Six Ways an iPhone Can Save You Money

By Carlos Portocarrero on 22 September 2009 26 comments

Buying an iPhone (or any smartphone) isn't easy if you consider yourself a frugal person. I struggled with my purchase of the Android G1 because, deep down, I knew I didn't need to buy it.

I just really wanted it.

For all you other frugaholics that need a little push to come over to the dark side, here are six ways an iPhone (or most smartphones) can save you money:

ATM Fees

Ever had that sinking sensation of despair when you absolutely need to take cash out of another bank's ATM machine? I have used the maps feature on my G1 to find an ATM nearby at least three times in the last month. At that rate, I'll save around $70/year by never spending those pesky $2 to get access to my own money.


Love listening to music but don't want to spend a whole lot of money downloading songs or (if you're really old school) buying CDs? Say hello to Pandora—one of several apps out there that stream music to your phone for free. Not only that, it learns which songs you like and which ones you don't, exposing you to music you may never have heard of before. An added bonus! I've also used Imeem and it works just as well.

Price Checking

Say you're at the store and you see a book or DVD you really want to buy. In the olden days, you had to fight the urge to buy it and try to make it out of the store before succumbing to the temptation. Now you can whip out your phone and check to see if a competitor has a lower price. Knowing you can get a better deal should make it easier to walk out of the store without buying anything. And if you have a G1, check out the ShopSavvy app—it actually lets you scan the barcodes of thousands of products to do a price check. It'll even tell you the prices of real stores near your current location—pretty cool!

Cheap Gas

Remember how crazy people became last year when gas prices were so high? Some were even driving the long way home to get a better deal on gas. Well, if you want to keep saving on gas regardless of what happens to the price of gas, check out Gas Buddy. It's a comparison tool that will show you where the cheapest gas prices are in your neck of the woods. Just please don't drive an extra 10 miles for a "deal."


I love reading, but buying book after book adds up pretty quickly. And when there are thousands of great, free books out there you haven't read, why spend any more money than you have to? There are a bunch of e-readers out there that allow smartphone owners to read books on the go. Check out Stanza or one of the many other apps out there for smartphones. Even better, check out all the books that Google has made public by accessing their mobile site on your phone.

Phone Calls

You remember Skype, right? Wait a minute, isn't Skype the program people use at home to call other computers with Skype for free? You got it, and now you can get that functionality on your phone. There's a Skype app for the iPhone and there's one called iSkoot that taps into your Skype account for Android phones. As long as you have Wi-Fi access, you can call anyone else with a Skype account for free or any phone in the world at a really cheap rate.

If you're still not convinced, check out the different ways a smartphone can save you time—if you're saving time and money then you know there's nothing to lose.

If there is an app out there that has saved you money, feel free to share your story so we can compile a "master list" of ways to save money!

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Guest's picture

There isn't much on this list that a $79 Samsung Jack from AT&T can't do in comparison to the iPhone.

Nice to try and justify the $300 phone but there are cheaper paths to the same end result in the Windows mobile and even blackberry/palm arena.

Guest's picture

My iPhone was $99, not $300.

I do EVERYTHING on my phone, it saves me a great deal of money and time, which for me IS money sometimes.
I do not have a landline, never missed it.

Guest's picture

There's an app that will let you send a photo of a check to deposit into your account. It'll save you the hassle of going out to the bank, and you save some gas too!

Guest's picture

I used to have a BB (it was just OKAY). I busted my Verizon contract to SWITCH to an iPhone when I calculated that it was about $80 a month CHEAPER. I love my iPhone and all that it does for me.

I also use the app to watch my budget.


Guest's picture

Because you can't use on your computer!

This is an ok list, author, but you could save even more money if you just used a little forethought and had money when you went out, if used Amazon instead of bookstores (which are always more expensive -- don't know why you'd need your iPhone to "check" prices), and so on. The iPhone might be a decent ebook reader, but doesn't really do anything a cheap used Palm Pilot from 2001 can't do.

Guest's picture

I have an unlocked iphone I use on Tmobile. The voice plan is $39.99 and tzone web which provides me with full internet access at decent speeds was only $5.99. Oh and the iphone cost me $200 on craigslist.

How easy to use is the Samsung Jack? That is the real beauty of the iphone. You can pick it up and start using it w/out having to read a manual.

You also failed to mention all the cool games out there for the iphone. Also it has a fully functional ipod for music and videos. Other phones may be able to play music and video but the simplicity of navigation on the iphone/ipod is second to none.

I could go on and on...

Guest's picture

With an iPhone, you can also dump your internet at home if you don't use it often. That'll save you a few clams each month.

Guest's picture

The Yowza app for iPhone is a great way to find deals and discounts and clip-less coupons for retailers and restaurants in your area. It uses the gps to locate nearby deals, and when you go in to use a coupon you just show them your phone screen to get the discount.

Guest's picture

My monthly bill turned out about 5 bucks less per month than expected. I figured out it was because wit the iPhone don't call 411 for phone numbers any more. I use yellow page apps instead which have buttons to make a direct call to the number.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Great things I wanted to mentioned but forgot: PLEASE don't become one of those people that become so obsessed with their iPhones that they get to the point of being socially rude/awkward. If you're eating lunch/dinner with someone, please don't pick your phone up and start playing with it....

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Linsey Knerl's picture

I was the one who wrote the article on not having a cell phone at all.  However, after choosing to get one for business reasons, (one of them being that my internet is always down in my rural area, and I NEED email for my work), I have found it to be rather affordable.  One cost-saving tool I can't use enough is the RepairPal app.. I use it to check out car repair costs in my area.  Just last week hubby and I convinced my Grandma NOT to spend an extra $500 on a repair that could have been avoided with a simple cleaning procedure.  May not have saved me much, but my iPhone gave my Grams a few extra hundred dollars to take on her California vacation next month!

