Our money expert ‘elf’ Ellen Finlay, is on a mission to save money, make extra money and help you do the same…
As we said goodbye to winter and welcomed in the first buds of spring, the harsh reality of the new season on our family finances was UK inflation at its highest rate since September 2013 – boosted by continually rising fuel prices and food costs (which have increased for the first time in over two-and-a-half years).
None of us is likely to feel better off when the average annual pay rise is being eaten up with increasing prices, but while there is nothing we can do about the situation which plays out in the economy, it is possible to take steps to reduce the impact on your family budget. As a mum of two teenage boys, I know how difficult it can be setting and sticking to a budget, but it is also a very useful visual tool for keeping track of your spending, and therefore helping you to cut back. And while the old-fashioned method of pen and paper is sound, as most of us now own smartphones (which are by our side night and day) I decided to road test some free-to-download budgeting apps to see if they could help track, and encourage me to cut back on, our family spending.
The Wally App (iPhone & Android) is a personal finance budgeting app which helps you compare your income and expenditure and allows you to set goals and keep track of your spending. One of my favourite features of this app is the option to add a photo of your receipt – that way you know exactly what you purchased, where, when and for how much! It really is an eye-(watering)-opener seeing all your receipts in one place. It also has the additional bonus of being completely advert free!
Another clever app which allows you to keep track of where your money goes is Tosh Finance (iPhone & Android), which an additional helpful feature of being able to set a reminder for when you need to pay bills. It’s very straightforward to use and it’s easy to place your spending into separate categories, or set up new categories. The budget calculator shows you how much money you have available once you make purchases, but an excellent additional feature is that you can set a goal of what you want to spend and it will then let you see how much you have left – a fantastic visual way of knowing exactly the amount you have left in the bank! Another useful feature is the ability to set a reminder on the app which will notify you to add your spending – extremely useful for all busy parents.
For some families, grocery bills can be a real bank balance strain – especially with teenagers in the house! Over the past year, I have tested several apps and have saved £££s on my grocery shops. These smartphone apps could help you stay within your household budget, or even reduce your grocery bill, with the added benefit of you not having to turn into an ‘extreme couponer’ to benefit from free grocery items or money off!
Quite simply the following apps give you back money you spend on items that they have listed on their particular app. The difference between the app, as opposed to a coupon, is that you need to purchase the product first before getting your money back. Each app has a different selection of products with some at times offering 100 per cent cashback – making the item free!
CheckoutSmart allows you to claim cashback on items you’ve bought from some of the major supermarkets and other retailers such as Superdrug or Boots. Free to download, the offers change or update each week but they can be valid for either in-store or online, so it’s best to check the terms and conditions for each item. It’s extremely easy to use; you buy the product, then when safely back home take a photo of your receipt, upload it via the app and receive the cashback directly to your bank or Paypal account.
Another cashback app, which is very straightforward to use is Shopmium. Browse the products on the app, make a purchase, scan the item and upload your receipt in the comfort of your own home. Payment is normally within 72 hours and is automatically transferred to your bank or Paypal account for each claim you make. A great feature of this app is the option to view the nearest store to you where you can make a purchase, so you should have no problem knowing where to go! While most of the items are grocery items, there are times when they offer a discount on wine or beauty products.
Find Ellen’s blog with more great ideas at elfeelgooddeals.uk If you’ve been inspired to try out any of these money-saving apps we would love to hear your feedback, especially how much you saved! Comment on this article in our family finance section at ni4kids.com