Are you interested in saving money? Who isn’t, right? So why are so many people still missing out on so many great deals and discounts? Couponing and deal hunting may sound intimidating and time consuming, but the truth is, it’s easy to save money these days. You just have to know how.
Long gone are the days of clipping newspaper ads and driving all over town from store to store. With Internet access and a smartphone, you can save money on almost anything you’re looking for, thanks to new websites, apps and rewards programs. The world of couponing is no longer a scary place, and saving money can take very little to almost no effort at all.
ConsumerReports’ ShopSmart Magazine is a great resource for tips on saving. The most recent issue features a round up of sites and apps that help you save on almost anything. All of the sites suggested by ShopSmart meet ConsumerReports’ requirements for privacy, contact-information disclosure and service.
There are a lot websites out there, old and new, that offer shoppers great rewards. These can be freebies, frequent-flyer miles, points for specific programs, and other offers. But you always need to be on the lookout for gotchas, such as hidden fees, expiration dates or minimum purchase requirements. Here are some reward programs, plus the gotchas, recommended by ShopSmart Magazine:
Groupon Rewards – Accumulate points for shopping at participating stores, then program rewards shoppers with free Groupons to use at those same stores.
Best for: Discounts at local stores
Mani Rewards – Sign up and receive points for playing games, visiting websites, sharing links and viewing videos. It doesn’t tell you where to find points online, but notifies you when you stumble upon them. So if you spend a lot of time online, you can rack up a lot of points by simply signing up for this free service. Rewards range from magazine subsriptions to gifts cards to places such as CVS, Papa John’s and Toys R Us.
Best for: Freebies
SavingStar – SavingStar is a website that’s also available as an app for Apple and Android devices. This program offers digital coupons for more than 24,000 supermarkets and drugstores around the country. The money is added to your SavingStar account, and you can opt for a cash payout, an Amazon gift card, or a donation to American Forests, a charity focused on protecting woodlands.
Best for: Extra coupon savings
ShopAtHome – Free toolbar that helps you earn cash back on every purchase. Once you join the service, it will alert you to coupon codes when you’re buying an item online. Cash-back rates range from 1% to 30% of whatever you spend.
Best for: Cash back
Anytime you’re shopping for something online, these browser apps, or add-ons, will alert you when the item you’re looking at is available on another website at a cheaper price. You have to do absolutely nothing, except sign up for the add-on. And you’ll get the best deals if you sign up for multiple add-ons, since not all apps feature results for all shopping sites. Signing up for more will give you a better chance at saving.
Clipix – If you see items online that you want, but aren’t ready to buy, this add-on will store those in one place for you. All you do is add a price you’d be willing to pay for each item, then Clipix alerts you when the price drops! There are free iPhone and Android apps that will alert you on the go.
Best for: Deals on wish-list items
Drop Down Deals – Window automatically drops down onto your screen to show you coupons and deals for the site you’re on.
Best for: Coupons at your fingertips
Lyst – App from fashion site Lyst.com lets you list clothes and accessories you love, and then when an item on your list goes on sale on any site, the service sends you an alert.
Best for: Getting stuff you love on sale
PriceBlink – App tells you whether the item you’re about to purchase online is cheaper on another site. Also provides coupons.
Best for: Never paying too much
Everlane – Luxury basics for a fraction of the cost. Nothing costs more than $100 and you can invite friends to earn free shipping and more perks.
Best for: Luxe for less
Must-have free apps
These apps can save you tons of money on a variety of apps! All you have to do is download them.
CardStar – Stores all of your loyalty cards safely in one place, in this app. All you have to do is show your phone to the cashier in stores to save. The app recently added a new feature: local deals that pop up when you walk into a store.
Works on: Android, Apple, BlackBerry.
Coupon Sherpa – Hundreds of coupons for dozens of stores. The app recently added grocery coupons for several chains and you can add them on to loyalty cards. The savings them automatically come off your bill.
Works on: Android, Apple.
Gas Buddy – Helps you find the cheapest gas available nearest to your current location.
Works on: Android, Apple, BlackBerry, Windows.
Decide Shopping and Price Predictor -- Helps users determine if they should buy a new gadget now or wait because its price is likely to drop soon or a newer version is coming out.
Works on: Android, Apple.
Grocery Smarts Coupon Shopper -- App available for Androids from Grocerysmarts.com. It's great for people who love to bargain shop, or who are looking for bargains, because it shows you what's on sale each week. The app also tracks and compares coupons from stores and manufacturers. You can plan a shopping trip based on what's on sale. Within the app, you can edit and save your shopping plan, and then it gives you an expected grand total based on your planned quantities.
Pushpins -- Combines your shopping list, digital coupons and nutrition facts of thousands of items all in one mobile app. All you have to do is scan an item in the store with your phone and then the app shows you how to redeem instant coupons called pushpins. Then the savings will automatically come off the bill when you swipe your store savings card at the register. Pushpins is free and it's available in 2,000+ grocery stores, so check your local stores for details.
ShopSmart has more shopping tips and apps that can help you get the best deals.