Last week's bitter-cold temperatures presented an awful time for my furnace to start acting funny. It would shut off for no reason only to restart when I fiddled with the thermostat. Then it would shut off again without me realizing it, only for the temperature to plunge to 50 degrees while I plugged away at my laptop. Then, all of a sudden, I would be absolutely freezing. I hated to call for professional help, but I knew there was no way around it.
After having a plumbing and heating company come out, I discovered that one of the major components of my furnace was leaking and tripping up the starter. And I got lucky; since the damaged part was still under warranty, I would only have to pay for the labor to replace it and the service call fee, or around $350.
But on the way out the door, our tech hinted that there was a coupon for a free service call floating around, and that if we could find it, we could save $89 on our total bill.
So I did the only thing I could think to do: I got on our neighborhood Facebook page and asked if anyone on my street had this particular coupon. And within a few hours, one of my generous neighbors put the coupon in her mailbox for me to pick up. In the end, I saved $89 just for asking around, a task that would have been impossible without the help of the Internet. This got me thinking about how we use technology to save money.
A smattering of saving technologies
From budgeting apps to deal websites to neighborhood Facebook pages, there are plenty of ways technology can help us keep our cash. Here are a few:
- The Internet helps us shop around. Gone are the days of calling around or driving from store to store to find the best price. Now all we need is an Internet connection to compare prices and nab the best deal. Sites like Amazon.com and Google shopping take things a step further by letting you compare prices side by side all over the web to see exactly how they stack up.
- Mobile banking saves us time and money. Many banks offer online bill pay and other online tools for free. Some banks let you snap a picture of the check you want to deposit with your phone.
- Budgeting technology keeps us on track. Sites like YouNeedABudget.com offer online budgeting software and tips that can help you learn to live within your means while also setting — and sticking to — your agreed-upon financial goals. Meanwhile, sites like Mint.com and PersonalCapital.com help us track our spending and net worth.
- Mobile and printable coupons offer more for less. My favorite online coupon site is RetailMeNot.com. No matter what you are buying online, it seems like Retail Me Not has the exact coupon you're looking for. Printable coupons for everything from groceries to household items are also available at sites like Coupons.com and SmartSource.com.
- Deal sites make it easier to try something new. Deal sites like LivingSocial.com and Groupon.com offer up group deals on everything from a haircut and highlights to international travel. I have personally used Groupon to buy everything from Christmas gifts to dental appointments!
In many ways, technology has made life easier — and even cheaper — but in other ways, it has made life more complicated too. Simply put, there are so many more ways to save than there were before. But wait a minute! Aren't a lot of these technologies also ways to spend — and to do it even more quickly than before?
To really use technology to your advantage, you have to learn to use the Internet to save on things you would buy anyway, not as an excuse to buy more. Sometimes, that's the most difficult lesson of all — and one you have to learn the hard way.
Readers, do you use technology to save? What are your favorite money-saving apps and websites? Have you ever used technology as an excuse to spend more?
Author: Holly Johnson
Holly Johnson is a credit card expert, award-winning writer, and mother of two who is obsessed with frugality, budgeting, and travel. In addition to serving as contributing editor for The Simple Dollar and writing for publications such as Bankrate, U.S. News and World Report Travel, and Travel Pulse, Johnson owns Club Thrifty and is the co-author of Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love.