A Mother’s Journey Into The Black

October 2019 Update:  November 2019 Update: December 2019 Update:




I once had a CIS professor who said that “If you aren’t using the internet to make money then you have no business owning a computer.” That statement was followed by, “and you should drop my class right now because I don’t want you here!” My goodness, I hated him. This was before mobile phones were smart so I would guess he has amended his opening class remarks a bit to include their usage. He was too evil to not still be corrupting, I mean, teaching young minds. I just wanted to pass the beginning computer class that suddenly became Business 101 and put him and the class, in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible. Little did I know that I would take this obnoxious pronouncement to heart someday.

Like most stay at home moms that I know, I find living on a single income to be a challenge.  Raising a special needs child only adds to that challenge, with constant school meetings, along with doctors, and various therapy appointments. Finding even a part-time job seemed a daunting task when faced with my responsibilities around the house. I will be honest, I have no idea how single parents in my situation manage. They have my utmost admiration.

Cocoon ad

Of course, the first thing I looked into was budgeting and stretching the money that was already being brought in. What meals could I make that would stretch? Which groceries could I buy in bulk? Would coupons make a difference? Which services could be canceled? Then, my favorites, “How about we turn off that light when we aren’t using it?” and “Why is the water on?”. Eventually, though you reach a point when the budget just won’t stretch any further and necessities are still being triaged with luxuries not even worth aspiring to. When I crunched the numbers on our monthly budget I saw that a couple of week’s worth of groceries, a tank of gas or two, or maybe a utility bill here and there would be enough to give our family breathing room. I got to thinking about ways that I could earn money from home.

I am not very good at selling things and when it comes down to it, I just don’t know that many people who aren’t in exactly the same situation I am with no extra cash at all. With my time constraints and lack of network, a lot of those work from home jobs just didn’t work out for me. Things got very frustrating.

Then by chance, I ran across a phone app that offered points just for swiping a lock screen. Those points added up and eventually would become a payout. That would take time, naturally, but it occurred to me that I had to swipe my phone a dozen times a day in any case, so why not get paid for it someday. The idea changed the way I looked at the internet and the little things here and there that could add up to something.

bing 2I remembered that my search engine offered points each day for a number of searches. Again not a gold strike, but how many times a day do I search for something? One study suggests that the average person makes 129 search engine queries a month. I guarantee that I do that in a week. If I was going to be searching anyway, why not get paid for it?

When my son was little I would take surveys for fun and they were fun (for the most part). They didn’t really pay much even back then, but every little bit helps in the end, right? I dusted off my old accounts and found some new ones. Project $500 was born. I decided to see if I could earn an average of $500 per month over a year’s time.

It is a job, I won’t deny that. It isn’t money for nothing. Hours a day are spent either working toward earning or researching new opportunities.  However, it does allow me to keep to my schedule of appointments, keep my house clean, and homeschool my son in a way that a scheduled job never could.

Project $500 is a work in progress. Each month I assess which apps and websites are working for me and which are just not worth it. I am currently using or evaluating 30 sites/apps and I refine the amount of time I spend on each one. Some months are better than others though I do generally manage to cashout something every Sunday. I haven’t yet reached my goal, still, over the summer I was able to replace our broken vacuum cleaner, keep the grocery budget on track and purchase my son’s entire 10th-grade curriculum (of textbooks,  workbooks, and supplies) all the while building up a steady increase in my Paypal account, which I have set up with a debit card (not attached to our home account) for emergencies. I did that without dipping into my husband’s income.

Yes, it is a good feeling to buy a week’s worth of groceries or a year of school supplies without any actual cash changing hands.


Below I have included a list of links to websites and apps that have paid out consistently for me. They won’t make you rich, but they may make a difference. Some pay out for me once a week and there are some that are long term, paying out every few months. If it helps you, then I am glad to share. Some of these are also great for your teens to earn a bit and learn to budget. They won’t get rich either (though with how smart kids are these days I wouldn’t put it past them to try), but they may be able to pay for their own in-app and gaming purchases. How much would that save you right there?

I am always looking for new sites and apps. If you know of any leave a comment.

First, a word or two of caution:

*I offer up how much I expect to be paid each month, but how much you can expect depends on how much effort you put into each site.

