How technology can help you reduce costs

Whether it’s the price of the device itself, the cost of phone calls or broadband, or even just the cost of electricity for those things – a lot of things in technology are draining our wallets.

But when you’re trying to save money, there are ways to make your technology work for you.

Many of these things are also completely free, even where an investment is required – the payoff will come quickly.

It may not keep you out of the current wave of price increases – but it helps soften the blow.

After all, every step you take to save means more money in your pocket each week.

What are some free tech tools that can help us save money?

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The first thing people are always told to do when trying to save is to create a budget.

It’s not sexy, but it’s really the only way to know where your money is going, how much you have left to play after the essentials are covered, and where you can save money.

There’s nothing wrong with doing this on pen and paper, of course, but it can get messy quickly. If you’re so inclined, you might also want to use spreadsheets over something like Excel, but you’ll need to master software to do this properly.

So an easier option is to use one of the many budget apps that exist for smartphones and tablets.

They do all the hard work for you, and they tend to better visualize your budget so you can see at a glance what’s going on and where you are. It’s also available on your phone, so it’s easier to track and monitor your spending.

Some of these apps can even connect to your bank account if you want, so they can automatically track your assets and spending.

Many budget apps require payment for certain features, or they are only available for free during the trial period. But there are some good free options out there.

An example is Daily Budget​​—it offers a lot of great features for free.

There’s a paid upgrade option, but the features it adds are nice additions, not necessities, so if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

So your budget is done – what’s next?

Well now it’s about trying to find ways to cut what you can from your expenses. And there are plenty of apps that can help you do just that.

TooGoodToGo and Olio are two apps that primarily focus on reducing food waste, but they can also save you money.

TooGoodToGo lets shops, cafes and restaurants sell leftover – but still very good – food at deep discounts.

You can see what’s available nearby, place an order and pick it up in minutes.

The problem is you don’t know exactly what you’re getting – but the store you buy from will help you find out.

This can be used as a way to get cheaper meals here and there, or even get some fresh baked goods for the next few days.

Meanwhile, Olio allows people to give their leftovers—whether it’s food or household items—to those nearby.

This means you can share items you know won’t work.

But you’ll also find that a lot of what’s on offer also comes from Tesco, as it’s partnered with the app to give people their own leftover but timely food for free at the end of the day.

Speaking of supermarkets, if you’re a member of one of the grocery chain’s loyalty programs, they now have apps. Using them makes it easier to make sure you have any coupons or vouchers they offer on hand when you get to the checkout.

There are also apps like Vouchercloud, which aggregates a variety of deals and coupons from different retailers across the country.

The key to getting the most out of coupons is to only use them for things you already plan to buy. If you’re looking for something to buy because you have a coupon, you’re not saving money.

However, if you have a plan to buy, it’s worth checking out these apps to see if there are coupons that can help you cut costs a little.

Another app to look at when you’re making a bulk purchase is a price comparison service.

They no longer do Ireland-specific comparisons, but you can still see UK or continental European comparisons, which are generally available to Irish consumers as well.

What if you want to stop yourself from spending money online?

One of the curses of technology is that it makes spending money too easy.

But, again, you can use it to your advantage to try and reduce this urge.

Of course, nothing can replace good, old-fashioned self-control — but there are steps you can take to make the task a little easier.

For example, most new smartphones have a “screen time” feature built in, designed to make it easier for people to limit the amount of time they can view their phone or specific apps.

Within this range, you can limit the amount of time you can spend on the app – or limit the amount of time you can use it throughout the day.

So, if you know you’re prone to impulse shopping at night, you can set a time period on the shopping app, or even on the internet browser on your phone or tablet.

This won’t completely stop you from accessing it – but it will force you to click through a little reminder to get in, and it will periodically remind you that you have set limits on using the app.

Think of it as a small nudge to encourage you to do the right thing.

If you want to take it a step further, you can even set your phone so that certain apps disappear from your home screen at certain times of the day or when you’re in certain locations.

For example, you can do this through the Focus setting on the iPhone.

