Can your smartphone save you money?

Woman checking barcode with Smartphone Free smartphone apps allow you to compare prices by scanning barcodes

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Mobile phone technology has come a long way since Martin Cooper made the first call on a mobile phone over 40 years ago.

Nowadays making calls is just one of the many functions of a mobile phone. But can you use any of the newer features to save money on your shopping?

Is this cheaper online?

It's worth checking to see if the product you are looking at in store is cheaper online or in another store.

According to a study by Tradedoubler 41% of us use our smartphone while out shopping, with 42% of those using phones trying to find a cheaper price elsewhere.

There are many apps available like Google Goggles or ShopSavvy that scan barcodes and compare prices.

If you have a favourite or trusted place to shop online, many retailers such as Amazon or Asda have barcode scanners on their own apps.

Alternatively, a general internet search for the product will give you a better idea of how much you should be spending. Always remember to factor in postage and packaging costs before making a decision.

Is this any good?

It's always worth checking online reviews of a product before you buy in store. Maybe the product breaks or wears out easily, or doesn't do what it claims to, like a waterproof garment that turns out not to be so waterproof.

By reading some reviews you will feel more confident about making an informed decision. Check reviews on a number of sites to get a more balanced view because some can be biased or manipulated.

Which one is cheaper?

Sometimes it can be difficult to work out the best deal when buying groceries. If one brand of a product is sold in a 350g pack and another in 300g, it can be hard to work out which one is cheaper.

This can get even more complicated when promotional offers are thrown into the mix, and more complicated again if you are comparing different units.

There are a number of free apps available like Unit Price Compare for Android and Converter Plus for iPhone that compare prices of products sold at different sizes or units. All you need to do is input the size or weight, the price and the unit, and the app does all the hard work for you.

Is there a voucher for that?

You may be surprised at how many vouchers are available online that can save you money in shops and restaurants.

If you haven't had a chance to print a voucher at home, a quick search on your phone will usually help you find a deal. The retailer can take down a reference number or scan a barcode straight from your screen.

A search for restaurant vouchers can help you decide where to eat if you're out and about, or if you forget, it's even worth searching during your meal. Just remember to mention it to your waiter before you get the bill. If you can, check before you order as some items on the menu may be excluded from offers.

There are a number of voucher websites and apps including Voucher Codes, Voucher Cloud and My Voucher Codes.

Is there cheaper fuel nearby?

Choosing and downloading apps

Selection of smartphones
  • When selecting an app look at the ratings and comments to get an indication of whether it suits your needs.
  • Some apps will be charged for, with most costing around £1.
  • In most cases, apps download more slowly on a 3G connection. Use free Wi-Fi if it's available to keep your costs down.

Petrol price finder apps such as Petrol Prices or What Gas can help you find the cheapest fuel prices in your vicinity.

Some apps like the AA's Eco Drive also use GPS and other technology to work out how you could drive more efficiently and save money.

How much am I spending?

If you're trying to stick to a specific budget or just want to keep track of how much you're spending, it's always useful to keep a tally of your shopping trolley or daily spending using a calculator.

Most smartphones come with a calculator app ready installed and there are many free calculator apps available for download.

Was this the one you wanted?

Have you ever been asked to pick up something for friends or family and got it completely wrong?

Using your smartphone to email or text a picture of the item to them could save you another trip to the shop. If you're not sure it's the right thing or if you need to choose a good alternative if the item isn't in stock, this could avoid a headache when you get home.

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