In today’s economy, squeezing every penny may be more important than ever before. Impressive monthly savings can be realized not only by traditional approaches such as clipping coupons, but also with a more tech-savvy approach.
The information age has spawned a new breed of online and mobile apps, some offered in conjunction with retailers and others powered primarily by user input, that can work to save you money. Below are some of the top money-saving apps today.
The Gas Buddy website (http://www.gasbuddy.com) lets a user compare prices at local gas stations, enabling one to get the lowest of constantly-fluctuating prices at the pump by driving a short distance.
While the site depends on users reporting gas prices, it tends to be highly accurate and up-to-date. And with features such as a trip cost calculator and fuel saving tips, Gas Buddy's benefits go beyond mere reporting of prices.
In conjunction with gas-saver programs at particular stations and local retailers such as grocery stores, Gas Buddy can save drivers quite a bit of money, and it comes with a mobile app as well.
Coupons.com is a top coupon website, featuring not only online coupon codes but printable coupons to use at local grocery and other stores. It is free to join, and features hundreds of printable coupons in categories including baby and toddler, beverages, foods, health care, personal care, and other household items. Coupons.com also offers a SuperSaver weekly email newsletter containing weekly savings alerts and offers and CouponBar browser add-on.
The associated site CouponSavingsClub.com features further savings offered in conjunction with merchants, restaurants, movie theaters and theme parks, and at the time of this writing features a free 30-day trial. After that, the price goes up to $3 per month, but many users still find the value to be worthwhile.
Coupons.com also has an iPhone/iPod app to enable mobile access to many cost-saving features, which now includes integration with Apple’s Passbook digital wallet service.
Other useful coupon mobile apps include SnipSnap, which offers features including “snipping” (i.e. scanning and saving) and redeeming coupons on one's phone, in-store reminders based on GPS location awareness about coupons to use, and expiration date alerts for stored coupons.
RetailMeNot is a site focused on providing the most complete and up-to-date coupon codes possible. Comprehensive coverage includes deal alerts and codes for literally thousands of online and brick-and-mortar retailers and service providers.
RetailMeNot also features free apps for iPhone and Android which can help by enabling a quick check in-store before making important purchases—note that many retailers now feature in-store computers and are happy to offer in-person shoppers discounts upon request.
ShopSavvy is a barcode scanner and reader for QR codes (for “Quick Response”, square digital codes that look a bit like aliens from the game Space Invaders) that coordinates inventory data in order to enable users to shop smarter.
According to the developer, large retailers and other brands use ShopSavvy to build and scan items into their inventory. Then, when a consumer user is standing inside a store, not only can he or she check pricing and availability real-time, many stores may offer deals wirelessly on the spot, sent right to the user's phone.
Shopkick is another popular app for Android and iPhone which lets users collect “kicks” in return for visiting stores, which can then be redeemed for rewards and percentage-off deals from Shopkick partners.
IBotta is a mobile app which offers chances to earn cash back when buying from selected merchants. Users sign up for iBotta, then download the free app to their phones. Users can then choose products they’re planning to buy, and see if any offers are currently in force for that item.
After a supported purchase, a user can then take a picture of the receipt, and cash back will be added to the user’s iBotta account, which can be transferred to Paypal at any time. Benefits of iBotta go beyond cash back, too—users can access product videos and other information, and take quick consumer surveys.
A similar app is Endorse, which like iBotta offers users cash back when they buy selected items. When a user buys an item at an Endorse-supported retailer, the user then scans and uploads a photo of the receipt using the built-in cell phone camera, and is rewarded with cash back as well as points which can be redeemed for donations to charity.
Craig Wilson is a freelance writer and tech enthusiast, as well as enjoying spending his weekends working around the home following instructions he's found on sites like repairloader.com.