There are plenty of smartphone apps available that promise to make using coupons for your shopping faster and easier. But do they really live up to that promise? Using my Iphone 4 in my home town of Omaha, NE, I set out to find out just that.

Here is the skinny on the different types of coupon apps I found:

Location Based Couponing Services

  • The idea: These offer you coupons based on where you are physically located. Examples are: www.yowza.com , www.GeoQpons.com, and www.thecouponsapp.com.
  • The verdict: Taking into account I don’t live in the biggest city in the country, I was sorely unimpressed by the offerings on these apps. They offered one or two discounts for places that were totally obscure and basically useless to me. It’s not so often I will be walking around, look at my phone and randomly decide that buying a guitar sounds like a good way to spend the afternoon. Maybe in a bigger city or as they become more popular, I’ll try again. Right now, it’s not worth my time or space on my phone.

Store Loyalty Cards Apps

  • The idea: Stores have had rewards cards for ages. Now they are moving them into a new direction. You can now use a website or a phone app (Like Kroger’s new app) to load your card with coupons which are applied automatically when you hand over the card at checkout. In some cases, you don’t even have to carry the actual card; you can present your phone to the cashier instead. Some stores, like Target, don’t have a physical card at all but will text scannable store coupons to your phone for you.
  • The verdict: While these have their issues (like only being able to use them once as opposed to being able to print two copies), they are certainly handy. I might find myself without my coupon binder once in a while; but being caught without my phone is reason for panic! So I will always have that mobile coupon with me when I need it. As far as loading coupons onto my physical card, I imagine I will still be more likely to do it via a pc and website just because it’s faster. But it’s good to have the option to do it on the phone if I forget until the last minute on the way to the grocery store.

Printable Coupon Lists

  • The idea: Generally these are just phone app versions of existing websites that list printable coupons such as afullcup.com, couponclipper.com and ladysavings.com.
  • The verdict: I love to print coupons as much as the next person, but even I, a self-proclaimed phone geek, don’t have my phone set up to print right now. Yes, there are wireless printers that phones can print directly to, but unfortunately they are a little pricey (starting at about $99 for a Canon 5320), so for me it is not worth the cost right now. If I did not have readily available access to a printer from my pc, I would absolutely be purchasing a wireless printer to print coupons from my phone. But for now, while I occasionally browse these apps when bored, when I get home, I find I rarely use them.

Coupon Databases

  • The idea: I was most excited for these physical coupon trackers like www.ladysavings.com and www.couponmate.com. These are either a database of all the known coupons available, your own personal collection, or both. So if you are looking for Crest coupons, you can search Crest and it will either tell you that there were coupons available in last month’s SS or you have two in your personal collection.
  • The verdict: When I started couponing, my plan was not to clip coupons but to keep the inserts intact and use an app like this to see where to go when I needed a coupon. Unfortunately, I was let down again. I could not find one app that did both your personal collection and known coupons. This meant looking in two places for each coupon I needed. Nope, sorry, not going to happen. I also found, at least in my area, the values of so many of my coupons were different than what was listed in the general coupon database, so I still had to go find my physical coupon to see what I had. My next thought was to go ahead and clip coupons but enter them all into my personal database so I could easily know what I have. Great plan! But I barely have the time to cut them all out, let alone manually enter each one into a database. I would LOVE to see someone design an app that uses the built in camera scanner to check coupons in and out of a database. I think I would really use and love that one… but sadly… I can’t find anything like that yet.

The Final Verdict: Non-Coupon specific apps proved the most useful.

What I do use is a great syncing program that syncs files to both my work and home pc. With it I can create a spreadsheet of my planned purchases on a full keyboard when it’s convenient to me.  It then becomes available on my phone when I get to the store. (I use www.sugarsync.com.) I also use the web browser to check my favorite couponing website (such as www.krazycouponlady.com, of course!) to see their suggested matchups and good buys while I am in the stores.

I keep searching and as quickly as mobile apps are changing, I’m sure someone will invent a really great couponing app someday. But for now, with the exception of store loyalty card apps, I shall keep couponing the old fashioned way–with a big old beautiful pink binder!

This has been a guest post by Sarah from Omaha, NE
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