The times, they are indeed a’changing. Managing your everyday finances used to be a hit-and-miss affair guided by commonsense principles that aren’t always very helpful: “a penny saved is a penny earned”, “you get what you pay for”, “the best things in life are free”, and “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. All of these are true, at least under certain circumstances, but none will actually help you weather a financial crisis.
Nor will platitudes you may have learned from your parents prevent you from overspending on impulse purchases, monitor how well you’re keeping to your budget, or tell you where you can find better deals. Luckily, technology has come to our rescue. If you’ve begun to realize that you need to keep a tighter rein on your finances, apps that can save you money are what you should be looking at. Some of these are powered by advanced artificial intelligence algorithms, several can interface directly with your bank account, and many can be used without paying a single cent for the privilege.
All you need to take advantage of these powerful tools is a working smartphone. Given all that this kind of software can do for you, what are you waiting for?
Table of Contents
- 1 Apps that Save You Money While Shopping
- 2 Checkout 51
- 3 Drop
- 4 Rakuten
- 5 GroceryPal
- 6 Shopkick
- 7 Ibotta
- 8 Swagbucks
- 9 Groupon
- 10 CardPointers
- 11 Honey
- 12 Apps that Save You Money Through Better Budgeting
- 13 Mint
- 14 BillTracker
- 15 Clarity Money
- 16 YNAB (You Need a Budget)
- 17 PocketGuard
- 18 Honeyfi
- 19 Apps that Save You Money on Investments
- 20 Chime
- 21 Qapital
- 22 Acorns
- 23 M1 Finance
Apps that Save You Money While Shopping
It’s more or less a given that you have to spend money, probably every day. Most of the time, we do so without thinking. What does it matter, after all, if you pay $1.95 per pound of tomatoes instead of $1.90, or buy slightly more expensive gas at the station located on your way home? In reality, small savings like these add up more quickly than you may think. Using one of the apps below lets these accumulate, often without you having to change your existing habits too much.
If the idea of clipping them from the newspaper is preventing you from embracing couponing, you’re in for a treat. Checkout 51 short-circuits this entire process: simply download the app, and you’ll receive regular notifications of any special offers in your area that are valid for the coming week.
Instead of a straight-up discount, Checkout 51 rewards you through cashback when you shop at participating retailers (including many grocery stores and over 5,000 gas stations, a fact which frequent drivers will love). The only real hassle is that you have to send them a photograph of your receipt, but this quickly becomes routine. If you don’t have a smartphone, you’ll have to use a separate camera to upload these images to their website.
You can also use coupons from other sources, as well as other cashback apps, in addition to Checkout 51. The number of times any given offer can be redeemed by their users is typically limited, though, meaning that you won’t get any cashback if you dawdle.
Like Checkout 51, the Drop app is free to users. Instead of charging users a download or monthly fee, the company makes its money by partnering with brands and stores that want to run promotions through the Drop platform. It’s much easier to use than apps that require you to upload your receipts: simply link a debit or credit card to your Drop account – any card should work.
After you’ve done this, you can simply shop as you do normally (but perhaps more frequently at the brands Drop works with, which include Sephora, Uber, Amazon, Expedia, Walmart, and Target). Each time you pay with the linked card, you earn some money back, which you can redeem in the form of gift cards at participating retailers. You will also receive periodic notifications of any special offers available from your favorite brands – you can select up to five of these.
Certainly one of the more popular cashback apps, Rakuten also works as an extension for Firefox and other browsers. Formerly known as eBates, this allows you to earn back some of the money you spend on online shopping without lifting a finger. Whenever you’re on the checkout page of a company that works with Rakuten, a little pop-up will inform you that you can claim rewards for shopping there.
Over 2,500 online retailers form part of their network, and cashback amounts are sometimes as high as 30% of the sticker price. You can redeem your rewards only once every three months, though, either by asking them to mail you a check or as a Paypal transfer. In-store purchases are supported too, but require a little more work: you’ll have to link a debit or credit card to the app and claim the special offer through the Rakuten website or app.
Though this app does help to save you money by serving you coupons as you’re about to head to the store, GroceryPal’s main feature is that it makes it easy to draw up a grocery list. Just by doing this instead of buying whatever happens to catch your eye, you can spend less on items you don’t really need.
GroceryPal will also search for better prices online and let you know when you can find something for a better price, as well as share shopping lists with others in your household so nothing is either forgotten about or duplicated. Since most people’s grocery needs vary little from one week to the next, you can create basic lists for repeated use and add items as needed in future.