*Most apps no matter how skeevy seeming will usually eventually pay something but really aren’t worth the time investment. Some apps and survey sites are just plain scams. There are those that work better for some people than others. Do your research! There are lots of clearinghouse sites for surveys with the scoop on actual payouts and ease of use. Read the recent Google Play reviews before you download phone apps. 5 Star reviews are often fake or so far back in history the app isn’t the same anymore.  Make sure you know what the pitfalls are in an app before you download it. Try to think about how an app will fit your own personal style.

*Don’t be afraid to cut loose an app or website. It may look good and have great reviews, but if it isn’t working for you or worse, it is taking too much of your time, dump it. Concentrate on the few sites you know will pay you. In my experience consistency now trumps possible huge payout someday.

*Have Fun! Yes, it is working but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it now and then.

*Finally, read the FAQs for each program you are involved in. Many offer bonuses for daily use, for earning a certain number of points, or for completing X amount of surveys. Those bonuses can make all the difference over time.

I suggest a dedicated email account for these sites. An internet phone number or a dedicated prepaid mobile device could also be helpful in keeping track of your activity


These sites have proven to me that they will pay
on a regular basis with consistent use. 

Laptop Apps:

Bing Search Engine: Back when Microsoft first introduced this engine a friend invited me to take the Bing challenge. Head to head for my searches, Bing offered better results than other search engines and they pay you to use it. I use it exclusively* across my devices and it pays out a gift card monthly for me. Some months I can squeeze in two. In addition to searches, there are quizzes and activities that offer extra points each day. It has bonuses for daily streaks and plenty of opportunity for prizes and sweepstakes which is what I did with my points until I realized that I could be buying groceries with them instead. You will need to set up a Microsoft account, however, there is a good chance you already have one attached to your Windows or Xbox use. Mine was set up for a job I had before being a mom became my job. I get points for searches both on the laptop and my phone. My teen doesn’t earn gift cards quite as quickly as I do, but he only searches and only on his phone.
* I do use other search engines only to get daily points on certain apps




upvoiceUpvoice: This is one of the slower payouts. They offer points each day for visiting specific websites that you probably visit anyway, like Facebook or Twitter.  The trick to this app is to wait for the big payout as they offer bonus points for certain levels with a payout of around $75 in gift cards per year. In addition to the slow payout, the downsides to this app are that you must use a Chrome browser and they are paying you for data collection. Yeah, I know. Not a popular idea, but more and more companies are willing to cut users in on the money earned for data that is collected and sold anyway.


cocoon octoberCocoon Browser: This is a Chrome type browser that pays into Paypal according to your internet usage. Not surprisingly, this is my favorite earning app. Not just because of the great payout, but because it earns passively while I spend my time online with everyday activities like school and blogging. The downside is this is once again a data collection payout, the upside is that it can pay out very well. My first month was $26. My payouts average $69 a month and I expect that to increase over time. I also start each month with about $30 already banked toward the next payout. It should be noted that with homeschooling and surveys I do spend a great deal of time online. Their FAQ suggests you can earn $10-$25 with average usage. Their Facebook ad suggests $69 a month.


MyPoints: This is my favorite survey site since I can earn quickly and payouts are posted fast. You can earn points for email, searching*, shopping, watching videos and taking surveys. If you shop a lot online then this could be lucrative if you shop through the site. My Amazon purchases have earned me a lot of points which equals free groceries. They do offer bonuses for daily use and monthly goals. The downside, as with all survey sites, is qualifying for surveys. The site is fairly consistent for me but there are days when it seems I can’t buy a qualifying survey, but that is true of any site. I can get about $50 a month in payouts on average. There is also a mobile app.


Swagbucks: Owned by the same company as Mypoints, Swagbucks is my next goto for surveys. It also pays out for searches*, shopping, activities, videos, team challenges, and surveys. It requires fewer points to cashout than Mypoints, but the payout takes at least five days. They have daily goals that add bonus points and pays monthly benefits as well. They also pay bonuses for lifetime points totals with bonuses at 10 different levels. In January (or sooner I hope) I will qualify for a $25 gift card free every month over and above any points I earn. I have found that shopping points are hard to qualify for so I don’t use that option much on this site and as always qualifying for surveys can be difficult. I average a payout of around $40 a month on this site. There are multiple mobile apps for this site.

