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Eric Conlon Eric Conlon
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Use your smartphone to stay on budget

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We've all become much more budget-conscious lately, and we know it's important to set (and stick to!) a budget. Many people think that managing finances is time-consuming, complicated and frustrating, but now your smartphone, along with user-friendly mobile apps, can simplify and organize the process of budget tracking.

In our busy, on-the-go lives, it can be challenging to stay on top of the money we spend. A $4 latte here and a $40 take-out meal there can really add up. There are a variety of cutting-edge smartphones, like the Motorola ELECTRIFY and Samsung Mesmerize, and budget-monitoring apps that let you enter every last expense in real-time, so you can see where your money is really going, cut unnecessary spending and save more money. There are also a variety of money-saving apps that provide quick, easy access to coupons and special deals like locating the cheapest gas prices in your area.

Today's smartphones give users endless options to personalize them to fit their busy lifestyles. Here are some of the top smartphone apps to help manage your budget and save money:

Pocket Budget: This app helps manage your money with features like expense/income tracking, budget reporting and the ability to track multiple budgets simultaneously. Mint is a popular personal finance app that provides a detailed financial picture for multiple accounts. This user-friendly app offers real-time updates of your income and spending, so it's easier than ever to stay on budget with your money. Plus, it's password-protected so you don't need to worry about losing confidential information if someone else handles your phone.

Expensify: Most people dread the long, laborious process of manually entering their expenses from paper receipts and credit card transactions into spreadsheets to submit for reimbursement.  With Expensify, you'll never handle paper receipts or enter data manually again. When you charge your expenses to a credit card, link the card to an Expensify account, and it will automatically generate expense reports. You can also use the app as a receipt scanner using a QR code. As an added benefit, you can quickly export your expenses to Quickbooks or other online accounting systems, streamlining the accounting process.

Groupon - Groupon customers leverage the power of collective purchasing by signing up for daily deals in their local towns. As more people sign up for the featured products, events or services, users receive a bigger discount - saving as much as 90 percent off restaurants, spas, retail stores and more.

The Coupons App: Those of us who are new to the world of couponing will love this app, which provides coupons to restaurants, gas stations and retail stores. Users can access real-time coupons and deals, plus use the barcode scanner to compare prices between multiple locations. There's a sharing tool, allowing you to email, text or tweet great deals to your friends. And as you hit the road to shop for great deals, this app provides information about the cheapest local gas prices, allowing you to save even more money.

Smartphone users who want help finding and downloading apps or have other questions about their device can attend a free U.S. Cellular Device Workshop. Associates guide attendees through all of the features and functions of their devices, and help them personalize their phones to enhance their lives. Attendees do not have to be U.S. Cellular customers. Upcoming workshops include:

South Portland/Mallside retail store on Saturday, Nov. 5 from 8 to 10 a.m., 198 Maine Mall Rd, #4 in South Portland, 207-761-7230,

Bangor Mall Store on Saturday, Nov. 12 from 8 to 10 a.m., 663 Stillwater Ave, #1021 in Bangor, 207-262-0126

Waterville Retail Store on Thursday, Nov. 17 from 12 noon to 1 p.m., 18 Waterville Commons Drive in Waterville, 207-861-8353

Brewer Retail Store on Saturday, Nov. 19 from 9 to 10 a.m., 403 Wilson Street in Brewer, 207-989-3291

Eric Conlon is director of sales for U.S. Cellular in New England.


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