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“Our focus is on innovation that benefits the main stakeholders – shoppers and retailers – and provides long term value to both.”

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BeFrugal.com is a website aimed at helping people save money with Cash Back, online coupons for thousands of stores, printable coupons, weekly ad listings, money-saving tools, frugal articles, and much more. Launched in 2009, the site has helped many shoppers save more than a few bucks: more than $20 million dollars, in fact. The Fly or Drive Calculator has helped plan more than 500,000 trips.

The free Cash Back program, launched on July 4th 2011, is off to a great start, thanks in part to a limited time $10 sign-on bonus, with new members signing up daily and more stores constantly being added. Already, BeFrugal.com features higher cash back rates over more stores than any competitor; an average of 5% cash back on over 2000 popular online stores such as Macy’s, Target, Dell, Amazon, Staples, and Walmart. Founded by software technologist and financial economist Jon Lal, who previously founded consumer security software company Winferno Software, new money-saving features and tools are constantly being added to BeFrugal.com. The site makes saving money a simple process, that’s – of course – free.

Jon Lal, BeFrugal.com - Founder

MO: What influenced you to found BeFrugal with so many other sites trying to pass on savings and gain a following?

Jon: I feel that there is significant room for innovation in this space, in particular innovation directed towards enhancing the customer experience. Our focus is on innovation that benefits the main stakeholders – shoppers and retailers – and provides long term value to both.

Innovation oriented around customer experience is built into the features and technology underlying BeFrugal.com – I want to make sure that earning, tracking, payment, and reporting of coupons and cash back rewards is simultaneously simpler and better featured than anybody else’s.

Second, we make sure that we offer the best savings over the greatest number of stores. Our average rate of 5% cash back is higher, and over more online stores, than any competitor. And the same applies to coupons on our site; our coupons offer an average savings of $27 per order.

Third, I am proud to say that our customer service is better than anybody else’s. All our customer service is run out of our Boston office, and we even provide live chat support during our business hours.

And last, but not least – we try to add significant value to online retailers. For them, we run special promotions, contest and giveaways, and much more. Through our Merchant Portal, we even offer a free technology solution to allow retailers to automatically list their coupons and specials on Facebook. And of course, repeat business and customer loyalty is at the heart of our business.

MO: Can you tell us a bit about the technology that runs BeFrugal?

Jon: For BeFrugal.com, where technology can be a key differentiator and advantage, I think that paying for a state of the art platform is cheaper in the long run compared to using a free platform. So, we use Microsoft.NET in conjunction with SQL server to power our database and analytics heavy site. Our technological platform is oriented around four things – customer experience, data warehousing, analytics, and as a platform for other tools such as our calculators. And of course, all of our technology is built in-house by our Boston based team.

MO: I love that your site also calculates and compares difference between traveling by car or plane and also which choice is greener. What inspired this feature and was it difficult to create?

Jon: This all started with planning a family summer vacation trip from Boston to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. You see, when traveling say two hundred miles, driving is usually the easy choice. Conversely, when travelling much farther away, such as coast to coast, flying would be the obvious choice. However, with an in-between distance, such as the 880 mile Boston to Myrtle Beach trip, it would take analysis of the tradeoffs between the total all-in cost and the door-to-door time to choose between flying and driving. And all-in cost should include plane tickets, transport to/from the airport, or gas + wear and tear on the car + any hotel stays. Similarly, door-to-door time should be a true estimate. The process of doing this analysis led to the BeFrugal Fly or Drive Calculator.

MO: Are people changing their shopping habits and starting to go online before making any purchases to see where any possible savings could be made?

Jon: Absolutely. It used to be that only certain transactions were made online, like travel reservations. People are more comfortable using their devices or computers as a resource and buying online now. Smart shoppers are tech savvy and they are seeing that to save money, every shopping trip should start at the computer. Most should end there, too. Shopping online is the best way to save time and money. It offers the 3 Cs: Cash Back, Coupons and Convenience.

MO: Do you think of yourself as an innovator?

Jon: Yes, with the understanding that innovation is 1% inspiration, and 99% perspiration. All true good ideas come from a relentless approach to understanding the true nature of a problem, and then a similarly relentless approach to solving it.

MO: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of so far?

Jon: I am proudest of the team behind BeFrugal.com – I am lucky to have a talented and dedicated team. It is this team that has made BeFrugal.com, and even though it is still a young site, provide the best features and technology, the best customer experience, the best cash back rates, and better coupons than any competitor. There are no shortcuts to long term success.

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