The days of clipping coupons and handwriting budgets are over. Or they should be, if you own a smartphone. Each year, more and more smartphone users are taking advantage of the new and exciting apps designed to help us manage our finances and save money while shopping. Although there are thousands of apps out there, the following five are some of the best you’ll find, where personal financial matters are concerned (all are available on both Apple and Android platforms, too!).
Mint is must-have for anyone interested in organizing their finances. This customizable app helps you keep track of bank and investment accounts and your cash flow, as well as monitoring your spending and saving habits with its in-depth budget-tracking feature. You won’t forget about upcoming payments with Mint’s alert system, and the security on this app is top-notch (enter a pin; if you lose the device, simply deactivate mobile access on Mint’s website). There’s a reason Mint has won so many accolades and over 13 million people use it: it’s one of the best apps out there for keeping track of your financial matters.
For casual shoppers and shopaholics alike, finding coupons on sites like Sumo Coupon is great for online shopping. If you’re looking for something more on-the-go, Coupon Sherpa is a highly-rated app that gives you access to in-store discounts without the added hassle of printing or clipping coupons yourself. Using its GPS feature, you can locate stores in your area and see what kind of coupons each one offers. When it comes to checking out, just show the cashier the bar or numeric code straight from your smartphone and the discount will be applied. The two things I like most about the app is that it has a very simple, easy to use design and there’s a ‘favorites’ option that is constantly finding new coupons for stores I shop at the most.
Why spend hours comparing prices before going on a shopping spree when you can simply have an app compare prices for you? Enter RedLaser, an app that scans the barcode of an item and lets you know if a nearby or online store offers it at a lower price. You can also find accessories and more affordable alternatives to the item you’re considering purchasing. RedLaser also includes basic information about the stores in your area, such as hours and deals they’re currently offering. Although the scanning feature takes some getting used to (there are alternative search features available), RedLaser is definitely a useful app for bargain hunters!
With gas prices constantly rising and falling (mostly rising), it’d be great to have an app that locates the cheapest gas station near you, right? That’s what Gas Buddy is for. You can allow the app to find your location and present a list of gas stations (with prices and distance away), or you can search by city, state or Zip code. If you’d rather see the gas stations on a map, that feature is also available. Of course, you shouldn’t have to go out of your way just to save a few cents per gallon on gas, but Gas Buddy is a great way to lessen the impact of gas price fluctuations on your wallet.
For those who want to make a big purchase in the near future but have trouble sticking to a savings plan, Smarty Pig is a fun, useful app that can help you reach your goals. It’s similar to Mint, but more focused on saving for different items (e.g., winter vacation, new television, etc.). The interface is quirky (cartoon pigs, of course) and simple, showing you what you’re saving for, how much you’ve saved, and where the money is coming from (in what frequency; you can set up monthly withdrawals to ensure consistent saving habits). Although you have to create an account to really get the full use of this app, Smarty Pig is a great resource for anyone who needs a little extra motivation with their savings goals.
Longevity has long been a goal for many. The thought of living a long, full life is attractive to many people. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a lot of money on special foods or on specific youth serums. You can engage in frugal activities that will lengthen your life.
Not only that, but the following 4 actions will improve the quality of your life as well as its length:
1. Alter the Way You Commute
Change the way you commute to work. Talking public transit usually means that you walk more as you get to and from the necessary stops. If you bike, you’ll get good exercise each morning and evening. Plus, taking public transit can provide you with a way to avoid car accidents. Injuries sustained during accidents can cause permanent disability or even death, and individual car accidents are more common than public transportation accidents.
Commuting this way costs less than driving your car, so you save money and you improve your health — increasing the chances that you will live longer.
2. Plan Your Meals and Use Fresh Ingredients
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, those who focus more on plant-based eating habits, are 19 per cent less likely to have life threatening diseases than those who have diets low in fiber and high in saturated fat.
Plan your meals to include plenty of fresh vegetables, and include fruits and whole grains. While eating meat occasionally isn’t going to kill you (probably) it makes sense to reduce your meat intake, and stick to lean proteins. Plan ahead and use fresh ingredients, and you’ll avoid some of the ills that come with fatty, sugary processed foods. Plus, you can save money when you plan your menu and choose simple meals with fresh ingredients. We’ve saved a lot since we eat out less due to our meal planning.
3. Get Active Outside
You don’t have to go to the gym to exercise. It’s true that I have gym membership so that I can swim in an indoor pool year round, but I’m also a big fan of exercise through outdoor activities. Biking, hiking, sports, and just taking a walk can be good fun.
Playing outside with your kids provides exercise for everyone, and it can boost your mood. Forging strong emotional connections with family and friends can be helpful to your mental health as well as your physical health. This can prolong your life, and it doesn’t cost very much to just get out and about. You can even put together a basic home gym on the cheap.
