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How much is your monthly cell phone bill? If you’re like me, it’s around $100. For many of us it’s the biggest monthly expense after rent. On top of that, new phones can be expensive. When T-Mobile offered up the new Samsung Galaxy S3, I knew I had to have it. There’s another $280 spent. Where’s the frugality in that?

Thankfully, there are ways we can turn our smartphones around and make them into money saving machines. Here are a few ideas:

Coupon app

If you don’t use coupons because clipping coupons is a hassle, you don’t have an excuse any more. There are tons of coupon apps, including the Valpak for iPhone app. They work almost the exact same way as traditional coupons, except there aren’t stacks of paper to remember every time you go to the store. All the information is stored right on your smartphone.

The best part: there are tons of these types of apps, and they’re almost all free. All you do is download them and start compiling the coupons you want to use. Nearly every major retailer and grocery store has a way to redeem them, whether it’s by scanning a barcode or entering in a code number.

Price comparisons

If you’re buying items at a retail store and you’re not price comparing on your smartphone, you’re spending too much money. Sorry to say for big box retailers, but for many of us they’re merely showrooms these days. The frugal and savvy among us go in armed with smartphones and try to find the best deal possible. It’s only when we need an item right now that we actually make a purchase.

There are a number of ways to do this. You can find a price comparison app — there are too many to list — or you can simply resort to a Google search. Type in the product name, and you’ll see shopping results from around the web. Factor in tax and shipping, and you can see if it’s a better deal to order online.

Spending tracker

How can you start saving money if you don’t know how much you spend? With credit cards and mobile payments these days, we have a harder time keeping track of our spending than our parents did. A barrier essentially exists between us and our money. It’s hard to understand what you spend if you’re just handing someone a piece of plastic.

Since your smartphone goes with you everywhere, you can use it to record your spending habits. Every time you spend even a dollar, make a record of it on your smartphone, either in a notepad app or a spending tracking app. There should be some immediate effects: you’ll be more aware that you’ve spent money. But the real punch comes when you check your log after a month. You might feel ashamed at how much money you spend — and waste!

Budgeting apps

The first thing I did when I got that shiny new Galaxy S 3 was search Google Play for budgeting apps. There are tons of them, and they all provide different functions. Some, like the Mint.com app, can automatically track your finances and give you up to the minute reports. Others require you to set spending limits and stick to them. Either way, you can stay on top of your finances and stick to your budget much easier if the app is always with you. That’s the advantage of a smartphone.

With devices costing $200 to $300 and with service at around $100 per month, smartphones can be big holes in anyone’s expense report. Thankfully, there are surefire ways to turn the tables and use that smartphone to save money and live a more frugal life. If you can save even a little from coupon apps and price comparisons, and then reduce your spending with budget apps, you’ve made huge strides towards a freer financial life.

If you’re like us, your mornings begin with the alarm going off (hitting the snooze button a couple o’ times), dragging yourself out of bed and stumbling to the coffeemaker or teapot to get your caffeine fix. This task can seem even harder on a day like today (Monday…groan!), but that’s where a cool coffee mug or tea cup can come in handy. It’s that little ray of sunshine on an otherwise super sleepy, I-don’t-want-to-go-to-work-today kind of morning.

We scoured the internet to find 10 mugs we thought were either cute or cool (and a couple that we thought were even a little strange.) So whip up your favorite brew, add one lump (or two!) and join us as we take a look at the fun mugs below, which we hope make waking up in the morning just a little more pleasant.

Panda Friends Mug & Spoon Set, $24.00

This mug from UrbanOutfitters.com comes with a matching spoon that features a panda playing peekaboo on the brim.

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  • Rubik’s Cube Mug, $12.99

It’s a good thing this Rubik’s Cube Mug from ThinkGeek.com comes already solved, otherwise we’re sure we’d end up with coffee in our laps.

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  • Cookie Monster Om Nom Nom Mug, $9.99

This Cookie Monster mug from EntertainmentEarth.com begs to be filled with milk and have cookies dunked in it. NOM!

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Personalized Action Mug, $14.99 after coupon Feel like the star athlete of your favorite MLB team when you have your name printed on this personalized mug from PersonalCreations.com.

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  • Toliet Mug, $12.99

Why would anyone want to drink out of a mug shaped like a toliet? We don’t know, either. But the good news is, there’s no seat, so you won’t have to worry about get yelled at for leaving the seat up again. From SpencersOnline.com.

  • Konitz Classic Chalk Talk 12-Ounce Mug, $7.57

Use the included chalk to label drinks, draw a picture or write messages on these microwave/dishwasher safe 12-ounce mugs.

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  • Café Olé Mug, $28.99

While we’ve never actually met a Spanish speaking penguin, this little guy is still pretty stinking cute. He comes with a little saucer sombrero, perfect for holding your sugar cubes or tea bags. From ModCloth.com.

  • Stacked Up 3 Coffee Cups in 1, $11.20

Here’s a teacup fit for the Mad Hatter himself. It’s one teacup designed to look like a wobbling stack of three.

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  • Shark Attack Mug, $9.56

If your morning brew doesn’t give you a jolt, the surprise of looking down into your drink and seeing a open-jawed shark staring back at you will. From McPhee.com.

  • Self Stirring Mug, $18.99

This mug from ThinkGeek.com knows you’re tired in the morning, so it takes the work out of stirring your drink by doing it for you. Just press the button and voila! A perfectly stirred drink. Now if we could only get more things done in the morning with just the press of a button!

The economy has forced many people to become creative with their shopping techniques. Money does not seem to go as far as it used to. There are basically two ways that you can look at all of this. You can mope around and be miserable about the current state of the economy which never gets anyone anywhere or you can take a different outlook on the situation.

You must see this as an opportunity for something new, a chance to change for the better. Once you understand this simple concept, everything in life becomes a whole lot easier. Here is what you need to do:

Change Your Shopping Habits

Finding the best deal is not always as difficult as one might think. You just need to know where to look. If you are spending all of your free time looking for great deals at all of the major department stores in your area, then you are wasting your time. You need to completely re-think your shopping. These large department stores are not going to help. Sure, you may be able to find a great deal every now and then from a major retail outlet, but you need to understand how these places operate if you want to start saving some money.

The occasional deal that you do find will make you a happy customer. This is the bait, and you have just fallen for it. This is the part where the retail giant reels you in like a poor fish at the end of a line. Once you are inside the retail store, you will spend more money. This is how the retail store makes up for the “great deal” you just thought you had.

Time To Get Thrifty

Welcome to the wonderful world of thrift stores. These stores offer countless treasures that are just waiting for you. If you have never had the pleasure of shopping in a thrift store, then you really don’t know what you are missing. It only takes one look at the price tag to convince you that this is the place to shop. You may even think that the price tag is a typo. This is not uncommon. Many first time thrift store shoppers think the prices must be some kind of mistake. Don’t be alarmed if you find yourself in the same situation.

What Can You Find In Thrift Stores

This has to be one of the best things about a thrift store. You can find just about anything that you could ever imagine, and everything has a low price tag. Here are some of the more common items that you can find in a thrift store:

  • clothing
  • music
  • furniture
  • movies
  • video games
  • jewelry
  • antiques

These are just a few of the more common items. You can basically find anything that you would find in a department store at a thrift store, but the end result will be more money in your bank account. Shopping at thrift stores is the best way to start saving some money.

Happy Thrift Shopping!

George Papas is a freelance writer who enjoys shopping for a bargain. He discovered thrift stores years ago, and now he is sharing his secret with the world. His family uses Musicmagpie.com to sell all of their old games, DVDs and CDs.