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The ability of technology to help smart consumers save money is pretty amazing, especially when you arm your smartphone with apps that do most of the heavy lifting for you. Apps that help you save when shopping online, in-store, booking travel, or even when finding a place to grab a bite to eat. Here are nine killer apps, many of which are relatively unknown, that can help you start saving money today.
The Hotel Tonight app is a last-minute traveler’s dream come true. The folks at Hotel Tonight get exclusive discounts on the rooms that hotels are unable to book and pass the savings along to you. You can only book a room if you are within 7 days of your arrival, so if you have a propensity for spontaneous travel, or have a long road trip planned, you’ll want arm your smartphone with this app. You can quickly search for a hotel in your price range by using their three main hotel categories: Basic, Hip, or Luxe. An insider tip: Having used this app for a couple years now, you’ll definitely get the best room rate if you can wait until the day of your arrival to book. For example, I was recently able to book a Las Vegas “Luxe” hotel for 50% off the standard asking price as I drove into “Sin City”.
2. Compare Bookings (Free for iOS)
The Compare Bookings app allows travelers to quickly search for a deal on a flight, hotel room, cruise, or rental car. The app works by searching top travel sites to bring you the cheapest options to your customizable search.
Pretty standard stuff, right? Well, the app makes our list because of their proprietary technology that gives travelers “first dibs” on brand new travel deals from sites that include Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, and Booking.com. These deals are updated around the clock and include savings up to 75% on last-minute hotel rooms and flights discounted up to 55%. Having all of the new deals on one handy app, really makes this a must-have download when making your next travel plans.
Perhaps the most recognizable app on this list, the Ibotta app lets you unlock coupons for stuff you’ll be buying anyways and get some cash back on those items in the process. You get the cash added to your Ibotta account after you do your shopping, snap a pic of your receipt, and scan the barcode of the product. Once you’ve earned at least $10, you can choose to get paid via PayPal or a gift card from Amazon, Best Buy, or Starbucks. The app really distinguishes itself from the competition in terms of the number of cash back offers available, as well as the ability to link a store loyalty account to your Ibotta account making the cash-back process seamless.
Thanks to the SnipSnap app, the days of sitting at the kitchen table cutting out coupons is ancient history. The app allows you to take a pic of a physical coupon and it automatically converts all of the text, images, and barcodes into a mobile-friendly coupon. Then when you reach the checkout lane at the store, you whip out your smartphone and present the coupon directly to the cashier who scans it and gives you the savings. Doesn’t matter if you got the coupon from the newspaper, mail, magazine, or under your couch cushion; you can easily convert all of them into digital coupons for later use. Once the coupons are in the app, you can easily organize them and get notified when coupons are about to expire.
If you’re a big coupon user, especially the in-store variety, the $1.99 spent on the QSeer app just may be the best money you’ll ever spend. The QSeer app lets you scan the barcode of a coupon and gain access to a bunch of cool information. Insider stuff like whether the coupon contains a grace-period that allows you to use it even if it has expired, or if the coupon contains a hidden code that allows you to use it more than once on the same transaction. The app will make you feel like Dick Tracy and help you save a bunch of money in the process.
The Grocery IQ app takes your standard grocery list, typically taped to the refrigerator door, and launches it to a whole new level. For starters, the app lets you quickly build a custom grocery list by using their database of over 1 million items. You can then break-up your list into easily created custom “aisles” which saves time when you’re in the actual grocery store. You can also keep track of frequently purchased items and add items to your list by scanning the barcode. So you might be asking, “OK, sounds cool, but how does the app save me money?” Good question, and “coupons” is the answer. Grocery IQ comes stacked with a database full of coupons, provided by Coupons.com, which you can apply to your purchase. The potential for saving money, and time, definitely makes this app worth a strong look.
Scoutmob makes it easy to find cool local restaurants, bars, cafes, and retail shops. It then gives you a very in-depth personal review of the place, called “Scout Notes”, so you can get a feel if it’s up your alley. The app then gets way cool by giving you deals and coupons to these local hot spots, with many hitting the 50% off threshold. The app uses your smartphone GPS to determine if you’re actually at the location before letting you use the discount. Currently the app is on available in these cities: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Nashville, New York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC. As the app continues to grow in popularity, look for new towns to be added.
College students listen up. If you’re walking around your college town without this app on your phone, you’re probably leaving a good chunk of change on the table. The Campus Special app will hook you up with great deals and coupons at local restaurants and retail shops. A few coupons that caught my eye include 40% off at a local sandwich shop and 20% off your entire bill at a pizzeria. The app even has a new feature to help you find a deal on an apartment near campus. I really like some of the app features which include ordering food directly from the app, as well as earning loyalty rewards at local businesses.
College textbooks are ridiculously expensive. Enter the BigWords smartphone app which claims to save college students $1,000 a year on textbooks. They do this by finding you the cheapest websites to buy used textbooks, along with the most affordable online rental options. The app also finds all relevant coupons and promotions currently available and automatically factors them into the purchase price. You then have the option of either buying from the bookseller within the app or you can email a link to yourself and purchase via your web browser. To top it off, the app also calculates textbook buy-back rates so you can quickly determine how much money you’ll get back at the end of the semester.
The best part about these smartphone apps, with only one exception, is that they’re all completely free. So you really have nothing to lose and should give a few of them a test drive to see how much money they can potentially save you. Once the savings starts rolling in, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them.