5 Apps to Help You Save Money During the Holiday Season

I love gift-giving— I’m literally someone who bought gifts for eleven people one Christmas (my friend group refuses to do Secret Santa) and I didn’t find it stressful at all. But now, as college life bleeds me dry, especially with these big-city price tags, my bank account isn’t as ecstatic as I am about hundred-dollar credit card bills. Thankfully, there’s a ton of apps out there designed to pair fin-tech with a happy wallet. Here are some of my favorites:

  1. 1. Drop

    I think Drop is the perfect way to ease into saving money. I’ve had my Drop for a few years, and it’s helped me “graduate” to more aggressive saving apps, but I still have it on my phone because who doesn’t like extra spending money? Drop is such a simple concept that seems too good to be true— you link your debit/credit card (or multiple), choose five vendors you shop at a lot, and earn points each time you shop there. The points can be redeemed for gift cards, ranging from Whole Foods and Uber Eats to Sephora and Amazon. I tend to redeem Aerie and Starbucks gift cards, but there are so many you can choose from.

    Beyond those five vendors, called your “power offers” (mine are Starbucks, Urban Outfitters, Target, Dunkin’, and Walmart), Drop also has in-app offers with multiple brands. Currently, for example, if I shop at Glossier through the Drop app, I will earn 80 points per $1. The smallest gift card you can redeem is $5 from Aerie, which requires 5000 points. The app offers up to $100 gift cards, for American Airlines, Four Seasons, and ASOS.

    There are other ways to earn points too, such as quick surveys or a “snake game” you can unlock as a bonus periodically.

  2. 2. Cleo

    Cleo has quickly become my favorite app for saving. It has even given me the courage to make the jump and create a savings account (which I’m a proud owner of now). It’s set up so you can “text” Cleo and ask about your balance/budget/savings/etc. My favorite feature is its smart savings— if you turn on auto savings, you can choose how relaxed or aggressive you want the saving to be, and it’ll assess your financial information and transfer how much its algorithm thinks you can afford to save into Cleo savings.

    Cleo also has two cool “modes” you can go into— hype and roast. Hype mode sends you encouraging messages about your spending and helps you believe in your ability to manage your money in a smart way. Roast mode takes the opposite approach— it scares you by reporting the big numbers (like year-to-date spending), showing you all your “bad behavior” purchases (did I really spend that much on Postmates this much?), and using tough love as encouragement.

    It’ll give you monthly rundowns too and show you what companies are sucking you dry. Self-advertises as “Like a bank, if they cared.”

  3. 3. Venmo

    We tend to think of Venmo only as an app to send our friends money after they pay for the bill, but there are a lot of ways to save with the Venmo card, which is absolutely free and allows you to use your Venmo balance in a convenient MasterCard swipe so you don’t have to wait the three days for a bank transfer. The saving part comes in with its cashback and holiday features.

    Current deals include 4% cash back at Dunkin’, Macy’s, Sam’s Club, and Forever 21; 5% at Frank and Oak, Papa John’s, JCPenney, Sephora, Wendy’s, and Chevron. And up until Dec. 31, Venmo has a special “Up to $50 Cash Back” offer. When you pay with your Venmo card at a store that doesn’t already have Venmo Rewards, you get a 1 in 500 chance that Venmo will cover your purchase, saving you a potential $50.

  4. 4.  Mint

    I really like Mint for a general understanding of my finances. Once I type in my password, the Mint app opens up to the default dashboard which has a lot of useful information, including the money I have in all my accounts (it’ll subtract my credit card balance from my cash), my credit score and how it’s changed, and a “fresh find for you” section that recommends a card to apply for based on my spending habits.

    On that same dashboard, some swiping will show me a list of my most recent transactions, the credit card rewards I could be earning (like 736 air miles based on the amount of money I spent in the past month), my budget, spending, investments, cash flow, bills, and credit usage.

    And while I don’t love the 'you’ve-exceeded-your-budget' alerts I get from them occasionally, they actually do keep me on track.

  5. 5. Pluto

    Pluto is like a virtual piggy bank. It has all the basic features of other savings apps— like Mint, you can see your transactions, where your money is going, how much net money you have, etc. Its most unique feature is the goals section, where you can make one of three types of goals: bucket list, wish list, and adulting. You can completely customize this goal too. The one I currently have is “Vacation in Europe” (my best friend and I have been planning this for a while) for $7,000.

    Every time I spend less than my budget allows me to spend, the change goes toward that and I inch closer to that $7,000. You can transfer money directly to your goals too, but that requires a Pluto Savings account, which there’s currently a waitlist for.

These are just some of the many many financial/savings apps out there that can help you save money. While you’re shopping for gifts this holiday season, just remember to keep your financial health in mind!


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