Where the smart (phone) money is: The best money-saving apps and websites

There are hundreds of apps and websites which claim to save users cash online. Some are cunning, some make you think ‘why has no one done this before?’ David Crookes rounds up the best of the bargains

Travel

With petrol prices sky-high, the AA says 76 per cent of motorists have decided to cut down on driving. You could save money by hitching a lift to work (liftshare.com/uk). Alternatively, tap your postcode or town into petrolprices.com or use its iPhone app and you can see just how wildly varied prices of petrol and diesel can be in your area. Android phone owners can download the acar app which tracks fuel mileage and costs and keeps a check on the general expenses of your vehicle. And for those who prefer the train, this link ind.pn/trainoffers has the latest rail offers. You can sign up to be informed the moment advance tickets become available at thetrainline.com/ticketalert.

Phone bills

Calling 0870 and 0845 numbers can be expensive. Dial from a mobile phone and you can expect to pay through the nose (although Vodafone has announced that the cost of phoning 0800, 0845 and 0870 numbers is falling from 35p per minute to 12p). Use saynoto0870.com instead, it directs its readers to cheaper landline alternatives.

Shopping

During peak periods last Christmas, a delivery lorry left the Amazon distribution centre once every three min and 23 seconds. This year, hundreds of thousands of people will once again visit this giant internet retailer but if you start scouring for gifts now, you could bag yourself a bargain. Using camelcamelcamel.com (so good they named it three times), you can copy and paste an Amazon item's URL and discover how the price has fluctuated. Click "track" and the website will keep an eye on the price, sending you price-drop alerts. Just be ready to pounce. For food and grocery shopping, try mysupermarket.co.uk which compares prices at Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's and Ocado.

Auctions

The auction site eBay might now be the refuge of big, high-street brands taking advantage of its "Buy Now" facility, but it's still chock full of individual sellers. Some of whom, erm, aren't very good at spelling. Canny buyers can take advantage of this fact by using the aptly named goofbay.com as well the likes of typozay.co.uk and fatfingers.com in scouring these badly written listings. These sites pick up on iPoods, camaras and Dizney items that regular eBay searchers would miss. More bargains can be had at nobids.net which looks for items that are about to end without a bid.

Hotels

UK travel watchdog Abta says that 53 per cent of consumers booked their foreign holiday through a high-street travel agent or tour operator over the past year. Booking online can be a headache with so many websites offering different prices for the same hotels and trips, so use a comparison website such as hotelscombined.com, which trawls through a host of major travel sites from ebookers to lastminute.com for the best prices. There are also deals aplenty at halfpricehotels.co.uk. And if you are booking a Travelodge, play around: often booking each night separately online gives a better price than booking two or more in one block.

Software

With more than 500 million users, Microsoft's Office software suite dominates 94 per cent of its market but that doesn't mean there are no viable alternatives. Far from it, in fact. Most obviously, Google's cloud-based home office system Google Docs lets you write documents and create spreadsheets online and share your work with others. Google Docs are now available for use offline too. For those who don't worship at the church of search, you can try the brilliant LibreOffice (www.libreoffice.org), a full productivity suite that won't cost you a bean. There's even a brilliant, free download alternative to Adobe Photoshop called GIMPshop. Despite the name, it's a smart choice.

Entertainment

There are plenty of ways to enjoy a cheaper night out with only a little bit of online digging. Freecinematicketsuk.co.uk is the place to go for special previews, especially if you live near a major city. The online equivalent of the West End's theatre discount stalls can be found at discounttheatre.com. But there are plenty of options for those who like to stay at home for fun instead. Use the site megashopbot.com to find you the cheapest price for books, games, CDs and DVDs.

Rewards

Excluding fuel, £1 of every £10 spent on retail purchases is spent online. It's not a money saver, but for those keen to receive their purchases as quickly as possible Shutl promises web shoppers for companies including Warehouse, Argos and Karen Millen that it will deliver within 90 minutes of ordering.

But it's a competitive market which is why many offer cashback and points schemes aimed at rewarding savvy shoppers. By signing up to sites such as quidco.com and mutualpoints.com, you can search for a retailer and see the incentives they are offering in return for a sale. Buying clothing from Tesco.com, for example, will earn you 5.05 per cent with the well-rated Topcashback.co.uk.

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