What could you do with an extra $25 per month?
How about an extra $50? $100?
There’s an absolute limit to your monthly savings potential, of course — you can’t save more than you earn, and some expenses are nigh impossible to avoid. You have to put food on the table and keep a roof over your family’s head, after all.
But that limit is far higher than most casual savers realize. Truly frugal consumers devote serious time and energy to trimming their discretionary expenses to the bone and sourcing the best possible deals on the products and services they can’t avoid buying. The possibilities are endless; pretty much every one-off or recurring household expense, even unavoidable outlays like housing and food, are up for grabs.
It gets better. These days, a vast and growing array of cloud based apps and services make it easier than ever to trim discretionary costs and tap hidden savings potential. Many of these savings aids are free or carry nominal fees; others more than pay for themselves by mitigating common threats that can negatively affect users’ finances.
Use most or all of these frugal-friendly apps and services and you could find a lot more than $25, $50, or $100 extra in your monthly budget. Are you already using any?
- Cloud Based Disaster Recovery Solutions
If you’re like most digital natives, it hasn’t been long since you’ve woken up in a cold sweat, fresh off a nightmare in which you lose years of irreplaceable data.
Here’s the good news: this is one nightmare that never has to come true.
The secret? A nimble, scalable cloud based disaster recovery solution that backs your data up to the cloud and allows for rapid recovery following natural and human-caused events that might otherwise prove fatal, like:
- Power surges and failures that damage or temporarily disable equipment
- Structure fires that permanently disable your server farm or control center
- Earthquakes that cripple or destroy your data infrastructure
- Extreme weather events that temporarily or permanently disrupt your data infrastructure
- Malicious insiders bent on sabotage, e.g. wiping essential drives
- Ransomware attacks that lock you and/or your team out of mission-critical endpoints
Cloud based disaster recovery solutions aren’t just for data-hungry enterprises, either. These days, individuals and small business owners have lots to lose. Should the unthinkable happen, a targeted investment in disaster recovery could pay for itself many times over.
- The Trusty Autopay Option for Installment Loans and Credit Lines
Most people don’t think of credit products as money-saving “apps and services” — certainly not high-interest credit cards and unsecured personal loans.
But there’s a hidden, app-driven hack that could save you a boatload on interest charges over the multi-year life of your loan: the trusty autopay option. Virtually all lenders allow borrowers to automatically debit loan payments from their bank accounts — after all, automatic payments reduce the likelihood of forgetful borrowers missing their monthly payment due dates.
What’s in it for you, the borrower? In many cases, an autopay discount. For installment loans like car notes and personal loans, the industry-standard autopay discount is 0.25% off the annual percentage rate. But some lenders — including some mortgage lenders — go farther, offering discounts of 0.50% or more. The bigger the loan, the greater the savings.
- Your Favorite Recipe Apps
Not sure what to cook up tonight? Before you fall back on your favorite takeout place, consider a (likely) lower-cost option: a scratch-made meal using store-bought ingredients.
Yes, cooking is still a thing. Sure, it requires some advance planning, along with a weekly trip to the supermarket (or strategically placed Amazon Fresh order). Done right, it’s far cheaper than eating out or taking in every night, and probably healthier to boot.
You’ll find home cooking far easier and more engaging with help from a free recipe app. They’re a dime a dozen, so do some research and pick your favorite. If you’re cooking solo, be sure to look for an app (or recipe cache within an app) specializing in meals for one.
- Cash Back Browser Plug-ins
Would you like to save money without even trying?
Trick question. Of course you would! With lightweight, no-fee cash back browser plug-ins, you can.
Like recipe apps, cash back plug-ins are plentiful. Most earn money through affiliate relationships with e-commerce partners, meaning users don’t have to pay anything out of pocket for the privilege of using them. Basically, cash back plug-ins get a cut of every successful transaction; they keep part of the windfall and pass the rest on to the person who made the purchase. Talk about a win-win-win.
Fair warning: browser plug-ins, in general, may impact surfing speed and performance. But that’s a small price to pay for savings up to 10% (and, for lesser-known retailers, even more).
- Location Based Gas Price Trackers
For better or worse, most of us have no choice but to drive to work, to the store, to social outings. It’s the American way — and, for those of us in far-flung suburbs and rural areas, it’s really, really expensive.
That’s where location based gas price trackers come in. Believe it or not, gas prices can vary by 10%, 20%, or even more within the same county — even the same ZIP code, in some cases. If the gas station down the block is too pricey for your liking, flip on your app and find a cheaper contender a few lights off your regular commute route.
- Online Coupon and E-commerce Discount Apps
Cash-back plug-ins too easy for your liking? Clip some digital coupons instead.
Like cash back plug-ins, coupon apps abound; some actually work in concert with cash back products. The revenue model is the same, with the apps passing a share of their affiliate commissions to buyers. Spend 15 minutes per week gathering your coupons — or 10 seconds navigating to the discount app, from which you can click out to your favorite commissionable retail sites — and you stand to save serious money on purchases you’d make regardless.
- Next-generation Extended Warranty Solutions That Cut Out the Middleman
Extended warranties get a bad rap. Unlike a manufacturer’s warranty, whose cost is baked into the price of the product it protects, an extended warranty is an add-on that rarely pays for itself.
