Could a free app really help you save £550 on bills – automatically?

Keeping track: Little Birdie is an online manager for all your subscriptions

Saving money when shopping online can be time consuming and fiddly. 

You have to trawl the internet for valid discount codes, compare prices at different retailers – and remember to cancel subscriptions that are no longer good value. 

However, a growing number of tools are being launched that claim to do all of this legwork for you automatically. 

The idea is that you can benefit from all of the best deals, prices and discounts without having to track them down yourself. 

All are free to use on your desktop or tablet and some work on smartphones. 

We road-tested six to see how easy they were to use and if they really saved us money. 

Little Birdie is an online manager for all your subscriptions. 

It keeps track of your subscriptions for services such as insurance, broadband and TV streaming and sends you an alert when a free trial is about to end or there is a price rise. 

It also searches around to see if it can find you a better deal. 

To use Little Birdie, you need to download the mobile application on to your smartphone. Launched this month, it will add new features in October, such as the ability to cancel unwanted subscriptions. It claims it can save households £550 a year. 

Verdict: The app is simple to download and set up. You have to input your subscriptions or upload the information from the website of your current account provider, using the open banking service. 

When I download the app, I notice that my O2 phone bill has risen in price by 46p. It also suggests a cheaper broadband deal that I could switch to. 

If you have ever searched for a discount code when shopping online, you will know how frustrating it is when the code you find has expired or is invalid. PayPal Honey aims to take the hassle away by applying the best value codes at the checkout automatically. 

It also offers special customer discounts and online store rewards. 

The technology it uses is known as a browser extension, which is a piece of software that you download on to your computer. Once downloaded, there is nothing further you need to do. 

If you subsequently visit a shopping website on your computer, a notification pops up on your screen showing if PayPal Honey has identified a discount code that could save you money. 

Verdict: It’s quick and easy to install the extension. However, when I visit the websites of five major retailers, PayPal Honey does not once alert me that it has uncovered a working discount code for me to use. However, the browser extension works on more than 30,000 websites and has been given a top five-star rating by its users, so maybe I was just unlucky.

Cashback websites such as TopCashback and Quidco can be a good way to save money when shopping online. They pay you money when you go through them to spend with retailers, including high street shops such as Marks & Spencer, as well as from major utility, broadband and insurance companies. 

To earn cashback, you need to head to a cashback website and click through to the retailer of your choice to make a purchase. TopCashback says its members get back £300 a year on average. 

However, it is easy to forget to click through from a cashback website and miss out on making money. 

TopCashback has a browser extension, which automatically alerts you every time there is an opportunity to earn cashback. 

Verdict: I install the browser extension and then visit the Argos website to buy a new washing machine. A window pops up on my computer to tell me that I could earn up to £10 cashback. I click on the window and the cashback offer is automatically applied. I don’t even have to visit the TopCashback website. It can take several weeks for cashback to be paid out. 

The website CamelCamelCamel is handy for checking if an Amazon deal is really as good as it looks. It displays the price history for millions of products and notifies you if the price drops on a product you are interested in buying. 

The website has a browser extension called Camelizer, which automates the process. 

Once you have downloaded Camelizer, every time you search for something on Amazon, a box pops up on your computer showing you the item’s price history. 

Verdict: I download Camelizer and then visit Amazon to shop for a pair of Bluetooth headphones. The headphones are on sale at £27.99 (the non-sale price is £42.99). 

This looks like a good deal, until a window pops up from Camelizer to let me know that the headphones have been at this price since last November. I find the tool clunky and slow to use, but it does save me from rushing to take advantage of a sale price that has been available for several months.

Savoo is a website that offers voucher codes for more than 4,000 shops, including Tesco, Boots and Asos. It supports good causes by donating up to half of the commission it receives to charities such as Marie Curie, Heart Research UK and Mental Health UK. 

Savoo also has its own search engine, and for every search you make, Savoo will automatically donate a penny to your chosen charity on your behalf, with no cost to you. 

The search engine is powered by Microsoft Bing. 

Verdict: Using discount codes on shopping, while Savoo donates to charity, is a great way to save money and support good causes effortlessly. 

I like the idea of making money for charity just by searching for things online – something that I do anyway. However, I would have to make 100 searches to generate a £1 donation. 

I think I’d prefer to just make a donation and stick to my usual search engine.

Beagle Button could be a good option if you are trying to shop more sustainably. It works as a browser extension, which you download on to your computer. 

Then when you shop online, a popup window appears on your computer if Beagle Button identifies more sustainable alternatives to the products you are considering. 

Launched this summer, it works with more than 200 sustainable companies, including Beauty Kitchen and Nudie Jeans. 

Verdict: Beagle Button is unlikely to save you money, but may offer a useful nudge if you are trying to rethink your shopping habits.