5 easy ways to save money using your smartphone
From finding the lowest price to earning kickbacks when you shop ...
A high-end smart phone is expensive. It might be one of the top five most expensive things you own. Unlike your car, though, which you have to constantly feed and repair, your phone is capable of pitching in. No, it's not going to get out of bed in the morning and haul itself off to a job it hates, the way you do. It's a smart phone. But you can eke a little money out of it, if you know what you're doing.
Here are six strategies for harnessing all that smart power in your pocket to fatten your bottom line.
1. Find the lowest price
You found a thing you want. It's perfect. Just what you've been looking for. Must have! You know you are in the throes of consumerism, right? And Future You will be angry. But, if you could somehow shave a few digits off the price tag, maybe it would all be okay?
Open the Amazon app. Tap the camera icon next to the search bar and point it at this essential bit of gear you've discovered. Amazon will find it in its vast inventory, often for less money. Not always, though. If it fails, try eBay.com. (Use the Barcode Scanner for eBay app.) Still no? In that case, this item has officially moved into the category of hard-to-find, making this a Price Quest! Time for the big guns. Download the ShopSavvy app and scan the bar code of the item to learn if a nearby store — or any online store — has it for less.
You probably just saved yourself a bundle. If not, you at least know you got it for the best price available.
2. Don't let your car rob you
You love your car, but it always wants money! If you own a car, you need a few apps to rein that in.
Parking in the wrong place can cost an unnecessary fortune. Either because you paid too much to park in an easy-to-find lot or you got a ticket. Use SpotHero to reserve a parking space — at a reasonable price — before you set off. Then use your phone to navigate to that spot.
When you street park, use the city's parking app (usually posted near in the parking space) to pay. It will notify you when your time is up and let you add more money right from your phone. No more walking 10 blocks to feed the meter with quarters. No more tickets, which — in some cities — can cost close to $100 a pop.
Repairs are the other big car expense. You can't avoid those. But you can avoid being surprised by them and getting robbed by mechanics. Use your phone and a diagnostic tool (like the U-Scan) to find out why that check engine light is on and do your own diagnostics before you go to the shop so you can't be oversold.
Then there's gas. For that, the Gasbuddy app is must have. It will tell you where to go for the cheapest gas. (Google Maps uses its data, too. So if you use the "Search along your route" feature in Google Maps, you'll get gas prices as you navigate.) Use it! You could pocket a couple of dollars every time you fill the tank.
3. Use coupons without couponing
I once stood in line behind someone at Target who, using her phone, bought everything on her shopping list while scanning her phone into the checkout reader. She got handed a stack of gift cards, along with a massive discount before she left. She grinned at me and said, "Get the Cartwheel app." She was right.
If you're grocery shopping at any one of the Kroger-owned grocery stores, you can also use the OptUp app to get coupons that encourage you to eat better while you shop. Or use Walmart's app when shopping there to be alerted to nearby deals. These days, most large merchants push their coupons directly to your phone. So savings that once involved newspapers, scissors, and a time-consuming shopping system reserved only for bargain dedicates, is easily available to all of us.
4. Get a job
Maybe you're a student. Or you're between jobs. A freelancer? Saving for something? You can earn money with your smart phone and your car or bike by signing up at Doordash to deliver food. This is also true for Lyft (car service), Uber (same as Lyft), and Uber Eats (food delivery service).
There are apps for dog walkers (Wag), grocery shoppers (Instacart), and much more. You sign up with your phone, get approved, and get ready to work. The app will tell you when and where to be, who you are driving, where you are delivering, or what pup you're walking. Don't want to work? Shut off the app. You work when you want for as long as you want. It may not be the job of your dreams. But your dreams need funds, too.
5. Earn kickbacks when you shop
Dosh, Ibota, eBates, Shopkick — pick your poison. These apps give you prizes, cash, or other rewards for doing what you were going to do anyway. They all work a little differently. I'll use Dosh — my favorite — as an example. You download the app, connect your credit card (some of these also want loyalty cards), and go about your life. When you shop, pay with one of the cards registered to Dosh. It searches big data for discounts that match what you bought, collects the offer for you, and stashes all these small sums of money in your Dosh account. When your Dosh gets to $25, you can withdraw the money. What's not to love?