Like many thrifty people, I struggled with purchasing a smart phone. What do I need it for other than games and widgets that will only distract me and not be necessary? My wife got one before I did. Her logic was that she needed it if she saw a patient that required her to look up certain information, especially drug information. She uses the Epocrates app pretty regularly.
So, my contract renewal date came and I had a decision to make. I tried to keep the example of the app she was using in mind and consider all the ways that I could use the phone to either save money or make money to justify the purpose. I did end up getting the phone and here is a list of ways I use my phone for my financial advantage.
The most obvious to me is the camera that all smart phones have. For my picture-taking needs, the resolution is more than enough. Plus, I am very bad about remembering a camera but I always have my phone. So where I used to be unprepared, now I am covered. We’re also starting to use the video camera on the phone as well. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I’m sure I will really use this feature. Plus, I play in bands, so it is very convenient to record a performance on a smart phone and get it online quicker. I’m from Pittsburgh and a local YouTube sensation, Pittsburgh Dad, films every episode on an iPhone. Take a look at one of my favorites.
I know very few people who still have a GPS device. I bought a car back in November and the sales person tried to sell me the GPS upgrade for $500. I looked at him like he was crazy and told him my phone works just fun. For iPhone users, I recommend downloading the Google Maps app, as I find it more user-friendly and robust than the Apple version.
Most banks have an app that allows you to complete many transactions via the phone. Most recently that saves me money is taking pictures of checks for deposit. It saves me time and gas not going to the bank.
QR codes are everywhere now. Having an app to scan these to receive more information on a product is very useful. I also like having a scanner that looks up bar codes when shopping. It gives you the advantage of finding how much an item costs elsewhere before purchasing it. Having a smart phone gives you that advantage for any purchase because you can use the internet to research as well. I use QRREader.
I have a rental property and am in the process of purchasing another one. It is important to keep records. There are plenty of free and for purchase apps to help with scanning and storing records. I like Shoeboxed, which features free and pay versions of the app.
Although not a money saver, I really like apps that allow you to enter your fitness and weight loss goals and allow you to enter daily information to track your progress. I use the Lose It! app. My favorite feature about this is it has a scanner built into the app so you can scan the bar code on your food and it automatically populates that nutritional information about it.
I continue to look for apps that I can use to make some money. The best so far is Gigwalk. There other apps out there I want to explore, but bottom line, if you didn’t have a smart phone, you could not take advantage of these.
Job Specific Apps
I teach guitar lessons and use a free guitar tuner app at lessons. I also use the YouTube app for students to play along with songs they are learning. I even found a free app that slows songs down so it is easier to play along with. My smart phone also makes running this website easier with Facebook, Twitter, RSS, and WordPress apps.
If someone were to purchase separate devices for these functions, we are likely talking about thousands of dollars in equipment. The final thing to consider is the data plan. This can get very expensive and may be hard to justify month over month. It might make more sense to get an iPod rather than a smart phone. It does nearly all of the same things except making calls and you must have wifi to complete other functionality. For me, the convenience of having that much data at hand at home and while I’m out makes the data plan worth it. As with any purchase, you’ll need to weigh your own priorities and decide what is best for you.
Do you have a smart phone? What ways does it help you make and save money? Discovered other cool apps?