Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tech tales: Tools for modern-day money-savers

You might have gotten the impression from my column a couple weeks ago about vacationing in a cabin in the woods that I’m anti-technology at best, or a hermit at worst.

Well, you can’t be a journalist and a hermit. And the truth is, though vacationing in the woods and bringing your own food and enjoying free entertainment (like listening to a 3-year-old perform a concert with solely vocals and sticks) are obvious money-savers, I have technology to thank for a lot of savings in the past year — technology that you can’t find in a cabin in the woods, unless it’s equipped with Wi-Fi.

Tech advancements in bargaindom are an especially huge help to me because I don’t have time to be the sort of extreme couponer who buys 10 Sunday newspapers (not that I would ever deter you from doing that) and pores over the coupon inserts, organizes them by expiration date in a five-inch-thick page-protected binder and researches every item on his/her grocery list so as to ensure obtaining the best deals possible.

Props to you if you are that person.

My more down-to-earth strategy involves building a shopping list with major items (namely meats and produce) structured around sales, which I obtain from fliers. If I notice any of the items may be able to be matched with coupons, I hunt them down, clip them and set them aside in a plastic bag. Then I shop and do the best I can.

Here’s the catch: A lot of these steps involve technology that lets me take shortcuts, saving time and money.

Here’s how.

1. Meal planning. Using an application called MealBoard ($1.99, iPhone and iPad), which stores any recipe I input, I plan meals for two weeks and use a feature on the app that lets me aggregate a grocery list with all the ingredients I’ll need. I check off the ingredients I already have and, because I’m at least a little old-fashioned and don’t like to read grocery lists off my phone, transfer them to a sheet of paper.

If I were really on the ball and noticed in the course of my shopping, for example, that pigs feet were on sale at a rock-bottom price, I could use my phone to pull up my favorite pigs feet recipe and make sure I had all the other ingredients, then swap that recipe for a day of the week when I had something different planned.
It saves me loads of time because I don’t have to write out a meal plan and sift through recipe books (unless I’m adding a new recipe), and it saves money because I can easily locate recipes with ingredients that are on sale.

2. Saving and clipping coupons. If you are able, I recommend adding apps for your favorite grocery stores (especially the ones that offer digital coupons) to your smartphone and utilizing them to clip coupons. This is the easiest way to hunt down and organize coupons, because you a) don’t have to use scissors, b) don’t have to organize the coupons or even touch them, because they’re digital, and c) don’t have to remember to get them out at checkout as long as you scan your rewards card or input your identification number.

Case in point: Prior to my most recent trip to Meijer, I pulled up the MeijerFind-It app on my phone (it’s free) and scrolled through to digitally “clip” coupons I thought I might need. The coupons are attached to my mPerks account (Meijer’s rewards program), which I access by putting in a 10-digit code and four-digit password. An hour later, when I went to the store, I saved almost $5 on my trip with mPerks alone.

3a. Money-saving blogs. I follow a number of personal finance and couponing blogs in addition to managing the Bargain Advocate. These tip me off to the hot deals of the day/moment, the most relevant of which I share with Bargain Advocate readers and Facebook followers. Through these blogs, I’ve found great deals, not just in stores, but online, which brings me to my next point.

3b. Shopping online. I’ve reaped great savings on items like paper products, cleaning products and diapers from based on tips from a few blogs I follow. (My most recent purchase of Charmin TP for less than a quarter per roll is an example.) I’ve also gotten steals on clothing for our 3-year-old daughter, Analeigh, winter boots for myself and, of course, Christmas gifts.

The moral of the story is this: While I support creative play over iPad games and cozy cabins over fancy resorts, technology has played a major role in my ability to save money in the past year, and for that I am grateful.

And again, for the record, I’m not a hermit.

If you have questions about a money-saving topic, ideas for future columns or tips to share, email me at amroy You also can stop by the Bargain Advocate blog,
/Bargains, each day of the week to get the scoop on daily deals, coupons and grocery savings.
Happy saving!
— Abbey

Written by , Abbey Roy ,


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