Technology is a huge help for consumers to spend money smarter.
For example, you can search online for best prices, or if you're already in the store, you can use your smartphone to read a product's bar code and get competitive prices.
Problem is, new money-saving websites and apps are launching almost daily. It's nearly impossible to investigate them all. We've rounded up a few interesting and promising ones that have come out in recent months. With many, it's hard to predict whether they'll succeed and be available a year from now. And we weren't able to thoroughly review every one.
But if you're a smart consumer who likes trying new sites and apps, these seem worth a shot. All are free, and more details are available online. Keep in mind that these aren't being listed as the best, just a sampling of some of the newest.
- OpenChime.com: OpenChime says it will get price quotes for you from local service providers, such as plumbers and house cleaners, saving you the hassle of calling around — and potentially turning up a better price than you would have gotten on your own. You simply get an e-mail with price quotes.
- AwardWallet.com: The website will keep track of your frequent flyer miles, as well as hotel and credit card rewards points in one place, perhaps allowing you to use them more efficiently. And it will alert you, for example, when your miles are about to expire.
- DealNews.com app: Prominent deal site DealNews is not new, but its iPhone/iPad app is. Users can browse more than 100 deals a day or request push alerts, which send personal deal alerts for specific products or coupons to on-the-go users.
- CouponNetwork.com: The world didn't need another site with printable grocery coupons, but this is produced by a major player in the coupon industry, Catalina Marketing Corp., the company behind those coupons that print out at the end of your cash-register receipt. Notably and exclusively, the site includes YourBucks, which aren't coupons but relatively high dollars off your future purchases. For example, recently if you bought two bottles of Listerine Whitening Rinse, you got $4 printed on your register receipt to spend however you want, like cash, on your next grocery trip.
- Upromise.com app: Upromise is pretty well known already; it's a site where you can earn money for college expenses as you shop — ideally, making purchases you would buy anyway. It now has a GPS-enabled smartphone app for on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry to make it easy to find nearby restaurants and retailers that participate in the Upromise program. It will give you directions from your current location.
— PayDivvy.com: Having trouble keeping bills straight with roommates? PayDivvy offers online bill pay and group payment. It can, for example, automatically divide bills among roommates, friends and family, who can then pay those bills automatically.
— SavingStar.com: This site puts a different spin on paperless coupons, or e-coupons. That generally refers to choosing coupons online which electronically links them to your supermarket or drugstore loyalty card. That way, you automatically get the savings at the register. With SavingStar.com, which claims to be the largest digital coupon service, your checkout bill is the same but savings are squirreled away in an account, which you can cash out by direct deposit into a bank account, PayPal account and other methods. SavingStar also has apps for iPhone and Android that allow you to choose coupons on the go.
— WildcardNetwork.com app: This gift-card management app for iPhone or Android devices allows you to store your gift cards on the phone, look up balances and spend gift cards by showing the bar code on the phone.
— Sprinkler Times app: If you have a programmable sprinkler system, you can potentially cut back on water use — and save money — by watering more efficiently. Enter into the app such variables as location, plant type, soil type, sun and shade conditions and sprinkler type. The app will provide an ideal monthly watering schedule. Officials say the app was officially available in early June for iPhone and Android and online at SprinklerTimes.com. The app is free for one watering zone and $5.99 for up to 32 zones.
— Catalogue app: It might not save you much money, but carrying dozens of catalogs in your iPad or Android tablet sounds pretty cool. The app, by TheFind.com, launched with 40 catalogs, including J.Crew, Sephora, Net-a-Porter, Crate & Barrel, Tea Collection and Nordstrom. You can get catalogs earlier than print versions show up in your mailbox and purchase items through the tablet. The app is available for iPads and Android tablet computers. Information is atwww.thefind.com/tablet.
Again, these sites and apps are new endeavors, some backed only by individuals who think they have a great idea. You'll have to decide for yourself how helpful and relevant they are to you. Try them and their competitors. And if you're particularly concerned with privacy, be sure to examine the privacy policies of various websites.
Gregory Karp, the author of "Living Rich by Spending Smart," writes for the Chicago Tribune.