Again, it doesn’t completely remove the app – it just hides it, and if you want to use it, you have to go and find it.

It’s all about making spending money more awkward.

Energy bills are a top concern for many right now – can technology help there?

Yes, there are many ways you can use technology to cut expenses. Some are cheap or even free, and even if you spend money, you should get a quick return on your investment.

A smart thermostat is a good example – it works like a regular thermostat, triggering your boiler when the temperature in the room drops below a certain level – but the “smart” bits can help your heating system more efficient.

First, you can control it from your phone or tablet, so it’s easier to adjust the temperature and set a schedule to suit your needs.

So, regardless of the recommendation to lower the thermostat by a certain amount, you can now adjust it by the day or by the hour so you’re really only using what you need.

And because it’s phone-controlled, you can also set it remotely – you can even set it to turn the heat off completely when no one’s home, but turn it on on your way back so you don’t return to the freezing cold house.

The thermostat itself can cost 100-200 euros, depending on the brand, but it’s worth checking with your utility company first. That’s because most of the big vendors here offer discounted or even free smart thermostats to customers.

Some also offer them as an incentive for people to switch, which as we know it is something people should do more often.

Failing this, you may be eligible for SEAI funding for a heating control upgrade, depending on what you currently have – up to a cost of €700.

If you want to go all out, there are systems that allow you to add remotes to every radiator in your home so you can manage the heat from room to room without leaving the couch.

However, this will cost a lot of money, so it won’t save you money in the short term.

Could smart heating alone save you money?

No – you can also save money with smart lighting.

First, smart lights are usually LEDs, which are the most efficient type of lighting.

They use about 14 percent of the energy of so-called eco-friendly halogen bulbs commonly sold in stores.

So if an eco-halogen lamp with an average of three hours a day of use costs more than 18 euros a year, an LED will cost you around 3 euros.

They also last longer – over ten years, even if you drive half a day every day.

But where smart lights can save you money is that, again, they can be controlled from your phone and remotely.

That means you don’t have to walk around the house to make sure the lights are off – you can just glance at your phone and turn off the things you don’t need from the couch.

If you have a smart speaker at home, you can even tell it to turn the lights on or off, so you can be super lazy and save money at the same time.

They’re also dimmable — even if you don’t have a dimmer switch — so even if they’re on, you can use less energy.

And they’re really easy to set up on a schedule — maybe automating the lights so they only come on at sunset, or go out at midnight. You can even connect them to motion detectors, so they turn on or off depending on whether someone is in the room.

Saving 15 euros per bulb per year may not seem like a big deal – but if you multiply 10, 15 or more bulbs across the house, it can quickly save 100-200 euros from your annual bill.

Besides money, there is an added benefit to using them.

Because as we head into winter and longer nights, they can give you extra peace of mind by letting you turn the lights on and off in the house remotely, so even you can make it look like someone’s home and go back out.

What about the cost?

This is where it gets a little tricky – because the price varies greatly depending on the brand and bulb type; you can also choose pure white bulbs, or you can get a variety of different colors as well.

Products from companies like Philips are pricier – but IKEA’s bulbs start at 8 euros, so only a few euros more than equivalent “dumb” bulbs.

The advice is to switch to smart bulbs when your old bulbs burn out, so you don’t waste money by throwing away your currently working bulbs.

It is recommended that you also stick to well-known brands.

There are plenty of cheap options online, but they’re probably not particularly well-made, and if you have to replace them after a year or two, it can really ruin any savings you’re hoping to save.

Where else can we make our homes smarter?

Another potential energy saver is the smart plug. These work like those old timer plugs with dials, only these you – again – control them from your phone.

This means you can set on/off schedules – or you can turn them on or off via the app as needed.

These can be especially useful for devices that consume electricity in standby mode – so-called power vampires, such as your TV, microwave or game console, which are said to cost around €180-200 per year in household bills.

They’re easy to forget — or the plugs can be a little awkward — but if you have some of them, you can press a button to turn them all off.

Some of the more advanced smart plugs can even track the energy consumed through them, so this might help if you’re trying to figure out which device is adding the most power to your bill.

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