Can a free app really help you save £550 on bills – automatically?
Tracking: Little Birdie is an online manager for all your subscriptions
Saving money when shopping online can be time-consuming and fiddly.
You need to trawl the internet for valid discount codes, compare prices at different retailers – and remember to cancel subscriptions that are no longer good value.
However, a growing number of tools are being launched that claim to do all this work for you automatically.
The idea is that you can benefit from all the best deals, prices and discounts without having to track them down yourself.
All are free to use on your desktop or tablet and some work on smartphones.
We tested six to see how easy they were to use and if they actually saved us money.
Little Birdie is an online manager for all your subscriptions.
It tracks your subscriptions for services like insurance, broadband and TV streaming and sends you an alert when a free trial is about to end or there’s a price increase.
It also searches around to see if you can find a better deal.
To use Little Birdie, you need to download the mobile application to your smartphone. Launched this month, it will add new features in October, such as the ability to cancel unwanted subscriptions. It claims it will save households £550 a year.
Verdict: The app is simple to download and set up. You need to enter your subscriptions or upload the information from your current account provider’s website, using the open banking service.
When I downloaded the app I noticed my O2 phone bill went up by 46p. It also suggests a cheaper broadband deal that I can switch to.
If you’ve ever looked for a discount code when shopping online, you know how frustrating it can be when the code you find is expired or invalid. PayPal Honey aims to eliminate hassle by automatically applying best value codes at checkout.
It also offers special customer discounts and online store rewards.
The technology it uses is known as a browser extension, which is a piece of software that you download to your computer. Once downloaded, you don’t need to do anything else.
If you then visit a shopping website on your computer, a notification will appear on your screen showing if PayPal Honey has identified a discount code that can save you money.
Verdict: The extension is quick and easy to install. However, when I visited the websites of the five major retailers, PayPal Honey more than once alerted me that it had discovered a working discount code for me to use. However, the browser extension works with more than 30,000 websites and has been given the highest five-star rating by its users, so maybe I was just unlucky.
Cashback websites like TopCashback and Quidco can be a great way to save money when shopping online. They pay you money when you pass through them to spend at retailers, including high street shops such as Marks & Spencer, as well as from major utilities, broadband and insurance companies.
To get cashback, you need to head to a cashback website and click on the retailer of your choice to make a purchase. TopCashback claims its members earn £300 a year on average.
However, it’s easy to forget to click from a cashback website and miss out on making money.
TopCashback has a browser extension, which automatically alerts you whenever there is an opportunity to earn cashback.
Verdict: I install the browser extension and then visit the Argos website to buy a new washing machine. A window pops up on my computer to tell me that I can earn up to £10 cashback. I clicked on the window and the cashback offer was automatically applied. I no longer need to visit the TopCashback website. It may take a few weeks for the cashback to be paid out.
The website CamelCamel is handy for checking if an Amazon deal is really as good as it looks. It shows price history for millions of products and notifies you if the price drops on a product you’re interested in buying.
The website has a browser extension called Camelizer, which automates the process.
Once you’ve downloaded Camelizer, every time you search for something on Amazon, a box will appear on your computer showing you the item’s price history.
Verdict: I download Camelizer and then visit Amazon to buy a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The headphones retail for £27.99 (non-sale price £42.99).
This seemed like a good deal, until a window from Camelizer popped up to inform me that the headphones had been at this price since last November. I find the tool clunky and slow to use, but it saves me from rushing to take advantage of a sale price available for a few months.
Savoo is a website that offers voucher codes for over 4,000 stores, including Tesco, Boots and Asos. It supports good causes by donating up to half of the commission it receives to charities such as Marie Curie, Heart Research UK and Mental Health UK.
Savoo also has its own search engine, and for every search you make, Savoo will automatically donate a penny to your chosen charity on your behalf, at no cost to you.
The search engine is powered by Microsoft Bing.
Judgment: Using discount codes when shopping, while Savoo donates to charity, is a great way to save money and support good causes effortlessly.
I like the idea of making money for charity just by finding things online – something I still do. However, I need to do 100 searches to generate a £1 donation.
I think I’d rather just make a donation and stick to my usual search engine.
Beagle Button can be a good option if you’re trying to shop more sustainably. It works as a browser extension, which you download to your computer.
Then, when you shop online, a popup window will appear on your computer if the Beagle Button identifies more sustainable alternatives to the products you’re considering.
Launched this summer, it works with more than 200 sustainable companies, including Beauty Kitchen and Nudie Jeans.
Verdict: The Beagle Button probably won’t save you money, but it might offer a useful nudge if you’re trying to rethink your shopping habits.
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