11. Best Money Saving and Money Making Apps for 2013

I love my smart phone as much as the next person. I love having my music with me wherever I go, all my email accounts synced in one place, an 8 megapixel camera, the list goes on. However, above all of these things, I love my apps. There are so many great tools available with the push of a button, for pretty much any function you can dream of. Social media, restaurant reviews, to-lists, all of these things right at your fingertips. I have noticed lately that my ‘Finance’ folder is a little lighter than my other folders, so I thought I would take this opportunity to find some of the best money-saving or money-making apps. There are a long list of apps out there that will either pay you for doing certain tasks, or encourage you to save money, so I thought it would be a good idea to investigate a little further before I just download every app out there.

Money Saving Apps

ImpulseSave – This app links your existing checking account to a savings account and encourages you to save instead of making an impulse purchase. It makes you think about whether you really need that fourth blush brush, or if you should move that money over to savings instead. You’d be surprised how quickly the savings adds up, and how aware you become of your spending habits.

Ballpark E$timate – This app is really straightforward and will help you figure out how to start taking the right steps towards saving for your retirement. Input your information and the app will give you an idea of how saving x amount now will translate toward your retirement goals.

SnipSnap – This app allows you to take picture of paper coupons, organize them and then use them in the store. The downsides are that many stores do not take them without the physical coupon (that is how they get reimbursed), and it can be a little overwhelming if you are using a lot of coupons. It is a nice organizational tool however, and I still use it to save my time from cutting out coupons that I don’t actually ever end up using.

RetailMeNot – One of my favorite websites in smart phone form. I never ever finish an online checkout without checking this site for coupons first. It is maintained by users, so the coupon codes are often reliable, and they are given a percentage of how many people the code worked for so you can see which ones are legit.

Moneywise – This is a well-rounded budgeting app that will help you set a budget quickly and see where your spending goes throughout the month. It is really an eye opener to find out how much your ‘miscellaneous’ spending is costing you each month.

Money Making Apps

Gympact – I have to say, this app is pretty brilliant. You have the opportunity to be motivated, and get paid for being healthy all at the same time. With Gympact you make a commitment to workout a certain amount, and when you track your workout in the app you get paid for it. However, the catch is that if you flake on a workout, then you’ll be the one forking over the cash.

Shopkick – Shopkick is an amazing app…when I remember to use it! This app gives you incentives for shopping at certain stores and checking into them. You can also get ‘kicks’ when you scan items or make purchases, depending on the store. Maybe I need to use a reminder app to use this app when I get to the store.

Viggle – If getting paid to go to the gym is not your speed, look no further than Viggle. This app syncs to your tv by listening to the show your watching and then gives you points for how long you watch. They often host interactive viewing parties and trivia for things like award shows, the Superbowl and other events that can score you a lot of points. You can then redeem the points for gift cards, or items like a Kindle Fire, or Macbook Air.

If I missed any must have money-saving or making apps, please let me know in the comments. Come back tomorrow for a new social media tool review, better yet enter your email address at the top of the page and get the review right to your inbox. What can I say? I aim to please.

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4. Tax information you should start tracking in January

Before buying a house in 2011, my taxes were simple and required little to no thought.

1. Get W-2(s) in the mail
2. Get Financial Aid form in the mail
3. Sign up for some online tax preparation service
4. Plug in numbers from said forms
5. Wait for the return

However, with the house purchase (not to mention moving from a state with no state tax to California), I now have to do this scary thing called itemizing, and I’m realizing I did NOT prepare for this very well. Since we are at the start of a new year, I decided it would be a good idea to find out what records I should start keeping today to make my life easier next year. These are the most important things you should keep/file/do something with, and how they can help you come next tax season.

Medical expenses

What you need to claim them: Itemize your deductions (unless you are self employed).

Qualifying Deductions: Health insurance premiums that you pay out of pocket are all potentially deductible. Medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your AGI before the give you a benefit, or if you are self-employed and not covered by an employer-paid plan you can deduct 100% of insurance premiums.

Childcare expenses

What you need to claim them: You and or your spouse must both have earned income, unless your spouse is your disabled dependent.

Qualifying Deductions: Expenses that allowed you and your spouse, if applicable, to work or look for work. The credit is only available for childcare provided for a child under 13 who you claim as a dependent.

Work-related expenses that you are not reimbursed for

What you need to claim them: Itemize your deductions; Keep your receipts.

Qualifying Deductions: “The cost of tools, equipment,supplies, required uniforms that are unsuitable for wear outside of work, protective gear, professional dues such as union dues or membership to professional organizations, subscriptions to professional journals, and even expenses you pay when looking for a new job in your current field.” Other situational deductions include, training and education related to your field of work, business use of your home and mileage driven for business use (but not commuting).

Self-employment expenses

What you need to claim them: Be self-employed, keep receipts of your bills and purchases

Qualifying Deductions: “…materials, supplies, marketing, office expenses, insurance, and travel can be deducted when you file your income taxes. Certain utilities, vehicle expenses, and expenses for operating a business from your home may also qualify.”

Charitable expenses

What you need to claim them: Itemize your deductions.

Qualifying Deductions: The value of your donated items can be deducted. This is something I often forget to get a written receipt for, and if you get audited, you won’t be able to keep these deductions. You can get a list of common items values on the Salvation Army’s website.

Miscellaneous expenses

There are other expenses you may be able to deduct depending on your particular situation, so if you think a purchase you are making will be tax deductible, make sure to keep the receipt and paper work until you find out one way or the other. Some of these include tax on large purchases (cars, RV’s etc.), educator expenses, points on refinancing and other situations.

This information and more can be found at MSN Money and in this article from Turbo Tax.