(Pocket-lint) - Technology has changed the world in so many profound ways that it's very literally impossible to ignore it, but nonetheless the tech market can sometimes feel like it's been designed without much thought for normal people's financial realities.
When phone prices push into four-figure sums, and the latest TVs can cost tens of thousands in multiple currencies, it can be hard to remember that there are lots of pieces of tech and software out there that could actually help you save money.
That might mean in the long run, through an investment that saves you smaller sums over time, or it might mean simply using tech in novel ways to sidestep costs. We've done some sums and hard thinking to come up with 10 great ways that you could save money using tech.
1. Get yourself a savings app
The good thing about trying to save money with some help from your tech is that you're not alone - there are millions of other people trying to do just the same thing. That means that there are also a huge range of challenger banks and apps dedicated to making it easier to keep control of your money.
In the UK you might want to sign up for a smaller bank like Monzo or Starling, with apps that feel more user-friendly and make it a matter of taps to partition your money into savings pots and other divisions. They'll also layout your spending trends more clearly so that you can track what you're spending your cash on.
Or you might like to just track your spending yourself through a savings app like Plum or Yolt to get detailed breakdowns over time, as to where you might be able to tighten your belt. There are loads of pieces of software that can help.
2. Get some smart plugs
If you're keen to talk hardware, though, don't worry - there are also plenty of options. Our first pick would be smart plugs, whether that means a couple for key things like your TV or an air conditioner, or attached to every outlet in your house to give you total control.
The smarter your home setup is, the easier it'll most likely be to save money. By putting smart plugs in, you'll be able to remotely turn things on and off as and when they're needed, even if you're not physically there to do so. Plus, depending on what models you buy, you might also be able to set automated schedules and use voice assistants like Amazon's Alexa to control your power points. It'll make the world your oyster when it comes to power-saving in your home.
3. Consider a smart thermostat
Another big anxiety for many homeowners is the arrival of monthly energy bills, especially in winter months when heating is a necessity. Thankfully, more and more companies have started to embrace smart thermostats that let you take far more straightforward control over your home's heating, and almost always help you to save money.
We're particular fans of Nest's latest thermostat, but there are a range of great options on the market. Plus, if you want even finer control there are smart radiator controls that you can fit, to let you go room-by-room to make sure that your home is heated efficiently, to save whatever you can by cutting that excess.
4. Ditch your gym membership
Another classic monthly expense for many people, especially if they live in a city, is a gym membership. For some that might be one that they actually use enough each month to make the per-visit cost feel worth it, but for lots of people that isn't the case. If you struggle to get out to the gym but still want to try to exercise, you might be able to pick up something cheaper in the long run for use in your own home.
That doesn't have to mean some extravagantly expensive bit of kit, like a Peloton bike or rowing machine. For example, right now we're really enjoying using Nintendo's Ring Fit Adventure for the Switch, which has a great new type of resistance controller to let you squat, squeeze and move your way through the game. It's a great way to keep active at a low cost.
You might prefer a Just Dance title, or even just finding Yoga videos to follow on YouTube, but either way there are loads of options for home exercise.
5. Get a coffee machine
If you're anything like us, there's a good chance that caffeine is a big part of your daily routine, like it or not. So many of us need at least a morning cup of Joe to get us going, but if you're buying that from a café or chain you'll be under no illusions as to how expensive that can get over time.
Buying a coffee machine for your home won't make for free coffees - you'll still have to buy the beans or pods and milk, but it's still way cheaper over time compared to coffees bought out and about. Plus, you might be surprised by how well you'll be able to tune your machine to your exact tastes. Get a portable cup and you'll still be able to enjoy great coffee outside, too.
6. Trick out the rest of your kitchen
If you pick up a coffee machine and start saving on your drinks there, you might start to look around the rest of your kitchen and wonder whether you could find more efficient versions of appliances. The answer is almost certainly that you could.
Take your fridge - swap it out for a smarter fridge and you might be able to look inside it on your phone to check on what you need to eat up soon, and what's about to expire.
Or perhaps your dishwasher is old and takes ages to cycle, using up massive amounts of water without even cleaning all that effectively. Smart dishwashers can run programs according to what's needed and are way more efficient in their water-use.
Even your oven could be replaced with one that uses its power way more cleverly, to make sure that not only is your food cooked more quickly and evenly, but that it uses less electricity in the process.
7. Let smart bulbs light the way
Another classic way to get a bit more power-efficieny in your home, and therefore to save some money each month, is to replace your old lightbulbs with new, power-efficient versions. These could be eco-bulbs or LED lights, but our personal pick would be to replace them with smart bulbs.
These are generally LED so you still get great power savings compared to old lightbulbs, but the added smarts mean that you also benefit from a massive range of features. This could mean that you can light them in any colour you like, set them to routines or get them to wake you up gradually in the morning. Being able to switch them on and off from your phone, even if you're not at home (with certain models) is just amazing, and ensures that you'll never waste money by being unable to switch a light off again.
8. Invest in a leak detector
When it comes to water damage, you're unlikely to spend money on it often but if you do have to it's probably going to be a ruinous amount. If you get a bad leak that isn't detected in time you could be looking at a big repair bill. That's why we think leak detectors are no-brainers around waterworks.
Various smart home systems offer leak detectors as part of their ranges, and we think they're sensible. You just put one wherever you're worried a leak could originate, and if it detects water it'll let you know through notifications. It's an early-warning system that could save you from huge cost, as much as it could never find real use.
9. Pick up a battery charger
For our penultimate pick we've got a bit lo-fi. Lithium-ion batteries might have become the standard for almost any smartphone and many devices, but the reality is that somewhere in your house there are still probably things that run on batteries. It might be your TV remote, your Xbox's controller or any number of things, but replacing those batteries gets pricey quick.
Rechargeable batteries have their critics - you may find they don't last as long as regular batteries, for example, but they're undeniably a great way to save money. Buying your own recharger, like the Duracell example pictured above, will mean that you can re-use your batteries to your heart's content, instead of running out of charge and having to run to the store.
10. Use some key extensions
Our final pick houses some tips that we use all the time in day-to-day life. There are loads of browser extensions out there that can be massively useful if you're much of an online shopper - and who isn't, nowadays?
First up, there's Honey, an extension that checks whenever you check out a purchase online to make sure that there aren't any voucher codes you could be using to lower the overall price. It's automatic and every so often will simply save you money without any effort - that's a great package in our books.
Next, there's Keepa. This little extension is perfect for Amazon users. It adds a small graph to every Amazon listing you view in your browser of choice, which simply shows you the price history of the item over a set amount of time. That way you can be sure that the reduction you're being offered is actually any good in the first place.
Finally, cashback system Quidco offers another simple extension that we like. It effectively sets up a reminder to check whenever you're buying something that you aren't missing out on cashback by not telling Quidco about it. That way you can use the service without having to check its own site all the time.