By Andrew Housser
Is there anything a smartphone cannot do? You can take photos and videos, watch movies, play games, listen to music, check email and update Facebook. You can even make phone calls. It is great to have 24/7 access to these services at your fingertips. But of course, having a phone with so many bells and whistles is not inexpensive.
Fortunately, it is possible to recoup the value of some of your monthly phone fees – and at the same time work to get out of debt, stick with your budget or achieve other financial goals. To put more money-smart tools in your pocket, check out some of the free smartphone applications (apps) available for both iPhone and Android. Before downloading any app, read the customer reviews, and make sure you are comfortable with how it will secure your personal information.
Scan a barcode or search by product image. RedLaser will compare – and display – prices for the product at thousands of stores, including online retailers. If you are shopping at a store, ask management to match the lowest found price.
With this app, you can find the lowest gas prices in the area. This is especially helpful when you are traveling in a region that you do not know well. The app displays current gas prices at nearby stations and pinpoints the lowest price. You also can earn points for prizes by reporting on gas prices in your area.
This service searches hundreds of retailers for discounts and coupons. No longer do you need to remember to take coupons from home with you on each shopping trip. You also can find product and grocery store coupons with this app. Simply present the coupon on your phone at checkout to receive your discount.
Scan your loyalty cards with your smartphone and easily enroll in new programs. This puts all of your loyalty cards at your fingertips when you shop without adding weight to your real-life keychain. KeyRing also gives you exclusive access to retailer discounts and coupons.
Mint keeps you on budget by tracking your purchases as you make them. The app works in sync with the free Mint.com program, which securely accesses your banking and credit card accounts to give you an overview of your financial status from anywhere. With the app, you can track purchases according to categories that you set up.
Take a photo of your receipts, then store and categorize them digitally. This ensures you always have your receipt in case you need to return an item. For tax purposes, you can tag the receipts as reimbursable or deductible. You also can track your mileage. Shoeboxed also enables you to access this information to create and submit expense reports.
Easy Envelope Budget Aid (EEBA)
With an envelope budgeting system, you place cash into envelopes at the start of each month to cover expenses like groceries, gasoline and dining out. You are cut off from spending when the envelope is empty. As carrying cash is not always safe or convenient, EEBA allows you to set up virtual envelopes of money. The app subtracts money from the appropriate envelope as you make purchases with a debit or credit card. The program even can be accessed and shared among other smartphone users in the family so everyone is on the same page when it comes to budgeting and purchases.
You pay substantially for your smartphone services. It makes sense to put the device to good financial use. By downloading money-saving apps, you can take the guesswork out of finding great deals while staying on budget.
Andrew Housser is a co-founder and CEO of Bills.com, a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about personal finance issues and compare financial products and services. He also is co-CEO of Freedom Financial Network, LLC providing comprehensive consumer credit advocacy and debt relief services. Housser holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Stanford University and Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College.