With all the reporting we do on couponing and saving money on groceries, it seemed remiss not to talk about one of the most popular money-saving apps: Ibotta. The internet abounds with stories of users saving and earning back hundreds of dollars using the app, so I had to check it out.
First, the basic premise: The app offers savings through coupons — percentages off and cash back on various purchases. To get these incentives, you basically give out some market research: You either fill out a short survey, scan a receipt to send your shopping data, or link loyalty cards. While your personal data is kept confidential, the companies that use Ibotta for research aggregate all this data to learn about shopping priorities and trends. And in the meantime, you get rewarded for being their virtual guinea pig, in actual dollars that are sent seamlessly to your Paypal account (or wherever you choose).
I downloaded the app, no problem. The graphics are clean and the navigation is intuitive. You click on categories and add coupons to your list, completing a short task to get access to even more of them (completing a one-question survey, for example, or watching a video ad).
Download the app: Ibotta
Some coupons are for specific products from national brands, while others are more generic and work for any brand (like, hot dogs or shredded cheese). The app saves all your coupons to the "my offers" section. Then you can redeem the coupons either in-store or by scanning your recent receipt. You can search for items as you put together your grocery list, too. Having to do a task to unlock certain things is a little annoying, but I got used to it fairly quickly.
I was happy to find that many of my regular stores, including Harris Teeter, Target, and Costco, were eligible for coupons; the app sorts the coupons into the stores where you can actually use them. But most of the things I buy regularly weren't eligible. At the end of the first week, shopping like I normally would, I earned $1.75 — and most of it was just my initial signing bonus.
Week two, I went out of my way to buy things on sale via the mobile app — purchasing items that maybe I would have bought eventually, but that weren't really urgent — just to test it out. That, plus a few generic coupons in-store netted me a whopping $4.97 in credits.
Week three, I did my usual grocery shopping, and only earned back $2.25. It's amazing how quickly you get competitive about this stuff — but I wasn't willing to buy stuff that wasn't on my list just to get the coupon (the real risk with these kinds of deals). Got pretty similar results for week four.
I probably spent five to 10 minutes looking through the coupons each week to see if the deals made any sense for me. Was that time well-spent? Just to save about $2 on groceries? Honestly, I'm not totally sure.
In general, I'm trying to make my grocery shopping and meal planning process as quick and painless as possible. While I have a budget and comparison-shop at the store, I wouldn't say I'm the most price-responsive grocery shopper out there. For me, I'm not sure the time spent working in the app (and being tempted by items I don't actually need) is worth it. But if you are already a seasoned couponer, taking it digital with Ibotta is probably a more streamlined way to save using coupons and discounts.
What about you, have you tried the app? Share your feedback below!