Simple tools to help you cut costs and live better:When money is tight, an expensive 2 or 3-year contract with your cell-phone provider can make you feel like you’re towing an anchor—but with the right apps, your smartphone can become an asset to help you save in other areas of your life. Here are a few of the best apps we’ve found to painlessly and effectively reduce your family’s expenses. Apps to Save on Gas GasBuddy (Android, iOS) This app provides a birds-eye view of the gas stations in your area, so you can instantly select the cheapest provider on your route. If you drive a family-size vehicle, those extra ten or fifteen cents per gallon can really make a difference. (Cost: free) greenMeter (iOS) If you drive aggressively, no car is going to get its optimum fuel economy. greenMeter uses your cell phone’s accelerometer to identify how much fuel your car is using based on your speed, acceleration, and environmental factors. It’s a great way to develop safer driving habits and save trips to the gas station. Unfortunately, this is the only app on our list that isn’t free, and it’s not cheap either. It’s a cool app, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if it’s worth the investment. (Cost: $5.99) Mileage (Android)
This app tracks all your gas receipts to show your car’s fuel economy over time, which can be a great way to discipline your driving and maintenance habits, as well as indicating car trouble so you can fix it before it becomes a costly overhaul. It’s nice to get a clear, visual indication of how your car’s performance improves with clean filters, regular oil changes, and properly-filled tires. (Cost: free) Apps to Save on Groceries RedLaser (Android, iOS) With this app, you can scan any product’s barcode and search for better deals on that item online or at nearby stores. If you’re out for a long errand run, this app can save you a great deal of time and money. You can also use it to check a book’s availability at your local library, which will save you a lot of money if you’re a voracious reader. (Cost: free) Supermarket (iOS) To save money, I always check the by-the-ounce prices at the supermarket, but sometimes the tags are missing or misleading, so I find myself trying to do the math in my head to find the best deal. Supermarket does the heavy lifting for you, simply by scanning the items’ barcodes. Especially f you have a large family, just knowing when to buy in bulk can cut a huge slice out of your monthly grocery bill. (Cost: free)
Other Big Money-savers Onavo (Android, iOS) If your data plan itself is a big drag on your finances, Onavo is a wonderfully innovative solution. Instead of the inefficient data streaming that your phone normally uses, Onavo routes all your phone’s data through their servers and compresses it, reducing your phone’s data usage dramatically. Our family uses mobile broadband from T-Mobile, and we cut our data plan usage by 40%, which is a nice chunk of change every month. All these other money-saving apps won’t do you much good if they’re causing overage fees on your data plan, so Onavo is definitely worth a look. (Cost: free) Groupon (Android, iOS) Groupon allows your family to enjoy outings that otherwise might get cut from your budget. They offer deals on restaurants, museums, theaters, and outdoor activities, routinely discounted at 30-60% off. You do have to pay for the deals you select in advance, but otherwise the app and service are free. It doesn’t hurt to have the app available, and check every couple days for activities your family would enjoy. (Cost: free) Julia
Peterson is a writer for AndGeeks.com, a popular website that provides up-to-date news, detailed commentary, and unbiased reviews on cell phones and related topics. Julia resides in Galveston, Texas in a cozy little house in the country with her husband, young son, and their Labrador retriever, Darby.