Whether it’s the cost of the devices, the phone or broadband bills that come with them, or just the energy costs – there’s a lot of technology draining our wallets.
But there are ways to make your technology work for you when you’re trying to save money.
Most of these things are completely free, and even when an investment is required – the return comes fairly quickly.
It may not come close to protecting you from current inflation – but it can help soften the blow.
After all, every little step you take to save means more money in your pocket every week.
What are some free tech tools that can help us save money?
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The first thing people are always told to do when trying to save is to budget.
It’s not lust-inducing, but it’s the only way to know where your money is going, how much you have left to play with after the essentials are covered, and where you can save.
There’s nothing wrong with doing that with pen and paper, but it can get messy very quickly. You may also want to use a spreadsheet in the likes of Excel, if you’re that inclined, but you’ll need to have a handle on the software to do that properly.
So the easiest option is to use one of the budgeting apps available for smartphones and tablets.
They do all the hard work for you, and they tend to do a better job of looking at your budget, so you can see at a glance what’s going on and where you stand. It’s also right on your phone, so it’s super easy to track and track your expenses as they happen.
And some of these apps can connect to your bank account if you want, so you can automatically track what you have and what you spend.
Many budgeting apps require a subscription fee for some of their features or are free to use only for a trial period. But there are some good, free options out there.
One example is Daily Budget – packed with great features at no cost.
There is a paid upgrade option, but the features it adds are nice extras rather than essentials, so you don’t have to pay if you don’t need them.
So you’ve finalized your budget – what’s next?
Well now it’s time to find ways to shave as much as you can from your expenses. And there are many apps that can help you do that.
TooGoodToGo and Olio are two apps that primarily focus on reducing food waste, but can also save you money.
TooGoodToGo allows shops, cafes and restaurants to sell surplus – but still very good – food at huge discounts.
You can browse nearby, order and collect in minutes.
The catch is that you never know exactly what you’re going to get – but the store you shop at can help give you an idea.
This can be used as a way to find a cheap meal here and there, or to get some fresh baked goods for the next few days.
Olio, on the other hand, allows people to offer their own surplus items – food or household items – to people in their neighborhood.
It means you can share items you know you won’t be able to use.
But you’ll also find that much of what’s on offer comes from Tesco, as it’s partnered with the app to make its profit-but-a-day meal available to people for free at the end of the day.
When it comes to supermarkets, if you’re a member of one of the grocery chains’ loyalty schemes, they all now have an app. Using them makes it easy to make sure you have coupons or vouchers on hand to give away while you work.
There are apps like Vouchercloud that aggregate the various offers and vouchers offered by different retailers in the country.
The key to getting the most out of vouchers is to only use them on things you intend to buy. If you go looking for something to buy because you have a coupon, you’re not saving money.
But if you’re planning a purchase, it’s worth checking out these apps to see if there’s a voucher to help keep the cost down a bit.
And another app to check out when making a big purchase is Pricespy – a price comparison service.
They no longer do Irish-specific comparisons, but you can still see UK or Mainland Europe comparisons, which are generally available to Irish users as well.
What if you are trying to stop yourself from spending money online?
One of the curses of technology is that it has made spending too easy.
But, again, trying to reduce that need can turn it to your advantage.
Of course, there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned self-discipline—but you can take steps to make the task easier.
For example, most new-ish smartphones have built-in features around ‘screen time’, which make it easy for people to limit the amount of time they spend looking at their phone or using certain apps.
In there, you can set limits on the amount of time you can spend on an app — or set limits on the days you can use it.
So if you know you’re prone to a little late-night shopping, you can set a time limit on shopping apps or the internet browser on your phone or tablet.
That won’t completely block you from accessing it — but it will force you to click a little reminder to log in, and it’ll regularly remind you that you’ve set limits on using the app.
Think of it as a little nudge to encourage you to do the right thing.
If you want to go a step further, you can set your phone to disappear from your home screen at certain times of the day or when you’re in certain places.
You can do this with the ‘Focus’ setting on the iPhone, for example.
