Make Your Smartphone Work For It
Owning a smart phone can sometimes seem more like an overpriced splurge than a necessity. But pair it with the right applications, and you have the perfect weapon against overspending and irresponsible fiscal behavior. Whether you own the T-Mobile G1 with applications from the Android store or the more popular iPhone, there’s a savings-savvy app ready to download in minutes-- and it could finally help you meet those pesky budget goals.
Free for Android, Biggu.com
This clever all-in-one comparison shopping tool takes the guess work out of finding the best price for almost any item (both in-store and online.) Just install the free app onto your G1 and let the camera-based barcode scanner tell you exactly how much you should pay for everything from books to household cleaners to compound miter saw blades. We tried this application on all three products and found that while the program initially takes a moment to “read” the barcode, its dead-on scanning capability gives you a nice range of prices. Our scan of the household cleaner, for example, let us know that we indeed got the best deal at our local big box store, but buying a case from Amazon was cheaper per unit.
Free for iPhone and Android, snaptell.com
Another amazing way to get the best price on just about anything is with SnapTell, which lets users take a picture of what they want to buy before telling them exactly what they can expect to pay. We were able to take a picture at a considerable distance away from our book of choice and the SnapTell software accurately pegged the title without ever having to mention ISBN numbers or the author. Just snap, send, and wait for price-comparison information to appear on the screen. We found our copy of the “2008 Writer’s Market” at several competitive price points on the Web (and at a few shady-looking discounters, too). While the iPhone version seems built for speed, both downloadable versions met our needs of finding the best deal quickly for most books, DVDs, and video games.
Receipt Filer Lite
Free for Android, receiptfiler.com
This simple-looking application might be a new favorite way to track business expenses, especially when on the road. Choose from a retailer or input your own, indicate the expense category of your choice, and enter the amount you’ve spent to build a suitable record of your weekend away. The handy photo function lets you snap a pic of your receipt (so you can itemize only those reimbursable goods) and even allows for rotation for extra-long receipts. If you’ve ever found yourself crying over that looming stack of crumpled-up Arby’s receipts and weren’t sure how you’ll ever explain it to your boss, Receipt Filer Lite can keep you out of hot water and in the good graces of the accounting department.
Free for iPhone, mint.com
Mint.com might be the most comprehensive and idiot-proof finance Website on the Internet. With its large following, constant updates, and slick user-interface, the mobile application for the iPhone gives the best features of Mint.com for those of us on the go. See your cash flow at a glance, know where your money is going, and keep tabs on all your bank accounts at once. The secure application even allows you to disable access via your iPhone if it ever gets out of your hands. Almost too good to be free, the Mint.com app is a quick-and-worthy replacement for expensive desktop-budgeting software.
Free for iPhone, splashdata.com
Just do a search for this nifty app in the iTunes store and you’ll have instant access to up-to-the-minute listings for Craigslist ads in your area. Browse complete listings, forward the good ones to your email contacts, or reply easily from your mobile phone. With this handy app, you may never miss a free couch or deeply discounted box of old VHS tapes again. Bookmarking features make this an effortless way to stay in touch with other Craigslisters and the ability to view photo attachments and complete contact information make it just as good as surfing the net. Note: In order to keep this app safe for everyone, Adult Gigs, Erotic Services, and Personal categories have been removed from the application.
Free for iPhone, repairpal.com
With fewer folks buying new cars, the old ones will eventually need to be repaired. Avoid getting ripped off by your mechanic with the RepairPal iPhone application, which is designed to give you an accurate price quote of the repair you need. This heavenly app gave us an accurate pricing estimate for the replacement of a brake master cylinder, including the price for parts and labor, individually. In addition to giving the locations of the closest mechanics, RepairPal also gave “what to watch for” tips on how pricing could be skewed or things mechanics may try to charge extra for. Extra recommendations for other brake issues were offered for the specific repair, as well as maintenance tips and causes behind the need for replacement. Lightning-quick diagnostics make this app the no-cost way to take charge of your car care, even if you know nothing about cars.
Free for iPhone, davidjhinson.wordpress.com
While you’re at it, fill that tank up. You can afford to top it off with GasBuddy.com’s mobile app for the iPhone. My middle-of-nowhere small town didn’t show any local stations to purchase from, but just a few miles down the road there were dozens available. Each listing featured the address, fuel types available, and the price for each. You can choose to sort retailers by either price or distance, but with summer gas hikes scheduled for just a few short months from now, it might be in your best interest to make that drive for the most wallet-friendly fuel.
EZ Loan Calc
Free for iPhone, jclmsoft.com
EZ LoanCal is a free-and-light version of more complicated mortgage-and-loan calculators. It does everything you need to figure loan amounts, interest, and tax payments within the context of a traditional mortgage scenario. The calculator also offers a table with complete amortization information and can be set up as a flat loan calculator for debt such as auto loans or credit cards. The free app can quickly get the total cost of debt for most any credit scenario–even those you’d rather not think about.
Free for iPhone, dailyfinance.com
If checking stocks is your thing, this app has got you covered. With all the data available on the AOL Daily Finance Website (but with auto-refreshing for your mobile), Daily Finance will keep investors in the know without any additional out-of-pocket expenses. Data is compiled from over 3,000 sources and includes both industry and sector news feeds. Amazingly, users can create up to 25 different portfolios and watch lists from either the Web interface or the iPhone and follow them via a secure logon. If the real-time “winners and losers” weren’t enough to make stocks cool again, we know you’ll love the interactive mobile-friendly charts and graphs in vivid color.
Free for iPhone, routemaster.aaa.com
This app is free to use for everyone, but only useful if you have AAA membership. Those who’ve often wondered about the benefits of being a AAA member can finally get their money’s worth with this application designed to give you discounts from anywhere in the United States and Canada. Acting as both a GPS (with adequate turn-by-turn directions) and a deal-finder, it throws all the AAA discounts available in your surrounding area and even allows you to call for AAA Roadside assistance in the event of a vehicle emergency. Whether you seek 15% off on your next floral delivery or just need that flat tire changed fast, this smart little app can get it done in no time.
Free for iPhone, thefind.com
Not just another take on popular shopping comparison tools, The Find is actually very visually pleasing, simple, and accurate in its pricing guides. Just type in a product search term and wait for the retailers near you to provide you with their real-time pricing information. We gave this a shot with the Leapster 2 and were surprised that there was almost a $20 difference in pricing between our closest big-box retailers. Set up The Find to filter nearby brick-and-mortar options or skip the place down the street in lieu of more competitive online price quotes. The app includes a “green” product search for the most sustainable and eco-friendly shopping venues, as well.
Free for iPhone, amazon.com
There are so many books on the market written to help you become financially fit. However, the problem is that many of us don’t have the time to begin reading most of them. When struck with the inspiration to pick up a Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, or lesser-known Liquat Ahamed, this free easy app lets you take your reading on the road. You’ll still need to buy your book download from the Amazon store (either through your Web browser or the Amazon application), but once it’s bought and paid for, the real savings begins.