Which Are the Actually Useful Apps?

By Julie Ann

A few nights ago I sat in a restaurant with a group of friends. After we ate, we spent some time updating our Facebook statuses, showing off a cool new photo app, playing Words with Friends and sharing photos of cute dogs. Much like my friends and me, it seems that anyone who has one is attached to their smartphone and all the cool things these electronic marvels can do. They have become integrated into nearly every minute of our daily lives.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with our affection to these phones; in fact, they can actually come in quite handy.  They can make our lives easier in a variety of ways, including saving us tons of money if we can find the right apps to assist.

Coupon Apps

You can save yourself the hassle and potential paper cuts of clipping coupons by downloading coupon apps. Typically these apps will either pinpoint your location and show you available coupons within your close proximity or allow you to search a database of retailers and/or products. Sometimes you may have to print the coupon on paper, but others will allow you to download the coupon to a loyalty card. Some of these apps will even track how much you have saved by using coupons.

Price Comparison Apps

Some of the most-used apps on my personal phone are price comparison apps.  Usually these apps will allow you to scan a product’s bar code (or search by product name) and it will give you the price for the same item at other stores in the area or online. When purchasing higher dollar items, such as electronics, this can be especially helpful. No more running from store to store, wasting precious gasoline, to find the best price on an item!

Speaking of precious gasoline, my other favorite price comparison app, GasBuddy, allows me to search for gas stations within the proximity of my location for the cheapest price. This is especially helpful when I’m in an unfamiliar location and am unsure of the stations with the best prices.

Budget Tracking and Bill Reminders

Budget tracking apps vary greatly as far as specific features, but in general they allow you to set a budget per category and then track your expenditures. Specific features can include photo tracking, the ability to add notes, the ability to roll over excess funds into the next month, and online backup or exporting into a PDF or spreadsheet.  You might even find this helpful when tax time rolls around. If you don’t track your budget, this might be a good option to use to get started.

If you find yourself incurring late fees for tardy bills, then you should consider downloading a bill pay reminder app. You can opt for a general reminder app (and use it for meetings, birthdays, appointments, etc., as well) or you can download an app specific to bill paying. There are even a few apps that combine budget tracking and bill reminders.

Entertainment, Fitness, Fun

Can’t afford that personal trainer or gym membership? There are plenty of apps that will motivate you to do 100 push-ups, log the miles and times for your latest run, or track your daily caloric intake.

Do you like to read? Download a free e-reader app (such as Amazon’s Kindle app) and then download free book titles or check out e-books from your local library.

Planning a trip or are already on the road?  There are apps that search out the lowest airfare, help you learn the basics of a foreign language, find free Wi-Fi access, recommend local cuisine based on price, or in a foreign country convert your currency.

And of course, there is always Angry Birds for all your entertainment needs.

Most of these apps are free but some may cost you a couple of bucks. If they are free, download and give them a trial run. If you have to shell out some cash for the app, be sure to read reviews from other users and remember that even though you are paying for the app, it may save you money in the long run.

If you are unsure where to begin, browse your phone’s app store or run an Internet search for the “top free” apps for your desired category.

This said, don’t let your phone become your best friend. Keep it in perspective – it’s a tool (or a toy)! And at some point, we all need to turn off those phones and just enjoy dinner with our friends.

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