Other fave apps include iCraig (for snagging the hottest Craigslist finds while in the metro area), Cheap Gas, and of course -- GPS.  Not having to remember to transfer my GPS unit to the car I'll be using and being able to get to where I'm going the FIRST try has saved this directionally-challenged driver mucho dinero.

Great article!

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture


"There isn't much on this list that a $79 Samsung Jack from AT&T can't do in comparison to the iPhone."

Maybe true for the things mentioned on this list but it would be easy to continue this list with hundreds of other ways to save money based on the tons of apps in the app store (while other phones do not have access to nearly as many apps) - even if they are just things that save time ... although as I start to type this I am realizing that there are just as many apps that are designed purely to turn around and waste that time you just saved so... :)

Guest's picture

i will get one of these smartphones very very soon oh and a macbook pro too. these are things that i really want but just dont need. and just so you know, i blame you for convincing me to but the cellphone

Guest's picture

Here's my tip on this one:

Buy the iPod Touch instead! It has nearly all of the same capabilities (minus the phone plan) and you don't have to pay the extra $200 a month for a wireless plan. Though the Touch doesn't come with its own 3G network, you can tap into wireless internet almost anywhere these days (McDonald's, airports, libraries...). So, with a little less accessibility, you can still save in most of the same ways! (PLUS more!)

Guest's picture

I know I am posting on a really old comment, but I just wanted to thank you for posting this. It is really helpful.

Linsey Knerl's picture

But we have no wireless in the middle of nowhere... I sometimes have to use my iPhone as my internet provider.  Even with no 3G network where I live, I can get 2 little weak bars most anywhere, and can stay connected through tornado season :)

Linsey Knerl

Guest's picture

A few weeks ago I was at a convention with my husband and we decided to meet some friends for dinner at a nice restaurant in the hotel. I had an injured foot and couldn't handle walking to one of the other restaurants downtown. When we arrived, we were told that they were only seating people with reservations and were turning away all the walk-up convention-goers. So... I went around the corner and got a reservation through the OpenTable app. When our friends arrived, we walked up again and said we were early. Of course, we were seated right away. :) To the iPhone and OpenTable - my foot thanks you!

Guest's picture

There are soo many applications to help you with your money (and time) management.

The ones I use are:

Grocery Gadget - (free and paid) allows you to create shopping lists on the go and while at a computer through their web portal. Instrumental when planning parties with friends - each gets their own list and we can see exactly what we need while at the store. I like that it'll keep track of the $ amount in the list AND in your cart, so you know exactly how much you are spending before you get to the check out!

Quicken online - (Free!) There's a bit of work/setup to do but on the go, you can get a snapshot of how your finances are looking and how far you've gotten on your goals. It also allows you to add in cash purchases right then and there, so you don't forget where that $5 went!

Road Trip - (free and paid) gas mileage, expense and trip manager. Great way to keep track of the $ you spend on gas, where you bought it, the miles/gallon (or km/liter) you get on your car. The premium version allows you to keep track of multiple cars too!

AppMiner - (free) save on those Applications! This will show you the up and coming applications, ones that recently went on sale and allow you to 'watch' those applications you really want to buy but do not want to spend money on.

I also use my calendar feature with Google Calendar to remind me when bills are due, anniversaries/birthdays are close, etc, so that I can keep ahead of things.

Guest's picture

you can find wifi almost anywhere now, especially in the the ipod touch does for me just fine...also that way i can be sure that i am not racking up the charges on the data plan. canadian data plans are so much more limiting and expensive than the us ones for smartphones! the ipod touch has everything the iphone does except for the digital camera (which most people already have a better one) and the phone. i think now you can even use skype if you really need access to the phone bit!

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Micah! Good to see you on Wisebread. I know buying an iPhone isn't a way to save money, but for those people out there that want to buy one or already have one, my article was trying to point out different ways they could save some money with their new purchase.

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Guest's picture

Mobile coupons are a *great* way to save money with your iPhone. I use Yowza!! It has coupons from stores nationwide.

Guest's picture

My cell phone costs $10.46 a month, so I can use the savings to buy those items the iphone helps you find to save on. I use the internet BEFORE I go out shopping, so don't need to check prices once I'm in a store. Why waste time going somewhere then finding out you should have gone somewhere else? Nothing "apps" can do that my home internet can't do before I step out. And with the money my phone saves, I can afford to buy once I get to the store.

Guest's picture

I've been wanting to get an iphone for the longest time and reading this list makes me want it even more! Never thought that I could use skype on my iphone, what a great way to save those phone bills!

Guest's picture

I use THE BEST DEAL app when shopping for groceries to compare products that are packaged in different quantities and sizes. Stores like Costco already display the prices/unit for prodcuts but nowhere else does so this app makes life a lot easier and I know for sure I picked the product giving me the best deal. The interface is very simple and it looks nice as well.

Guest's picture

This is a case of the ends trying to justify the means: you have an iPhone, now let's see if you can figure out a way for it to save you money. How many people bought an iPhone (and its contract) as a way to save money? Uh, yeah, I didn't think so.

Guest's picture

Price-checking apps are great, but there are a lot of time-wasting apps out there, too.

Pandora is cool, but I've found myself buying a lot of iTunes songs with it, too. Sometimes, it's TOO easy to part with your money. :)

If you're looking to save actual money on things you buy anyway, though, check out the CoupSmart app.