If you enjoy shopping, you’ll find Shopkick a lot of fun to use. Though pretty much just another cashback app, its interface is very slick and may encourage you to spend a few minutes each day scrolling through the hottest offers. In other words, if you have a problem with impulse spending, this is one money-saving app that may end up doing exactly the opposite.
Aside from making purchases, you can also earn points (“kicks”) by completing tasks that don’t cost you a cent, such as visiting certain stores or taking a picture of the barcode on specified products. If you already visit stores like Walmart, CVS, and Target regularly and make a small effort to actually use the app, you should easily be able to earn $10 or so per month with Shopkick, which can be redeemed in the form of gift cards.
Ibotta is a rewards app with a social media side: some of the ways to earn cash through it is to like companies’ posts on Facebook, watch videos about products you’re about to buy, and take surveys. Aside from that, of course, they will also reward you for seeking out special offers at their partner retailers, both in-store and (more recently) when you shop online – like Rakuten, you only need to download a browser extension for when you’re searching for bargains on your computer. Ibotta works very well with a number of existing loyalty programs; simply link these to the app itself. This makes it a breeze to use if you’re already a regular shopper at places like Staples, Walmart, and Best Buy.
Aside from using store loyalty programs and just shopping as you normally would, you will have to browse around for special offers and take a picture of your receipt to claim additional rewards. Fortunately, you don’t have to fiddle around with gift cards to redeem these. Ibotta pays you in cash via either Paypal or Venmo, so you’re free to spend it on whatever you want.
Like Ibotta, Swagbucks is an app that saves you money on shopping, but also offers numerous other avenues to earn rewards. Activities you can get paid for include completing polls, watching videos, simply browsing the internet, and even playing games.
You shouldn’t expect to become rich by taking online surveys, but Swagbucks is also competitive just as a shopping tool. Ordering online from retailers like Amazon and Target nets you about 1% in cashback, which you can claim either through Paypal or as gift cards for a wide variety of products. The downside, of course, is that a large part of Swagbucks’ business model involves gathering information on their users’ preferences and browsing habits. If this makes you uncomfortable, this may not be the best app to save you money.
Groupon allows consumers to combine their buying power in order to get better deals. When they started back in 2008, the idea was that they’d advertise special offers on their site which would only become valid if a certain number of people signed up. This no longer applies: Groupon is now very similar to other couponing websites, but remains one of the go-to places to look for discounts on anything from a manicure to a new set of tires.
One of the reasons they can show you special offers on such a wide range of goods and services is that they don’t vet their partner companies as carefully as most cashback apps. This means that Groupon doesn’t offer you any guarantees themselves, so you may end up paying for something that’s essentially worthless to you due to restrictions on its use – read the fine print of any offer that interests you.
Discounts of 30% or more are common, you can often find independent businesses in their “Local Deals” section, and if you pay the $5/month fee for the “Groupon Select” package, you’ll get access to an even wider array of potential savings.
Swiping a credit card is easy, but keeping track of your spending and making sure that you use it in the most efficient way requires a little work. CardPointers can automate a lot of this for you and save you a pretty decent sum of money in the long run.
If you have multiple credit cards, you can maximize the rewards you receive on each transaction simply by consulting this app. Time-limited promotions and minimum spending requirements are all taken into account, and you won’t have to waste time figuring out which rewards points are worth more in dollar-and-cent terms while you’re fumbling with your wallet at the cash register. It will even recommend new credit cards based on the rewards you can earn with them, which is pretty impressive for a totally free app.
Honey aims to provide a true one-stop solution for all your online couponing requirements. Available as a browser extension for Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Internet Explorer, it will automatically search for any available promo codes when you’re about to buy something online.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll save money on any specific purchase using this app, and in fact you may do better yourself if you’re willing to trawl websites like RetailMeNot. The fact that this app is completely free and totally painless to use counts heavily in its favor, though, as does its automatic notifications when an item you specify is on sale as well as a couple of tools to make shopping on Amazon easier. You can redeem your rewards in the form of gift cards.
Apps that Save You Money Through Better Budgeting
Have you ever looked at a stack of bills at the end of the month and found yourself wondering where your paycheck has run off to? You’re certainly not alone: this is a clear sign that you’re not sticking to your budget – assuming that you even have one. The following apps can help you plan ahead and keep track of your spending, though they are not by themselves capable of providing you with the willpower needed to resist the temptation of overspending.
