious mom needs to be doing.

To date, I’ve earned over $108 in cashback, although one of my students had racked up over $800 that she used for an extra loan payment.

That’s why today we’ll cover…

  1. How to sign up
  2. How to get $10 right away
  3. And how to continue earning free cash to help you pay off debt

Even a small extra payment can help you pay off debt months or even years faster. That’s what makes today’s strategy for earning a little extra cash so powerful.

1. How to Sign Up

Signing up is easy and free. Click my referral link to join.

You’ll be asked to set up a login and enter some necessary contact information, so they can mail your checks to you.

2. How to Get your $10 check mailed to you STAT

The only thing you need to do to get your “Big Fat Check” for $10 is to shop through Rakuten for your next online purchase. Either…

  1. Go through their website with links to all your favorite online stores.
  2. Or shop through their browser extension (more on that in a minute).

It costs you nothing extra. Simply shop for things your family needs anyway.

Shopping through Rakuten, is one way you can get free cash back on stores you shop at anyway like Target, Amazon, Walmart, and many more.
When you shop through Rakuten, you can get cash back on stores you shop at anyway like Target, Amazon, Walmart, and many more.

Remember, to get your $10, you need to sign up for a free account and make your first purchase through Rakuten.

Woot! $10 in free money anyone can get to help them pay off debt faster.
This is the my first “Big Fat Check” from Rakuten I got just weeks after signing up. All I had to do was sign up for a free account and make a purchase (something I’d buy anyway) through their site.

3. How to continue earning free cash to help you pay off debt

When you sign up, be sure to add their extension to your browser. (You’ll be prompted to do this as you complete your account setup.) That way, you can quickly click on the ‘R’ logo at the top of your browser anytime you’re about to shop and ensure that you get your rebates.

The other thing that’s handy about the browser extension is that it shows you the percentage of cashback you get for each store.

For instance, last night, I was shopping for snow boots (because…Idaho). I liked a pair from Columbia, and I typed the style name into Google, so I could compare prices at different stores.

Because I have the browser plugin installed, it automatically showed me my Rakuten cash back percentages for each store.

Install the Rakuten browser extension to ensure you get cashback on all your online shopping. It also shows your cashback percentage as different stores to help with price comparisons.
Install the Rakuten browser extension to ensure you get cashback on all your online shopping. It also shows your cashback percentage as different stores to help with price comparisons.

I’ve seen times when one store is 10%, and another is zero. As you can imagine, this can make a pretty significant difference and is worth figuring into your price comparisons when shopping.

Another thing I love about shopping through Rakuten is that it automatically finds coupons and adds them to your order, so you always know you’re getting the best deal. I was shopping on the Target site this morning and it found $11.40 in additional discounts for me.

How you can get even more cashback

Now, everyday purchases are great for earning rebates, but if you’re like me and don’t shop a lot, they tend to add up slowly.

However, there are some times when we all tend to spend a little bit more, especially as moms, like Christmas.

I made sure to shop through Rakuten as I was shopping for Christmas gifts, cards, and decorations this year, and it really started to add up.

I joined a little less than a year ago, and I’ve earned $108. Nobody is going to get rich doing this, but I cannot emphasize enough how every little bit adds up when you’re paying off debt.

Then, you can continue to earn free cash back to put toward your debt pay off goals.
To date, I’ve earned $108.47 in free cash back that I can use toward my budget goals. It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps, and it was completely free.

But this is going to be a pain, right?

I had heard of Rakuten (then Ebates) years before I signed up, but I assumed that it would be complicated to figure out and take too long to use. I mean, I have about 2,458,582 other things in my mommy brain, and I didn’t need one more. In fact, without the encouragement of my Budget Breakthrough Mamas, I probably never would have checked it out (the teacher becomes the student).

However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Rakuten takes zero time (ok maybe point-one nanoseconds to click the button) and no extra effort. You just click through Rakuten, then go about your online shopping as you usually would.

Is Rakuten legit?

Now, you might be wondering if this sounds just a little too good to be true. After all, we all agreed a minute ago that there is indeed no free lunch, right?

Well, Rakuten’s business model is actually pretty straight forward. Like most online publishers, including myself, they earn a commission when you shop through their links. All they’re doing is passing a percentage of that back to you.

As I said, I’ve been using Rakuten for a year, and I haven’t been able to poke any holes in how amazing this is for moms. I can confidently say from my experience that this is not a scam, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to the moms in the Affording Motherhood community.

And in the interest of full disclosure, I do earn a commission when you sign up for a free account through one of my referral links to Rakuten. Still, I’m sure you know by now that I only promote things that I use and love myself before recommending them to you.

The other cool thing about Rakuten is that you don’t have to be a blogger or have a website to earn that commission. If you sign up and love it and recommend it to your friends, you can receive a referral bonus when they sign up, too.

Other times to use Rakuten

As I said, there are certain times when even the most frugal of us do spend money online. For instance, this summer, I went on a fantastic trip to Chattanooga to meet in person with my blogging mastermind group. Because I was able to book my hotel through Rakuten, I got over $13 back. Which made my trip that much more affordable.

We all spend money sometimes, like Christmas, trips, and everyday necessities. It's nice to earn a little extra cashback when we do.
We all spend money sometimes, like Christmas, trips, and everyday necessities. It’s nice to earn a little extra cashback when we do.

When I first signed up with Rakuten, my biggest setback was that I forgot to use it

It took a couple of weeks to get into the habit.

In fact, I know it was two weeks because that’s about when I got that $10 check in the mail. That was enough motivation for me to make sure to click through each time I shopped.

I imagine the same will be true for you too.

But there is another issue you might run into

The one drawback to signing up for Rakuten that I’ve found is that they will send you promotional emails. They frequently do Double Cash Back and other promotions to encourage you to shop.

My recommendation is that you immediately adjust your email settings, so you only get emails related to your account and none of the promotions.

While it may be tempting to some to spend more to earn more rebates, I think that most moms will be able to use this for what it is: one more tool in your budgeting toolbox. When you use it to buy things you’d purchase anyway, the extra money is a blessing.

So remember, to get your dough…

You need to sign up for your free account. Next, purchase something you’d buy anyway through the Rakuten website or the browser plugin to get your first “Big Fat Check” for $10. Finally, continue to click through your Rakuten links anytime you’re shopping online to keep earning rebates.

I wish I could go back and tell myself as a new mom trying to pay off debt on a low income about this free tool. Instead, I’ll enjoy the opportunity to pay it forward and share it with you.

If you’re like me, you might have heard of Rakuten or Ebates before but felt like you didn’t have time to figure it out. Now that you know how easy it is, it’s time to take a couple of minutes and make this happen. It is literally free money, after all.

If you haven’t signed up yet, take two minutes and do it now. Here’s the link again. And if you already have an account, start using it.

Then, commit to using all of your cashback rebates to put toward extra payments on your debt. Even small changes add up fast.

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