-- Making savvy financial moves is easier than ever before, thanks to the smartphones most of us carry around in our purses and pockets these days. The only hard part is choosing between the hundreds of personal finance apps available to us. So here’s my roundup of great money-saving apps to help you relax more — and spend less — this summer.
Mint Money Manager: Best as a dashboard for tracking your money This free app is an oldie but also a winner. First, you link all of your financial accounts to the Mint app. Then it shows you, in easily understandable graphics, where your money is going, from groceries to gas. If you see that one category is a weak spot for you, you can pull back. For me, that would most certainly be clothing and shoes! Fully embrace this tool and you can also set up fee alerts, bill reminders and warnings to let you know when you are going over budget.
Ballpark Estimate: Best for figuring out retirement savings needs It’s hard to believe that an app can help untangle the mysteries of retirement, but people give this one high marks. The app leads you through a series of questions about your existing savings and work history, then crunches the numbers for you about how much your investments can be expected to grow, anticipated social security income and so on. Soon you’ve got a suggestion for how much you need to save for retirement each month.
P2K Money: Best for teaching kids about money and saving Here’s where you can give your technology-hungry kids an important money lesson. This app lets them track their earnings, from their allowance or odd jobs. They can also watch their savings grow and even make a “wish list,” complete with pictures of items they hope to buy. The idea is twofold, I think: to show them how nice it is to be rewarded financially for working hard (parents can choose to dole out extra money if their kids do extra chores) and to show kids how skipping frivolous purchases helps the pot of money grow faster so they can afford the bigger, better items on their wish lists.
Price Grabber: Best for looking for lower prices while out shopping Price Grabber has been around for a while and still has longevity. If you’re in a store, you can scan the barcode on a product you’re interested in to check prices elsewhere. You can also search by product name, UPC code, part number, etc. This tool even takes into account shipping and sales tax if you enter your zip code.
Coupons.com: Best for grocery coupons There are lots and lots of coupon apps. I receive PR pitches from their people daily. But I suggest that newbies start here simply because of the sheer volume of coupons available through this workhorse site. This app is easy to use when you’re out and about. My preference is to add deals found here to my store loyalty card, but there are also often printable options. And while this app is best known for grocery, household and personal care coupons, it also has other types of digital offers like for clothing chains and pet stores.
RetailMeNot: Best for retail promo codes You may have used RetailMeNot’s website to search for promo codes when you’re shopping online, and you can use the mobile app the same way. If you find a promo code, just show it to the cashier on your phone when you check out. But the app also does other things. For example, you can bookmark the stores where you shop the most and then quickly glance at a list of available offers while you’re browsing the aisles.
Elisabeth Leamy is a 25-year consumer advocate for programs such as "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show." She is the author of Save BIG and The Savvy Consumer. Elisabeth is also a professional speaker, delivering talks nationwide on saving money, media relations, and career success. Elisabeth receives her best story tips from readers, so please connect with her via Twitter or her website, to share your ideas.
Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.