Having several different accounts for various purposes can help you keep your financial house in order, but it also makes keeping track of multiple bills, each with its own due date, more difficult than it needs to be. You certainly don’t want to pay additional late and penalty fees because one account had less in it than you thought.
Mint neatly solves this problem: it interfaces with all your accounts, allows you to set budgeting goals, and earmarks some of your income for retirement and general savings. More impressively, it automatically categorizes several common expenses and helps you draw up a budget based on your existing spending habits. In addition, it can give you a very clear, easy-to-understand view of your cash flow and general financial health, as well as showing you how your decisions about money impact your credit score.
Let’s say you have $1,250 in your checking account on the first of the month, which is plenty to cover your $800 rent due on the 5th, though utility bills totaling $300 will be paid by direct debit around the 7th, so you can’t really spend too much until your paycheck clears on the 15th, but your cable bill is due the 11th, and how much is your cellphone bill again? What if someone cashes one of your checks before then? BillTracker will free you from having to do this kind of mental arithmetic.
With a simple chronological or calendar view, you can ensure that you’ll never have to pay an overdraft fee again. While not as full-featured as some other budgeting apps, BillTracker can be a lifesaver if you regularly have problems managing your cashflow. Sadly, this app is only available for iPhones and costs $2.99 if you want to add recurring payments rather than inputting them anew every month.
If it seems like your bank account needs a little financial CPR, you can do far worse than downloading Clarity Money. Free to use, this app will get to work right away by trying to identify recurring payments you no longer need to make – plenty of us are still paying for internet service or a gym membership we just forgot to cancel. In addition, it will also check if you’re eligible for a lower rate on certain bills and notify you of potential savings.
Owned by Goldman Sachs, the app will also steer you towards financial products like credit cards that are aligned with your spending patterns, lifestyle, and credit history. It will also track your expenditure and serve as a budgeting tool, though many people will prefer a different, more customizable app for this purpose.
YNAB (You Need a Budget)
YNAB can turn even the most financially clueless person into a responsible spender by walking them through the entire process of creating a personal budget without making things too confusing. If you’re used to more or less cruising from paycheck to paycheck without a care in the world, this may require a little adjustment. Don’t reject the idea out of hand, though: this app can help you develop those habits that eventually lead to true financial independence. Unlike most apps, which kind of assume that you can instinctively understand the big picture by looking at a couple of graphs and tables, YNAB takes a day-by-day, dollar-by-dollar approach.
The bad news is that this product isn’t free: intended as an extension of the PC software package which runs to about fifty dollars, the YNAB app costs $12 per month to use after the 34-day free trial expires. The flipside to this is that you may end up saving a great deal more than that by making more responsible choices – if you’ve never planned your spending more than a week in advance, YNAB may be just the app you need to start saving some money.
The free PocketGuard app is a good option for people with a limited income and a tendency to overspend on items like clothing, entertainment, and luxuries. Once you provide it with a summary of your bills, salary, and – most importantly – your financial goals, it will draw up a budget for you automatically, which you can tweak if necessary.
Once this is done, you can tap on “In My Pocket” to see exactly how much you have available for optional expenses. PocketGuard can link to multiple bank accounts and will also suggest financial products suitable for someone in your situation, such as a savings account with a better interest rate. Though the interface is pretty clear and easy to use, PocketGuard is somewhat limited in what it can do compared to other budgeting apps. This isn’t really a drawback unless you have some special requirements, though: the ability to see everything you need to know about your financial situation in one place is sometimes all that’s important.
It’s no secret that trying to coordinate financial goals and spending habits between two people is a major source of friction in many relationships. Honeyfi offers a partial solution: when both partners can collaborate on and work from the same household budget, the potential for misunderstandings is minimized.
Each person can link multiple bank accounts to their Honeyfi profile, some of which are shared and others kept private. You can add comments to individual transactions as they appear in the app (“Please baby don’t be mad…”) to make communication easier, set joint and individual savings goals, track expenditure, and schedule one-time or recurring bills to make sure you don’t run out of money unexpectedly.
Apps that Save You Money on Investments
This may go against what you’ve been told your entire life, but the fact is that earning a lot of money doesn’t make people rich. If you spend it as quickly as you get it, you’re not moving forward at all. The real secret to wealth is to save as much as you can, then put those savings to work as investments: money that grows without you having to do anything else. One problem many small investors face is that their gains are almost wiped out by the fees they have to pay to invest their money. This doesn’t have to be you, though: the following apps make it easy to buy a number of interest-bearing financial products, provide guidance even a complete investing novice can follow, and charge low or zero rates for their services.
