It's been a year since I got my first real smartphone. (I don’t count the BlackBerry I had before that -- sorry, RIM.) Although I had my smartphone last Christmas, it wasn't a money-saving tool throughout the holidays; I was too new to the app world. This year, however, that's changing.
With these six must-have apps, you can stay on financial track now through the new year.
Making lists and setting budgets
If Santa is making a list and checking it twice, then you probably should, too. Not only do The Christmas List app for iPhone ($0.99) and Christmas List Pro for Android (free) let you make lists, but you can set a per-person budget and easily track your spending. Sharing lists with a spouse or co-worker is easy, so you won't overbuy. Plus, you can password-protect the app from sneaky eyes. Uber-planners will enjoy tracking gifts by status as they buy, wrap and ship their goodies.
ShopSavvy for iPhone or Android is the Web's most touted price-comparison app. You see something you want to buy, scan the bar code and take a look at who else sells it and how much it costs. You'll get prices from local brick-and-mortar stores as well as online retailers. You can also look up products by keyword and name.
If you spot the best deal at a local retailer, use Milo for iPhone or Android to see if it's in stock before you make a special trip.
Once you've made your purchase, you might need to recoup some of that money from a sibling, co-worker or another parent from your child's class who is splitting the cost of the gift with you. Use Expensify, an expense-reporting app for iPhone and Android, to snap a photo of your receipt. Then, send it on to loved ones so they can reimburse you for their share.
My last recommendation for an app isn't about shopping and gift-giving. It's about what you eat. Over the next few weeks, many of us will consume huge amounts of fudge, gravy, candy and pie. Then, comes Jan. 1, we'll be at the health club signing up for an expensive membership. Save yourself that cost by using the PhotoCalorie app for iPhone or Android. Simply take a picture of your food, type a quick description and, voila, you get a calorie count.
I've shared a handful of my must-have apps for the season. What are some that you are using to simplify your life and ultimately manage your spending this holiday season?
Carrie Rocha blogs at PocketYourDollars.com and is author of "Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, and Keep More of What You Make" (Bethany House, January 2013). She helps Middle Americans live within their means so they can get out of and stay out of debt. Follow her on Twitter at @CarrieRocha.