SurveyJunkie: This is straight-up a survey site. You can cash out at 1000pts ($10) and I have seen payouts fairly quickly. Qualifying for the surveys can frustrating but I can earn $40 a month if I am consistent.

BrandedSurveys: This is a survey site that allows you to earn bonuses based on how many points you earn and how many surveys you complete, which admittedly can get difficult to maintain at times. Still, this is another site I can earn around $40 per month.

Opinion Outpost: This survey site can earn fairly quickly. You can cash out to Paypal for a $10 minimum or for Amazon at $5. There are other choices as well. I can get between $20-$40 monthly

LifePoints: This survey site offers rewards in either Paypal or gift card payout. It is a little harder for me to get surveys for, but I have gotten as much $20 per month.

I Say: As a survey site, I enjoy this one more for the fun stuff after the completed surveys than the surveys themselves. Poll predictor and other games are fun and offer rewards. This site offers loyalty bonus points based on the number of surveys you complete (up to 600 points). Again payouts are in the form of Paypal or a wide variety of gift cards. I can get up to $20 a month so far. They also have a mobile app.

Other survey sites I have used and gotten payout from:
Valued Opinions     Product Report Card     Toluna     Paid Viewpoint


Mobile Apps:

GPT apps are abundant on Google play. In my experience, most of them aren’t really effective. Either the games aren’t worth playing or they require downloads of other, often dubious, apps. The worst is when they seem to be paying off but they keep requiring a longer time investment for a smaller payoff. I have no problem watching oodles of ads to get paid yet, from most of the apps I have tried, I have found a few fun games to play and little other rewards. There are some though that have actually been worth my time.

mistplayMistPlay: This app gives tokens for gameplay and for experience level that you exchange for gift cards. There are also badges you can earn for completing in-game tasks, very few of which require purchase. Most of the games they offer give tokens only for experience or are bingo/slots, but I have managed to find quite a variety of games that have let me earn $10 per month or more. Unlike most game sites, Mistplay has been consistent with offering points for leveling up (higher levels take longer but are not excessive), payouts are quick, usually in 24 hours, and I haven’t had a problem with the app glitching or not posting points. They pay out in gift cards. I use Amazon, but my teen cashes out in Google Play, Game Stop, and Starbucks. He also earns more per month than I do, which doesn’t surprise me. The only real downside I have found to this app is my tendency to not play other favorite games because they aren’t offered in the app. My new mindset says I should get paid for my time. If I am getting paid, am I really wasting my time?

S’more: This is app offers a few ways to earn points. Surveys are the fastest way. My time is filled with other survey sites so I generally stick to using the lock screen# and playing videos (ads) while I work on another site. It is good for $5- $10 a month, but it could be more if I put in the effort. It pays out in gift cards. Again, I am partial to Amazon, while my teen looks towards Game Stop, Google, and Starbucks. The boy likes his coffee.


 This app awards points for everything from looking at internet memes to downloading and trying other apps and is quickly becoming my favorite phone app. It has the potential to be lucrative if a person wants to put in the time. I passively use the charging screen and lock screen# functions to get my points, which is good for about $5 a month. Add surveys to that and it can go as high as $20 – $30 a month. The downside to this app is that big points apps are a bit complicated to download. However, with the other features, I don’t do apps often anyway. It offers bonuses for daily use, 7000 points a week and 3000 more for monthly bonuses.

#Lock screens are stackable which means I get points for different apps every time I open my phone, I just need to swipe them all.




GetCents: If you have a lot of contacts this could be a good fit. Every few days the app offers up new brands to refer to friends. If they buy, then each of you gets a rebate from the purchase. That is the downside, even if your friends don’t get tired of you spamming them then your payout is still dependent on a third party. The upside is it is a fair amount of payout and you can earn still a bit of money each month just for swiping through brands a few times each month. I do mean a bit. This adds $1- $2 to my Paypal account each month. For five minutes of my time, I will take it.



If you are organized, good with couponing or shop online a lot:
IbottaFetchReceipt Pal, and NCP Mobile. All have great reputations for good payouts, but required too much work and frankly too much space on my phone to be worth it to me.  I will be exploring all of these apps in the future, I intend to get a dedicated device for them.


app apps cellphone cellular


If you made this far, thanks for reading. I have few new apps in the testing stages so check back with this page for updates. I would love to hear how you make the internet and your computer work for you.