Tap into these smart apps

Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 00:00

HOW TO SAVE WITH... APPS: FUEL FOR LESS:When Pricewatch asked Twitter users for their favourite money-saving app earlier this month, the pumps.ieapp was the most popular by an enormous margin. It uses GPS to work out where you are at any given moment and then gives you gives real-time information on the price of petrol and diesel at garages in that area. With fuel prices soaring and the differential between neighbouring garages sometimes being in excess of 10 cent a litre – or €6 a fill-up – the savings made by shopping smarter can really add up.


Some mobile phone network providers (we’re looking at you, Three) charge their customers to listen to their voicemail, but it is not a charge that has to be paid if you download a natty little app called Hullomail. It is a very simple idea but one which works. It uses your bundled minutes to capture all your voice mails at no cost to you and then simply emails them to you as an mp3 file. Admittedly, it is a lot more hassle than actually listening to your voice mails on the hoof and won’t save you a whole lot of money – unless you listen to your voice messages obsessively – but it will save some people something.


The Anytime Health Expenses app is not, in truth, the sexiest app on the market – there are few tax-related apps that are, let’s face it – but it is still very handy if you are trying to ensure your tax affairs are in order and you get back what is due to you. All tax experts say that more people forget to claim their entitlements when it comes to health expenses than any other area. The taxman’s app is nice and simple and allows you record all medical, dental and nursing home expenses in a “diary-like manner”. You can also claim tax refunds due via the app, which, we think, is quite remarkable.


Ulster Bank customers have an app they can use to keep their account in order. They can set up text alerts to warn themselves if they are close to becoming overdrawn. Balances can also be checked through it, money can be transferred from account to account, and mini-statements can be accessed. It also says where the closest ATM to you is. AIB also has app that has many similar features and based on the reviews of both, on iTunes, it is the more popular and user-friendly. Now, where is the Bank of Ireland app, we wonder?


Free wifi does exactly what it say on the tin. It uses GPS to locate and display various wi-fi hotspts near where you are. It has more than 10,000 locations all over the world contained in its database. We found 27 free wifi hotspots within half a kilometre of The Irish Timesbuilding in less than 30 seconds. While it might be handy at home, it is even more useful abroad and can help you avoid some of the horrendous data charges that operators impose if you have the temerity to look at your Twitter stream while floating down Amsterdam’s canals.


Once you’ve found your wifi hotspot you can use this Viber app to make all the calls you want to fellow Viber users at absolutely no cost at all. This app and others – including the better-known Skype – allow smartphone users to bypass the mobile phone providers which have been gouging consumers for years and make calls and send text messages at either no cost or a fraction of the prices such services normally cost.


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 Awesome Shopping, a terribly 21st century tool which compiles and then saves grocery lists incredibly quickly. It can also order a list by the aisle in which the items are likely to appear – which might stop you running round you local supermarket like an eejit every weekend. You can even keep different shopping lists for each store you visit. It does have shortcomings – we couldn’t find any way to get black pudding on to our list – but it does work.


And while you’re shopping, you should be shopping around for the best value with the help of a barcode scanners such as Red Laser. There are an array of these on the market and they allow you to read barcodes on a massive range of products and promises to show you where else the item is for sale and how much it costs there, giving you the chance to find the best bargains with virtually no effort.


Forget 1850 is a rather brilliant app that will save you money. Companies big and small give out 1850 and other such numbers which are low cost when dialled from landlines. These numbers are anything but low cost when called from a mobile, and in fact can be as high as 35 cent a minute. Also, unlike landline numbers, which are routinely included in the bundled “free” minutes offered by the mobile phone and landline operators, calls to 1890, 1850 and 0818 numbers are excluded from such deals. This directory points people in the direction of alternatives to such numbers and can lead to big savings.


While smart phones are remarkable, they are not without problems. One of the biggest is the ease with which you can download vast amounts of data – particularly if you are using audio or video streaming services – and go about the amount of data you are allocated by your provider. Once you’ve exceeded your allowance the charges can mount up ridiculously quickly. Onavo stops that happening by keeping track of how much data you download in real time – so you know if and when you approaching your limit.