Chime is actually a savings account pretending to be an app; it’s worth mentioning that this particular bank is FDIC insured (so you won’t lose your deposits even if the company goes bust) and charges zero overdraft, transfer, and maintenance fees.
Assuming that you’re approved, which is basically certain as long as you can provide documentation like proof of address, you’ll receive a debit card you can use free of charge at nearly 40,000 ATMs located all over the country. You can also apply for a basic yet very competitive credit card.
What’s more interesting, though, is that the Chime app is geared towards people who want to start putting some money away. Depending on how you set it up, you can choose to save 10% of your paycheck as soon as you get it. Alternatively or in addition, you can have Chime round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar and set aside the difference. This money draws only 1% interest, but if you currently have no savings whatsoever to keep you dry on a rainy day, this kind of automated savings plan can set you on the right path.
Like Chime, the Qapital app includes a debit card and savings account that generates a small sum of interest, though you’ll need an existing bank account to use it. Again like Chime and several similar apps, it can automatically round up your purchases and stash away the remainder separately from your checking account. You can also set up other kinds of saving rules, such as depositing a lump sum every week or month, or set up savings triggered by certain transactions. If, for instance, you’re trying to cut down on the amount of takeout food you order, you can tell the app to save $5 every time you call for a pizza.
This is more than a basic money-saving app, though. To start with, you can define multiple financial goals for the short term (e.g. a vacation), medium term (e.g. a down payment on a house), and long term (retirement). What’s more, you can automatically invest part or all of your savings in a mixture of stocks and bonds tailored to your appetite for risk and potential growth.
This app includes some budgeting functionality as well. This may seem on the basic side, but is in fact designed to encourage users to develop better spending habits over time. This full-featured app is not, unfortunately, free to use. After the initial trial, you’ll have to fork over between $3 and $12 per month. The “Complete” package at $6/month seems to be a good happy medium for people who’ve realized that they need to get serious about investing for their future.
If you’ve heard of EFTs (Exchange Traded Funds) and want to take advantage of the impressive returns they offer, but don’t really know where to start, Acorns may be for you. Like most automatic savings apps, the principle is that you save a few cents every time you make a purchase and/or select a portion of each paycheck to go into your Acorns account. You also receive cashback when shopping at certain companies, including Airbnb, Chevron, Macy’s, and Blue Apron.
This money is invested in a basket of securities instead of an FDIC-insured bank account. You don’t have to know anything about investing to participate, though: simply indicate how much risk you’re willing to tolerate and you’re good to go. If you only have a small amount to invest, you may want to think twice about using this platform, as packages cost between $1 and $5 a month. Self-employed people may well find the $3/month “Personal” option to be a good deal, though, as this allows you to build a managed IRA without having a formal employer.
More sophisticated investors who’d like to save money by keeping fees to a minimum should really look into the M1 Finance app. This provides you with many of the services you’d expect from a real broker, including the ability to buy fractional shares, custom portfolio design, and automatic deposits – but without paying any commission on trades nor administration fees. When you sign up, you will also receive a dedicated checking account with a linked debit card.
M1 Finance is, in fact, a legitimate brokerage firm and a member of both SIPC and FINRA – they simply conduct the majority of their business through their robo-advisor app. The company makes most of its money by offering competitive interest rates on loans and lines of credit. Customers with at least $10,000 invested can currently borrow money at a base APR of 3.5%.
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It’s not difficult to think of ways in which you can save money. You could, for instance, eat nothing but rice and turnips, access the internet only at the library, or live in an RV rather than an apartment. It’s not, however, usually necessary or a good idea to do anything quite that drastic.
It’s far better for both your future prospects and your sanity to incorporate savings into the lifestyle you already lead. Most of the apps listed above allow you to do exactly that: spending less without feeling like you’re destitute. In time, you’ll find that the small changes you do have to make end up having substantial effects, giving you access to new opportunities and making financial setbacks hurt a lot less.
Obviously, no article can list all the useful money-saving apps out there (though we did try our best to give you an overview of all the leading contenders). If you use an app to save money that hasn’t been covered in this article, why not take two minutes to tell our other readers about it in the comments? Somebody, somewhere, can surely use that information.