By Farnoosh Torabi
With incomes remaining flat and basic expenses from health care to cellphones on the rise, saving money is a top New Year’s resolution. We’ve got simple ways to give your budget more breathing room, often by just tapping into your smartphone. And in the spirit of the New Year, the total savings could add up to $2,015.
Use discounted gift cards through the Raise app
Save $400 in 2015
Discounted gift cards have been around for a while, but with the Raise app, you can purchase discounted gift cards and apply them at the point of sale. Users can comb the site and app for discounts on everything from groceries and gas to clothing, home furnishings or a night out at their favorite restaurant.
The Math: The average discount on the Raise marketplace is 16% off. Americans spent an average of $2,600 eating outside the home in 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if you use this app only for dining expenses, you could save about $400.
Use Gas Buddy and Gas Guru apps
Save $540 in 2015
The Math: The U.S. government predicts the average price of gasoline will be below $3 a gallon in 2015. That’s 77 cents per gallon lower than in 2014. For the average driver, the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates a savings of about $540 or more for the year.
Free apps like GasBuddy and GasGuru can help you find the lowest prices based on your location.
Shop discount programs at chain stores
Save $250 in 2015
Thanks to drug discount programs at chain retailers like Target and Wal-Mart, you can find hundreds of common generic drugs for pennies per pill, according to Consumer Reports.
The Math: Chain retailers like Wal-Mart and Target have a selection of generics for just $4 for a 30-day supply, or $10 for a 90-day supply.
The average American spends about $25 per month for one generic drug, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, citing a 2011 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a government report.
If you can locate your generic prescription drug at Wa-Mart or another store that offers the $4 per month plan, on average you could save about $21 per month, or about $250 per year.
Skip the surcharge with the AllPoint app
Save $145 in 2015
The average ATM withdrawal fee jumped in 2014 by 5%. This includes the fee your bank charges for using an out-of-network ATM and the ATM’s own fee.
The Math: Avoid at least the surcharge – which averages $2.77 these days — by using an app called AllPoint. The app helps you find the nearest surcharge-free ATM (of more than 50,000 such machines nationwide) using your phone’s GPS. If you use an ATM once a week, you could save about $145 per year.
Use a cost comparison app
Save $300 in 2015
The Math: The Go car insurance app estimates it saves users $300 a year on average. Most of Go’s insurers offer a 5% discount just for signing up. Download the app for free. Tell it how many miles per month you drive, your ZIP code, make and model of your car and how much you currently pay, and it will show you competing rates. You can also visit NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool.
Get cash back with grocery apps such as Ibotta, Saving Star, Snap by Groupon
Save $200 in 2015
Say goodbye to clipping coupons in 2015. Instead, use cash-back mobile apps when you buy everyday grocery items — milk, bread, diapers — from chain grocers, drugstores and big box retailers. Apps include Ibotta, Saving Star and Snap by Groupon.
The Math: Do your grocery shopping, then hop onto any one of these cash back grocery apps to see their offers, or browse the offers before you shop. Then scan the barcode on the grocery item or take a snapshot of your receipt to redeem your earnings. You get cash back — a dollar here, 50 cents there — deposited into your bank account or on a gift card. Snap by Groupon estimates its users save about $200.
Use a programmable thermostat
Save $180 in 2015
The Math: With a programmable thermostat, you can schedule the temperature in your home to go down when you’re out of the house or asleep in the winter and to go up when you’re out of the house or asleep in the summer to reduce your energy use. The U.S. Department of Energy figures you can save an average $180 on your energy bill annually with a programmable thermostat.
The final tally
Dining out: $400
Prescription drugs: $250
ATM fees: $145
Auto insurance: $300
Image via iStock.