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How to Get Your Smart Phone to Pay for Itself

The coolest thing about the latest phones may be how much money they can save you

two new cellphones

Two smart phones currently on the market, Apple's iPhone and HTC's EVO. — Nicky Loh/Corbis

Maintain your balance

It does no good to save money if you can't keep track of it. That's where one-stop financial management apps like Mint come in. Input bank, credit cards, home loan and investment account information. Then the app pulls in your balances, purchases, and stock trades to give you a complete financial picture.

Gurwin praises Mint's ability to help him set up a budget and monitor spending in real time. He can plug in every purchase on the spot, instead of waiting (or worse, forgetting) to do it at home on his desktop computer. In fact he's gotten to the point where he almost never pays in cash, instead using a credit card even for tiny purchases. “I love that it lets me track every expenditure so I know if I’m sticking to my budget or going over in one area," he says, "and it reminds me when my credit card payment is due."

Mint's reminder emails and text messages about upcoming bills or low account balances can help you can avoid overdrafts, bounced checks, and late fees. Says Gurwin, "I've had Mint notify me of a $15 service fee on my checking account. It was a mistake and I was able to get the bank to remove the charge immediately." Figure twice a year a bounced check costs you $30 and overdraft fees are $27 per oopsie. 

Savings: $114

Fill 'er up

GasBuddy ($2.99) shows you the nearest gas stations with lowest prices in your city, plus has maps to guide you through unfamiliar territory. A check on Atlanta lists the 15 highest and 15 lowest prices (a span of nearly 50 cents when we looked) within the past 24 hours for the city and its suburbs. Driving about 15,000 miles per year in a car that gets 25 mpg means pumping about 600 gallons of gasoline.

Savings: $300

Bonus round

Add 'em up, that's $1,601 in savings in your first year using a smart phone. And we didn’t even count one simple act that doesn’t require a single app: unplugging from the wall. The average landline runs $25 a month. True, it's a bit scary to disconnect, but do you really need two phone numbers? Discontinuing your service nets yearly savings of $300. And these days every bit helps.

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