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5 apps for smarter spending over the holidays

Get the best bang for your year-end buck with these powerful apps for negotiating refunds when a price drops, canceling services you aren’t using, and more.

5 apps for smarter spending over the holidays
[Source photos: Max Fischer/Pexels; grinvalds/iStock]

Get those wallets ready: The holidays are fast approaching. But as long as you’re grabbing your wallet, take out your smartphone, too. These helpful apps let you save better, shop smarter, and do more with less.

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Pay it off over time

You’ve got a lot of stuff to buy inside a tiny window of time. Instead of putting everything on a credit card and dealing with it after the holidays, check out Afterpay. The service is supported by a bunch of retailers and splits each purchase into four interest-free payments to be made over a six-week period.

If you’re shopping online, look for the Afterpay option at checkout. If you’re shopping in person, you can add Afterpay as an option to your Apple Wallet, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay apps. At the time of purchase, you’ll make the first of the four payments, with the remaining three payments to be deducted every two weeks for the next month and a half.

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Protect yourself against price drops

You know that feeling when you pay full price for something and then see that it’s on sale two weeks later? The one that hits you right in the pit of your stomach and then makes your face go flush? There’s a quick and easy way to keep that feeling at bay.

The free Price Protection feature from Capital One Shopping—formerly known as Paribus—monitors purchase receipts that you receive in your email for price drops. Depending upon the retailer, it can either negotiate a refund of the difference for you automatically or give you instructions for how to do it yourself. The service supports Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook inboxes, and you don’t need to have a Capital One account to use it.

Free up some cash by canceling unused services

The Truebill budgeting app is a fully featured money-management solution, and its built-in subscription cancellation feature is particularly excellent.

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You sync the app up with your financial accounts, and it’ll keep track of all your recurring subscriptions in a consolidated list. If you notice a subscription you’re not using any more, there’s a good chance it can handle the cancellation on your behalf. If cancellation isn’t possible to automate, you’ll be given phone and email links, along with instructions for how to cancel it yourself.

What’s more: If there’s a service you kinda-sorta don’t use all that much, but you’re not quite sure you want to cancel it, Truebill also has a bill negotiation feature that can attempt to cut, say, your cable bill or insurance rates down to a more manageable monthly payment.

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While Truebill is a free app, the cancellation and bill negotiation features cost money. Cancellations start at $36 per year, while bill negotiations only cost you if they’re successful and start at a 30% cut of your first-year savings of the price reduction that’s been negotiated on your behalf.

Sock some savings away as you spend

Just like you’d toss the change from your latte into the tip jar at your local coffee shop, you can essentially tip yourself from purchases you make with your debit and credit cards.

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Investment app Acorns syncs with your cards and monitors your purchases, then can round up each purchase to the nearest dollar, depositing the difference into a savings account for you. You can also opt to put the roundups toward investments or educational savings plans for your kids. The app runs $3 a month for a personal account or $5 a month for a family account.

Split purchases and expenses with others

The holidays are chock-full of group dinners, fun activities, and other get-togethers, but it’s no fun if someone gets stuck with the entire bill. Check out Splitwise, which makes it easy to keep track of shared expenses and pay each other back whenever one in the group picks up the check.

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It can split expenses, so that everyone in your group pays an equal percentage, or divvy up the bill so that someone who ordered a salad and water doesn’t pay for another diner’s lobster and wine. It’s also a great app to use if you live with roommates or split recurring monthly expenses with others.

The basic app is free but ad-supported and sports plenty of features, while the Pro version runs $3 a month or $30 a year and includes receipt scanning, itemization features, default split settings, currency conversion, and advanced search features.

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