Good calls: 10 smart ways to save using your phone
If you have a smartphone, you can text for free, find the cheapest hotel room near you, plan your menu or start a free music library
Smartphone apps can help you save money. Image: Thinkstock
Why would anyone with a smartphone bother paying to send text messages when they can communicate in real time with fellow WhatsApp users for nothing. This app comes into its own when you are overseas – as long as you have free wifi. If you’re not in a wifi zone it will eat into your data allowance pretty quickly. Viber is an older app that does something similar – and allows you to make calls – but it can be flaky. After a year of using WhatsApp you might be prompted to pay a small amount to upgrade the service, but it is not obligatory.
This eBay-owned app allows you to scan barcodes whenever you are out shopping, and compares the price shown to alternate sources both offline and online. It also has links to reviews and product ratings. While it is of marginal value if you are trying to find the cheapest milk in your neighbourhood, it comes into its own when it comes to more expensive items. Another problem is geography: it is US-centric and struggles to generate relevant price comparisons for an Irish market.
Hotel booking apps are 10-a-penny nowadays, but this one stands out, because it doesn’t just compare the cost of hotel rooms, it compares the room rates being offered by the largest hotel booking websites – such as booking.com, hotels.com and lastminute.com – and points you towards the cheapest site. It can also use GPS to find you an available bed close to where you are, and the cheapest place to book it. Be warned, though: it is not always accurate and while it is useful, it should not be the only place you check. We searched for hotel rooms in Dublin for tonight and were offered rooms ranging from €59 – in the Maldron Hotel in Smithfield – to a fairly eye-watering €530 for a room in the Shelbourne. We then checked the Shelbourne website and found a room going for €319.
This is a brilliant app. If you do nothing else today, download it. It relies on GPS technology to find the deals and discounts near you right now. After you have trawled all the offers, you choose the one you want and it is downloaded straight to your phone. Last week, dozens of restaurants and bars around Dublin were offering discounts of about 20 per cent on meals, while several hotels and B&Bs were offering similar discounts, and Lillies Bordello was offering users free admission before midnight. It won’t have something for everyone all the time but it is worth having on your phone – and is a whole lot handier than clipping coupons from the newspaper.
Keeping a close eye on your finances might sound a little dull, but it is hard to control your spending unless you know what you’re spending. There are all manner of expense- and budget-tracking tools available for smartphones, but this is flavour of the month. It works particularly well if you are travelling, as it can operate in any currency. It has bill reminders and allows you to set up repeat expenses. It also synchronises across multiple devices.
Unless you have been living in a cave with particularly poor phone coverage in recent times you will have heard of Hailo. You might not have downloaded it yet, however. If you take cabs in Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway, then do it. It will save you money. It will find you a cab in just two taps, and, unlike taxi company dispatchers, will never mislead you as to where your cab is. You can pay with a credit card or by cash, there is no call-out charge, and the cab will not start its meter until five minutes after it has arrived to collect you. It also mails you receipts as soon as you get out of the cab. This is a mixed blessing, as it allows you to keep track of exactly how much you spend on taxis, which can be sobering.
7 Spotify Free
Not to be confused with Spotify Premium, this app allows you limited – but still pretty substantial – libraries of music. You can only listen to the playlists on shuffle mode, but as free streaming services go it is not at all bad.
8 Reep Rewards
Pricewatch is fond of free money and that is pretty much what this app promises. It processes and stores receipts for 18 different shops in Ireland, including Tesco, Dunnes, Supervalu and Spar. First you register, and then go shopping as normal. When you are done, you take a picture of your shopping receipt and virtual cash-back appears in the app, which you can redeem against rewards in the app or on the company’s website. The cash-back you get is on top of any loyalty-card points you might get. Now, before you start thinking this app will make you millions, the amount of cash you are likely to get with each picture is fairly small, but as that large retailer says: every little helps. The people behind the app say they have given users more than €10,000 “in hard cash since we launched in October”, which is not to be sniffed at.
More than two-thirds of Irish adults have signed up to at least one online deals site, and many have registered with several. While such deals can offer real savings, the early- morning trawls through multiple emails offering free STI tests and tattoo removals alongside cheap boiler services and bootcamps can be tiresome, which makes it too easy to miss deals you might be interested in. This app takes much of the hassle out of the trawl by lumping all of the deals from all the sites into a single posting. The presentation makes quick scanning easy, and one click takes you to the site offering the deals you want.
10 Menu Planning and Grocery List
The key to saving money while shopping is to make a list, but if finding a pen and writing stuff down is too much for you, there is an app for that. This app not only allows you to make lists, it allows you to plan menus, comes with all manner of meal ideas and populates your shopping list with the things you will need to make the meals it has suggested to you.