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Save the smart(phone) way with mobile apps

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Couponing, budgeting, comparison shopping: These methods for saving money used to take time and meticulous organization, leading the lazy among us to avoid them.

Not anymore. With more than 50 percent of American consumers owning smartphones, couponing has become as easy as checking your e-mail. No need to remember where you stashed your coupons. Smartphones can comparison shop for us, or they can automatically deposit funds into a saving account.

But even for the tech-savvy consumer who knows about many of these apps for coupon clipping and price comparisons, it’s hard to know which ones are worth downloading. Deal Hunter comes to the rescue: These free apps have been proven valuable and have withstood the test of time, receiving praise from shoppers and gaining users each month.

Not all apps are created equal, and no app meets everyone’s needs. But one or two of these might improve your shopping experience and save you time and money.

After all, they don’t call them smartphones for nothing.

Coupons

SavingStar

SavingStar is an eCoupon service that lets you virtually clip coupons. You don’t need to print them or take them to the store. When you sign up for an account, you link it to your drugstore and grocery loyalty cards. When you buy an item for which you have an ­
e-coupon, the savings are automatically deposited into your SavingStar account. Once you’ve racked up $5 in savings, that amount can be deposited to a PayPal or bank account or put on an Amazon.com gift card.

It takes from two to 30 days for savings to accumulate, depending on where you shop. And, of course, you miss out on the instant gratification of the e-coupon savings coming off your bill. But the app also makes it easy to search for coupons and use them digitally, without having to remember which coupons you have. The card remembers for you.

Cost: FREE

Available for: Android, iPhone and online (savingstar.com)

 

Coupon Sherpa

The popular online coupon Web site has made it even easier to find coupons. The Coupon Sherpa app enables smartphone users to search for deals and use them in a store immediately, without printing anything. Just show your phone at checkout. Search for coupons for groceries, clothing, food and restaurants. The app also lets you make a list of your favorite things to purchase, so you can routinely check up on sales.

Cost: FREE

Available for: Android and iPhone

(couponsherpa.com)

Comparison shopping

GasBuddy

This app is for those of us who drive around obsessively looking for the cheapest gas in town. Gone are the days of wondering where you can save a few pennies. GasBuddy is a free app with real-time updates of gas prices collected by other users. Search by city or Zip code, and then sort the findings by distance, price and type of gas. If you’re in an unfamiliar city, the map feature comes in handy by telling you exactly how far you are from the gas station you’re looking for.

Cost: FREE

Available for: Android, iPhone and online

(gasbuddy.com)

 

ShopSavvy and RedLaser

Wondering whether you’re getting ripped off or if you can find a better deal on that product? ShopSavvy lets you use your smartphone’s camera to take a photo of the barcode and comparison shop with stores nearby or online. RedLaser is a similar app developed by eBay that also allows users to scan a product and find the best price nearby or on the Web. Is an item cheapest online? Both apps let you buy the product immediately through your PayPal account.

Cost: FREE

Available for: Android and iPhone

(shopsavvy.com and redlaser.com)

Time and money savers

Grocery iQ

The best way to save money in a grocery store is to keep to a list. Now that edited list is available on your phone. Often considered the definitive shopping list app, Grocery iQ helps you build lists — you can scan bar codes or add items manually. You can also arrange your grocery list by aisle and product location to help save time in a store. And because the app is built by Coupons.com, it will link coupons to the items on your list — brand or off brand — letting you save time and money. Furthermore, it calculates costs, so you won’t be surprised by your total when you’re checking out. The best part for families? It’s a social app that ensures your list is available to family members who have the app, too.

Cost: FREE

Available for: Android and iPhone

(groceryiq.com)

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ImpulseSave

This app aims to make saving social. ImpulseSave is a digital savings account linked to your smartphone. Link the service to your checking account, and it allows you to move money for that special trip, college fund or new car either on a scheduled or “impulse” basis. You know about one-click buying; this is one-click savings. It’s also social, so for a group of friends planning a vacation, it’s like a savings support group. The app reminds you to save, the same way shopping apps might encourage you to spend.

Cost: FREE

Available For: iPhone

(impulsesave.com)

TTHE BOTTOM LINE Smartphones can help you save money whether you’re looking for a best price, racking up coupons or trying to put a little extra into a savings account each month. But they won’t do it for you, and not all apps help everyone. Download the apps, learn how they work and figure out which ones fit your lifestyle.

© The Washington Post Company