At least, not under the old model, which relies on manufacturers, retailers, or designated third-party partners that combine to corner the market and artificially inflate prices.
Powered by lightweight mobile apps that let you browse dozens or hundreds of warranties at a glance, next-generation extended warranty providers smash this de facto monopoly and deliver dramatic savings. Whether you’re looking to protect your investment in a new kitchen appliance or shield your shiny new flatscreen from come what may, you know what you need to do.
- Automated Investing Platforms That Slash Management Fees and Expenses
All things must pass. If you work with a full-service financial planner or wealth management advisor, it’s time to consider severing ties and investing in a far lower-cost solution that may well produce better results.
With all due respect to hardworking financial professionals, there’s no reason in this day and age for the typical retail investor not to invest on an automated, algorithm-driven platform. Automated investment solutions ace the index investing Turing test — they do all the same things that human advisers can do, like weighting by asset class, periodic rebalancing, and tax loss harvesting. And, since they don’t get sick or tired or hungry, they cost far less than the humans they’ve replaced.
Human advisers and planners still have roles to play in more complex or esoteric wealth management scenarios, and algorithms are not (yet) able to match their non-investing advice. But — spoiler alert — they often use automated platforms to handle the basic, day-to-day stuff, anyway.
- Automated Savings Apps
What’s easier than building a diversified portfolio capable of matching or beating the performance of major benchmark indexes?
Saving a few bucks at a time, that’s what.
Thanks to automated savings apps like Digit and Tip Yourself, saving is easier than ever. Models vary, but the basic gist goes something like this:
- You open an FDIC-insured, (sometimes) interest-bearing account using your chosen app
- You link a debit card, credit card, or existing bank account to your new account
- When you make a purchase with your debit or credit card, the app automatically rounds up to the nearest dollar and deposits the difference into your account; OR
- The app periodically draws a fixed or variable amount from your linked account on a pre-determined basis, usually weekly or monthly
- Your savings balance grows over time
Some automated savings apps are free; others carry monthly fees that judicious savers can easily surmount with regular deposits. Bonus points for apps with interest-bearing accounts, which further magnify savings.
- Automated High-yield Savings Apps
There’s another class of savings app that deserves special mention: what we’ll call the “automated high-yield savings app.” This is still a novel concept, and results may vary, but the app’s goal is to match users with the highest-yielding savings products available in their area. One of the most intriguing entrants in this emerging category is Max My Interest, which caters to customers with some of the United States’ biggest banks: Wells Fargo, Citibank, U.S. Bank, PNC Bank, and more.
- Comprehensive Budgeting Apps for Individuals and Businesses
You Need a Budget.
No, really, YNAB. It’s just one of many comprehensive budgeting apps for individuals and businesses alike. It’s free or cheap, depending on your plan. And it could dramatically increase your savings rate by identifying low-hanging expenses to slash or eliminate.
You Need a Budget isn’t the only budgeting app worth trying out. Mint is another stalwart that’s been around forever; over the years, it has added a slew of handy add-on services, including billpay management and on-demand credit scores. If you’re struggling to get a handle on all the far-flung pieces of your financial life, one of these apps is a great place to start — although you’re always entitled to get one free credit report each per year from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Local and Social Coupon Services
Do you Groupon? Perhaps you LivingSocial, instead. Or maybe you’re a fan of one of the many other local and social coupon apps and services dedicated to reducing the cost of the things you love: trying new restaurants, working up a sweat at spin class, taking in the big game from the cheap seats, or anything else that tickles your fancy. Groupon routinely offers face value discounts of 30% or more — not bad for frugal folks who aren’t all business.
- Booking Platforms and Services for Travel Hackers
Are you a travel hacker?
You don’t have to be a Titanium Elite jet-setter to save serious money on leisure and business travel. You just have to know which booking platforms to use, and for what.
Trying to reduce your airfare costs? Consider “hidden city” booking aids like Skiplagged, which game the airlines’ convoluted pricing algorithms to deliver consistent value.
Content to gamble on here-today, gone-tomorrow deals? Try “flash sale” newsletters like Scott’s Cheap Flights, whose $39-per-year premium product provides uncanny visibility into temporary arbitrage opportunities that can reduce the cost of long-haul flights by hundreds. (Once you’ve scored a $250 flight to Paris, you’ll never trust yourself to do your own research again.)
Blessed (or cursed) with the flexibility to make last-minute reservations? Book hotels and short-term rentals on Hotel Tonight, the Internet’s premier booking site for spur-of-the-moment travel decisions (and hotel chains’ go-to resource for offloading spare capacity).
The list goes on, and the choice is yours to make. Set aside a few hours this weekend to evaluate your travel hacking options and decide which tools work best for you.
Make Saving a Way of Life
You don’t have to be a hardcore FIRE enthusiast to appreciate the value of frugality. As the old saying goes, a penny saved is a penny earned.
The good news for people who love to save money — and who doesn’t? — is that these 13 money-saving apps and services represent only the very tip of the proverbial iceberg. Plenty more savings opportunities await where these came from.
So, before concluding that you’ve picked all the low-hanging fruit in your savings orchard, run a fine-toothed comb through your household budget and look for opportunities that you might have previously overlooked. A few bucks here, a few bucks there — every little bit helps.