Almost everyone wants to shave a few bucks off what they spend whenever possible, regardless of age or income.
Smartphone owners have the tools to put themselves ahead of the game with apps — software applications — available to download for free from the Apple App and Google Play stores. Who wants to pay full freight if you don’t have to? Going beyond an older model flip phone allows you to hunt in the palm of your hand for myriad ways to save:
- Bargains on cars, groceries, medications, travel fares, even a night out attract anyone who loves to shop.
- Coupons captivate the clippers who will investigate available discounts before they hit a local or virtual checkout.
- Cashback incentives promise a delayed reward that some consider found money when the paper check is delivered or a digital deposit lands in your account.
- Even budgeters — and those who aspire to keep their household budget under control — want to comparison shop to see whether they can afford to splurge on a major purchase.
The criteria: You’ll see applications that coworkers, family and friends use or that reviewers and people who populate the Apple App and Google Play stores rate highly. The apps are available on both Android and iPhone/iPad platforms with a few exceptions noted below.
Are apps really free? Free is a relative term. This list has apps where you don’t have to spend a dime to use core capabilities. But you will see some “freemium” apps because the basic features you get gratis are a good value on their own.
In freemium apps, a paid tier promises advanced or extra features, often via an ongoing subscription, sometimes a one-time purchase. Depending on the features you’re looking for, paying may be worth the cost.
Be aware: Listings in both the Apple and Google Play stores for software with a premium tier are designated as having in-app purchases. If you decide to remain in the free zone, you may be barraged with upgrade requests.
The cost of free often means tolerating intrusive advertising and having a willingness to give up some privacy. Companies want to learn more about your online spending habits, so they and their business partners can sell you stuff.
The list below of 25 free money-saving smartphone apps and others you also might like fills the bill for all the ways you like to save.
You may have cut the cord on cable TV to stream movies and shows and save some loot. But if you’re still paying handsomely to watch the likes of Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Hulu, Max, Netflix and other streaming services, you have options.
Freevee, formerly IMDb TV, is an ad-supported service from Amazon that lets you watch iconic shows such as All in the Family, Bewitched and The Twilight Zone as well as the current sleeper hit Jury Duty. You’ll find movies and select live 24/7 TV content, including news, weather and other reruns.
Prices for concerts, plays and sports competitions sometimes drop the closer you get to show time. Ticket sellers would rather see a seat filled for a bargain-basement price than be left with no money at all.
That’s the concept behind Gametime, which lets you buy tickets up to 90 minutes after the start of a match or performance. If you find a lower price than what you find on the app, the company claims it will give you 110 percent of the difference.
Many avid readers save money by checking books out of the public library instead of buying. Libby enables you to borrow audiobooks and e-books on your smartphone with your free local library card. If you don’t have a card, you may be able to request one through the app.
Libby’s catalog numbers more than 273,000 titles, and 90 percent of public libraries in North America make at least part of their digital collection available to OverDrive, the app’s developer. You can send borrowed e-books to an Amazon Kindle e-reader, and in the case of audiobooks, listen in the car via Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or Bluetooth.
Broadway prices can leave a gaping hole in your wallet. TodayTix often provides theater mavens with deep discounts, sometimes via exclusive lotteries for in-demand shows or first-come, first-served, day-of “rush tickets.”
Instead of waiting in line at a box office, you’re waiting remotely. Ticket offerings aren’t limited to the Great White Way. Ducats are available for shows in Chicago; London; Los Angeles; Washington, D.C.; and other global stages.
“The discounts are significant and make Broadway accessible when you don’t want to spend $300 on a seat,” says Stephanie Forrest of Tulsa, Oklahoma, a theater patron who turns to the app each time she visits New York.
Food and dining
Flashfood promises sweet deals of up to 50 percent off on perishable items you pick up at the grocery store before the food might go bad. Once choosing a local grocer through the app — some 1,000 stores are available, the company says — you can scroll to see the food with marked-down prices, original prices and “best by” dates.
Depending on the items, those dates can be for the same day or several days out. You pay directly through the app, but you have to head over to the store to pick up your order, usually stopping at customer service first.
How often do you find yourself throwing out food you didn’t cook or eat before it spoiled? Mealime helps you plan meals with recipes the company says are crafted to simplify preparation and reduce food waste.
The app tells you which ingredients you’ll need, helping you curb impulse purchases when you’re hungry. You can pick them up in store or online from the likes of Albertsons, Instacart, Kroger, Publix, Safeway, Walmart and other integrated grocers. A $2.99 a month Pro version adds extra recipes and benefits.
You also might like: Your local grocery app, including digital coupons, some targeted to your preferences.
Restaurants, cafes and grocers often throw out food at the end of a day. The folks behind Too Good To Go say 40 percent of all edible food in the U.S. is wasted each year.
Through the app, you can find stores and restaurants that place surplus food in “Surprise Bags” you buy for less than the food otherwise would cost. You can list dietary requirements such as vegan or vegetarian when you set up the app. If you have food allergies, alert the restaurant or store. If you receive food that’s gone bad or have a safety concern, you can initiate a complaint through the app.