Again, it doesn’t completely delete the app – it just hides it from view, and you have to search for it if you want to use it.
Just trying to make it that much harder to cash out.
Energy bills are now a big concern for many – can technology help there?
Yes, there are two ways you can use tech to cut your bills. Some are cheap or even free, and even when you’re spending money, you should get a quick return on your investment.
A smart thermostat is a good example of this – it works like a normal thermostat, turning on your boiler when the temperature in a room falls below a certain level – but the ‘smart’ bit can help make your heating system more efficient.
To begin with, you can control it through your phone or tablet, so it is very easy to adjust the temperature and set programs to meet your needs.
So regardless of the recommendation to lower your thermostat by degrees, you can now adjust it by day or time to use only what you need.
And because it is controlled by phone, you can set it remotely – you can set it to turn off the heating completely when no one is home, but turn it on when you go back, so you don’t have to come back to a cold house.
The thermostat itself costs 100-200 euros depending on the brand, but it’s worth checking with your service company first. That’s because most of the big suppliers here offer discounted or free smart thermostats to customers.
Some offer them as incentives for people to convert, which we know is something people should do regularly anyway.
Failing this, you may be eligible for a SEAI grant for heating control upgrades, depending on what you currently have – up to €700 towards the cost.
And if you want to go full-hog on this, there are systems that allow you to add remote controls to every radiator in your home, so you can manage the heat room-by-room without getting off the couch.
But this costs a lot of money, so it doesn’t save money in the short term.
Is it only a smart heater that can save money?
No – you can also save money with modern lighting.
For starters, smart lights are generally LEDs, which are the most efficient type of lighting.
In general, they use 14% more energy than the eco-friendly halogen bulbs found in stores.
So if it costs more than 18 euros per year to use Eco-Halogen, an LED for an average of three hours a day will cost you about 3 euros.
They also last much longer – well over a decade, even if you only have them for half a day, every day.
But where smart lights can add to your savings is the fact that, once again, they can be controlled from your phone and remotely.
This means you don’t have to fumble around the house to make sure the lights are off – you can turn off the unwanted ones from your couch with just a glance at your phone.
If you have a smart speaker at home, you can tell it to turn the lights on or off, so you can be super lazy while still saving money.
They’re also dimmable—even if you don’t have a dimmer switch—so you can use less power even when they’re on.
And they’re very easy to set up on a schedule – perhaps automating a light so it only comes on at sunset or off at midnight. You can even connect them to motion detectors that determine whether someone is in the room or not.
A saving of €15 per year, per bulb may not seem like much – but if multiplied by 10, 15 or perhaps more bulbs in a home, it quickly adds up to €100-200 on the annual bill.
And there’s an added benefit to using them beyond money.
Because as we head into winter and into the long nights, they give you extra peace of mind by allowing you to turn on and off lights in your home remotely, and even make you look like you’re at home. Go out again
What about the price?
This is where it gets a little tricky – because there is a huge difference in price depending on the product and type of bulb; You can also choose white light bulbs or light bulbs that can provide a variety of different colors.
The ones made by the likes of Philips are on the pricier side – but Ikea makes a bulb that starts at €8, so a few euros more than the equivalent “dub” bulb.
The recommendation is to switch to smart light bulbs when the old ones burn out, so you don’t waste money throwing away bulbs that work well these days.
It is also recommended that you stick to well-known brands.
There are plenty of cheaper options online, but they may not be particularly well made, and having to replace them after a year or two will ruin any savings you might have made.
Can we raise our house anywhere else?
Another potential energy saver is smart plugs. These work like old timer plugs with dials on them, only you control them – once again – with your phone.
This means you can set an on/off schedule – or turn it on or off via an app as you wish.
These can be particularly useful for devices that waste energy when in standby mode – so-called electrical vampires like your TV, microwave or games console that cost households around €180-200 a year.
They can be easy to forget – or the plug can be a little difficult to reach – but if you have a few of these, you can turn them all off with the push of a button.
Some popular smart plugs can even track the amount of energy being drawn through them, so that can be helpful if you’re trying to figure out which device adds the most to your bill.