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Your smartphone is a tool you probably always have with you when you’re shopping, so why not make it your staying-on-budget accountability BFF?
Here are a few ways you can save time and money just by putting your smartphone to work while you’re in the store.
1. Make a couponing shopping list on the KCL app.
Download the KCL app before you head to the grocery store. Once you’ve selected your favorite stores, browse current deals and add them to “My List.”
Refer to “My List” and check off each couponing deal as you complete it. You’ll save 50-70% on your groceries every month simply by stacking a coupon with a store sale. (Don’t worry — we’ll tell you exactly which coupons to match up with each sale!)
Learn how to start couponing, or check out how to coupon the lazy way — where most deals only require a smartphone.
2. Earn money buying specific items.
Rebate apps are a gimme when it comes to earning easy money at the grocery store.
Ibotta and Checkout51 both have specific product offers that you can either plan your shopping list around, or scoop up the savings after you’re done shopping.
You’ll save more money if you plan your list around the offers, but if you’re in a rush or you forgot to plan, always check to see if there are offers for items you already bought.
Sometimes the two apps even have the same offers, meaning you’ll get to double dip and earn twice as much.
You’ll either get your rebates via PayPal or a check in the mail.
RELATED: Your Ultimate Guide to Rebate Apps
3. Scan items with your phone to double-check prices and get discounts.
Stores like Target and Walmart offer a price-checker inside their respective store apps.
You’ll see a barcode icon. When you tap it, you can scan items in store to see if there’s a markdown
With the Target app, you can access Cartwheel offers, which are typically extra percentage-off savings on certain categories like “Bedding and Bath” or “Home Office.”
Just show the cashier the barcode at checkout: they’ll scan it and you’ll get the savings.
4. Use the Amazon app to see if you can request a price match at Target.
Target will match Amazon’s price, and the fastest way to compare is to scan the item at Target with the Amazon app to pull up the Amazon price.
If you find a lower price, just walk over to customer service at Target and ask them to match it.
5. Or take a picture of price tags if you want to compare grocery store prices.
It might seem old-fashioned when compared with the Amazon app method, but if you want to find the cheapest place to buy certain items, don’t bother writing anything down in store. Just snap a picture of price tags and then when you get home, compare pictures and record pricing.
This is how I discovered that Costco sells cheaper no-sugar almond butter than almost anywhere else.
RELATED: 7 Mindless Ways to Save Money on Last-Minute Groceries
6. Earn money doing a mystery shopping gig while you’re at the store.
You’re at the grocery store anyway — why not pick up an extra task or two and get paid to be there?
Check out Jobs2Shop, EasyShift and Gigwalk for opportunities ranging from easy (give your opinion on a store experience), to more involved (visit multiple stores and analyze product displays).
Earning depends on how involved the gig is. Most of these companies offer earnings between $3-$100. (The $100 gigs can take hours to complete.)
Read more about apps that make you easy money.
7. Keep a running total on your calculator to stay under budget.
And always round up! Even if you buy a can of black beans for $0.58, round it up to $1.00. This will cover tax and math errors since some items won’t require as much rounding up.
8. Browse and clip digital coupons inside store apps.
If your favorite grocery store has an app, check for store coupons. For example, Kroger, Walgreens and Target all offer manufacturer and store coupons (Cartwheel offers for Target) inside their apps.
You may not even need printables or newspaper coupons if a store app has a healthy dose of manufacturer coupons.
Note that you cannot stack a printable or a newspaper coupon with a digital manufacturer coupon because they are essentially the same thing.
Learn more about how to stack coupons so you get the biggest possible savings!
9. Buy electronic discounted gift cards and access them from your phone.
Discounted gift cards are gift cards people sell at a lower price than the face value of the card. You can buy these cards and use them at full face value, saving an average of 5-20%.
And you can definitely buy electronic versions of discounted gift cards from companies like Gift Card Granny or Raise.
Electronic gift cards typically arrive within one business day, so it’ll take some planning ahead. But once you receive them, you’ll be able to access them via email.
RELATED: 29 Gift Card Hacks You Should Be Using
10. Put in earbuds and earn money listening to music while you shop.
It’s not gonna make you rich (I’m talking around $0.10 per song), but companies like MusicXray pay people to listen to music and give honest feedback. You’ll make more and get more opportunities if you specialize in a certain band or genre.
TIP: Whenever you have a choice, opt for faster-paced music because it’ll get you through the store more quickly, which means less time for meandering and browsing and impulse buying.
11. Use the RetailMeNot app to check for coupon codes.
RetailMeNot used to be for online shopping exclusively. But now you can access cash-back offers while you’re in store.
Download the RetailMeNot app and sort by in-store cash-back offers. You’ll see coupons like “$2 Cash Back for In-Store Purchases of $10+ at CVS.” You can usually stack these offers with coupons and store sales for deeper savings.
12. Take a picture of your refrigerator and refer to it while you’re at the store.
Even with a grocery list and a budget, it’s easy to forget what you need and don’t need.
Take pictures of the contents of your refrigerator and your pantry so you can check your phone to see if you actually need something that strikes your fancy in the store.
13. Scan products in store to earn gift cards.
With Shopkick, you don’t even have to buy the items to earn money on them.
Just download the Shopkick app and use your phone to scan the items listed for the store you’re in.
Roughly 250 kicks equals $1 cash back, and you can cash out for gift cards once you’ve earned 500 kicks. Here’s a breakdown of kicks per dollar:
- 500 kicks = $2
- 1,250 kicks = $5
- 2,500 kicks = $10
- 3,750 kicks = $15
- 6,250 kicks = $25
14. Take a picture of your receipt (any receipt!) and get cash back.
Apps like Fetch Rewards and Receipt Hog don’t really care where you shop.
Take a picture of any receipt and submit it for points that earn gift cards (Fetch), or cash out via PayPal (Receipt Hog).
With Fetch Rewards, 1,000 points are equivalent to $1, and you can cash out once you earn 3,000 points (or $3). One receipt is worth 100-200 points.
Receipt Hog works on a coin system, eventually allowing you to cash out at $5 (1,000 coins).
Get more details about how to earn with Fetch Rewards.
15. Pay with your smartphone at certain stores like Walmart, Target or Sam’s Club.
Walmart offers Walmart Pay, Sam’s Club offers Scan & Go, and Target REDcard holders can pay via the Target app.
This means you might even be able to leave your purse at home when you go shopping. Plus, each of these has its own little perk.
When you use Walmart Pay, you have access to Savings Catcher, Walmart’s price matching tool. When you shop at Sam’s Club, you can scan your items with your phone and then show it to the cashier to scan (and pay!) when you go to check out.
And Target shoppers get 5% off when they pay with REDcard. (It’s connected to your checking account, so it’s not a credit card.)
16. Order dinner through DoorDash after a long day of shopping.
DoorDash picks up your food at your restaurant of choice and brings it to your house.
You can sort restaurants by delivery fee or settle for ordering from certain restaurants with a very low ($1) delivery fee or for free.
For example, right now I could order from a local Mexican restaurant or Smashburger and get free delivery.
These offers rotate, so always sort by delivery fee.