Remember the bad old days when looking for an online bargain meant trawling through every site you could think of in an attempt to find the cheapest version of a product? Or hunting for money off codes in the hope that you'd find one that would bring the price of an unaffordable purchase down? Well, thanks to some newfangled tools, that could soon be a thing of the past. Technology keeps evolving to help customers stay on top of constantly changing products and prices. Here are a few handy apps that may well help you save some serious money.
Price tracker apps.
Sometimes you come across a product that you love but don't have the money to buy. Amazon wishlists help you remember these products so you can manually monitor them and add them to your basket if they do end up on sale. Having said that, you're only making a list. Price alerts offer a more reliable, easier alternative that don't depend on you remembering to check your Amazon account on a regular basis. Take UK based site Pricemole, for example. All you have to do is register, then copy and paste the product URL into the app to add it to a list of tracked products. The app will then email you once the price drops to a preset level.
There are other price trackers out there with additional features too: some tell you a detailed price history of each product, others send you an email with details of heavily discounted products that you haven't specified an interest in but - like Google is to search engines - the most effective price tracker apps do tend to be the simplest.
Discount code trackers.
If you're anything like me, once you've found a product online you'll then spend another hour searching for money off codes. After all, it's incredibly hard to ignore that little 'discount/promotional code' box next to the 'pay now' button. If you find the right code, you could save a huge amount of money, but when you search online a lot of the codes are defunct, expired or invalid: even on well known voucher sites.
With voucher apps, you simply pop the name of the shop you want to track and you'll be notified whenever new codes are available. This obviously means that you have to plan in advance, but if you regularly shop online at - say - Tesco, there's no harm in creating a discount code alert to save you money on your shopping bill.
Daily deal aggregators.
'Deal of the day' sites have been around for as long as online shopping. They're a handy way to keep track of heavily discounted products, but as there are now as many deal sites as there are grains of sand on the beach, checking them all takes a huge amount of time. Enter Dealnews: a web and android app that analyzes all of the best deals of the day and cuts them down to 300 bargains. If you're really serious about saving money, it's certainly worth a try.
Picture the scene. You're in a shop and you see something that you desperately want. Maybe it's a pair of branded shoes, a particularly fetching dress or a fancy digital camera. If you have a barcode deal scanner app, you can quickly scan the label and check the price of the product. You might even find that it's on sale at the shop just down the street, or half price on Amazon at the moment. The daddy of barcode scanner apps is iPhone's RedLaser, which presents you with a list of merchants who sell your product, a map so you can see where the other shops are and a list of online deals for each item. It's a great option for people - again, like me - who have a habit of draining their bank account with impulse buys!
A final word of warning: chasing coupons, codes and daily deals can become addictive. Automating your discounts is a good way to save both time and money. After all, it's a good idea not to become too obsessive about getting the best price. Tracking lists of products and setting up alerts is a good way to avoid losing your marbles in the quest for a deal, giving you time to go outside and smell the flowers now and again. After all, the best things in life are free.