1. Compare on the fly before you buy
With prices and product information so easily accessible online, only the extremely rich and foolish don’t comparison-shop. But what about when you’re standing in the store with the item in your hand? You’re fairly sure it’s a great price, or maybe the item is discontinued and you’re not sure you’ll be able to find it anywhere else. How do you decide what to do? Sol Robots has created Save Benjis ( ), a $1 app for the iPhone and iPod touch that puts a retail shopping search engine in the palm of your hand. Shop for a variety of popular consumer goods—from books and cosmetics to office equipment and home theater systems—using keywords, model numbers, or bar code numbers. The app surveys a long list of big-name retailers and online merchants to find the best price available. Revisit your searches via the recent products screen, or e-mail yourself a link to the best deal. You can even make purchases right from the app itself.
2. Know where your money goes
3. Do the math before buying in bulk
Is it always more economical to buy in bulk? You won’t need to wonder when you’ve got Frugal ( ), the $1 iPhone and iPod touch app from Tidal Pool Software that helps you compare prices and quantities to find out how best to stretch your money while shopping. Most major retailers provide helpful price breakdowns on their store shelves (per ounce, per pound, per item, and so on) that can make comparison-shopping painless. But when that information isn’t available—or when product information is given using different units—Frugal crunches the numbers for you in an instant. Compare two or more products at a time in imperial or metric units within one of four categories: number of items, weight, volume, or length. Enter price, quantity, and units using big calculator-style keys. Frugal shows the price breakdown and picks the best value. A history screen saves your comparisons for future reference. Know when to pull the trigger on a good deal—and when to save yourself the hassle of lugging home a year’s worth of canned green beans for the sake of saving a few cents.
4. Monitor your energy consumption
5. Find the cheapest gas
Shopping online makes bargain hunting easier and cuts driving time. But there’s at least one thing you can’t buy without driving to get it: gasoline. You can, however, hunt for cheap gas online without driving from station to station to find it. With United Communications Group’s iGasUp ( ) for the iPhone and iPod touch, you can retrieve a list of the ten local gas stations with the cheapest prices, complete with a map and driving directions. The app determines your location and searches the Oil Price Information Service database to find the best prices within a distance that you select, ranging from 1 to 15 square miles. iGasUp’s results are rarely more than two days old and are often as recent as within the hour, giving you an idea of how likely it is that the price you see is the price you’ll get. You don’t buy iGasUp; you subscribe to it for a year for $3. With the way gas prices fluctuate, it probably won’t take long to reclaim that in savings.
Tony Craine contributes iPhone app reviews to Macworld.com. He is a writer and voice actor in Chicago.