4. Find Ways to Reduce Your Stress
Stress and anxiety can lead to costly chronic problems like heart disease and hypertension. These issues can also shorten your life. Your quality of life goes down, and your expenses go up when you have stress-related health problems. You can reduce your stress frugally by engaging in meditation, and by taking time each day to relax and unwind doing something you enjoy (for me, it’s reading).
You don’t have to spend a fortune to improve your life. With a little planning, you can save money and improve your quality of life.
What do you think? How do you frugally lengthen your life?
It’s been an unusually hot summer in my hometown this year. There have already been days above 100 degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, because I’m American), and in my town we rarely crack 95 — and that’s not until late July or early August.
With the heat causing the air conditioner to turn on more than expected, it’s time for me to get serious about keeping it a little cooler around here. Here are some ways to keep your home cooler during the sumer, and maybe even save a little money in the long run.
Service or Replace Your Air Conditioner
My home and my air conditioner are relatively new (and Energy Star compliant), so replacement isn’t a necessity. However, if you want to keep your air conditioner running at peak performance, you need to have it serviced. We service our air conditioner each year to keep it in tip-top shape.
If you have an old air conditioner, consider replacing it. If you can afford the cost, you might be surprised at how much you save each month with a newer, more energy-efficient air conditioner.
Another thing you can do is make sure that your air conditioner is in the shade. We have our conditioner surrounded by plants (placed a reasonable distance away) so that the unit is shaded and doesn’t have to work as hard.
Manage the Thermostat
This is an old trick. You can raise the thermostat when no one is home and you don’t need the house as cool. Programmable thermostats make this even easier. Open the windows at night after the sun goes down to let in the cooler air so that you rely less on the air conditioner. Then, in the morning, shut the windows early so that you don’t let in hot air as the sun comes up. You can keep your home a little cooler, and you won’t have to use as much energy (or money) to do it.
Get Rid of Air Leaks
Air leaks not only let hot air out during the winter, but also lets hot air in (and cold air out) during the summer. Check around your home for air leaks. You can use replace old weatherstripping to close off some of the leaks. You can also increase the amount of insulation you have in order to make your home more efficient overall. This can keep you cooler, and reduce what you spend.
Be Careful about Natural Lighting
Natural lighting can help you save money on your electric bill, but you do need to be careful about how you use it. You can heat up your house if you have your blinds open and you let in direct sunlight. If you want to keep things a little cooler, close the blinds on the side of the house where the sun is coming in. As the sun moves, you can shift the closed blinds. I frequently open the blinds in my home office when the sun is on the other side of the house. When the sun is on this side, I close the blinds and use my CFL lamp for light. It keeps things cooler and saves energy overall.
What are your best tips for keeping cool during the summer?
How much does it typically cost you to order in a couple of pizzas? If you can find a good deal, I’d say that you could find a couple of medium pizzas along with delivery for around $20. Sounds like a pretty good deal right? After all, these pizzas will most likely feed your entire family of four or five, and you might even have some leftovers! Compare that to going out to your local restaurant and you probably saved yourself $60 or more. But, what if you could make your own pizza? Do you think you’d save some money?
Money Savings by Making Your Own Pizza
There are actually a few ways that you could make your own pizza. You could start out completely from scratch (I can’t help you too much on this one – you might want to ask my friend Google), or you could purchase the individual components and put them together to make your own. Mrs. SPF’s folks were in town for a visit this past weekend and she made her famous pizza dough and made 4 pies. They were divine.
Did you know that quite a few grocery stores sell only the crust for pizzas? I also have some friends that buy dough from their local pizza joint, so that’s another option as well. If you can find the crust, you can typically find all of the other ingredients pretty easily (the sauce, cheese, and various toppings) in order to make your own pizza.
So, how much does this typically cost? The crust can be found for about $2. Add another buck for the sauce and then just a couple of dollars for the remainder of the toppings. All together you could make a pretty large and tasty pizza for just $4.00. Compare that to the $10 per pizza from your nearby pizza chain and you just saved yourself $6 on every pizza. Multiply that times 20 or so (I know I have at least 20 pizzas per year) and you’ll be saving yourself $120! Not too shabby.
Be Green by Making Your Own Pizza
Did you know that making your own pizza can be a way to go green as well? Most people wouldn’t initially consider making a pizza as being green, but it’s the truth! Just think about it! How does that pizza get to your front door? It gets delivered of course, and most of the time, it doesn’t get delivered by a very eco-friendly vehicle. If you own a car that’s a little more friendly on mother earth, then it makes much more sense for you to purchase the ingredients for a pizza while you’re already out getting groceries.
And what about the business that creates those pizzas? There is an awful lot of overhead and waste that goes into those operations, especially the ones that offer hot and ready pizzas when you step foot into the door. There are quite a few wasted oven uses and I imagine that there are some pizzas that get thrown away in the process too. If you make your own pizza instead of supporting these non-eco-friendly companies, you are doing your planet a healthy favour.