User your phone to stay on top of your bills and save money

The key to getting on track with your finances could be in the palm of your hand.

There are hundreds of apps that promise to help you save money, pay your bills on time and find the best specials.

The Herald on Sunday took some for a test drive to find the best 10 on the market.

1. Tricount

Free on iPhone, Android, Windows

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If you share a house with flatmates or often organise group activities, this app could take a lot of the awkwardness out of ensuring everyone pays their fair share. Tricount allows you to set up individual accounts for each trip out, or month of the year, and record who has paid for what within them. For example, set up an account for October, record who paid the power, who paid the supermarket shopping and who paid for takeaways. Then let the app calculate what each person must pay the others to spread all the payments equally. It also allows you to share the calculations via email.

2. Spendee

$2.59 (iPhone), Free (Android)

There are lots of apps that allow you to record your spending. Spendee is user-friendly and allows you to divide everything into separate categories so it's easy to see what is being spent where. You can set up recurring expenses for regular bills. It also gives a line graph overview of income versus expenses, plotted over time, so you can tell whether you're in positive or negative territory. The longer you use the app, the more effective this overview will be. Set daily prompts to remind you to enter your income and expenses.

3. Toshl

Free on iPhone, Android, Windows

is a simpler version of Spendee but it allows you to set budgets and track your progress compared to your goals. The trick is to accurately enter all the details of all your transactions.

4. CompareMe

$2.99 on iPhone

If you have ever stood in a shop wondering if it's a better deal to buy the bigger size of a product, CompareMe will be useful. It'll quickly tell you whether a 14kg bag of rice for $5 is a better buy than a 10kg for $3. The shake to reset feature is good if you're in a busy supermarket.

5. PriceMe/PriceSpy

PriceMe: Free on iPhone, Android
PriceSpy: Free on iPhone, Android, Symbian, Windows

Shopping and see something you like? Check whether you could find it cheaper elsewhere with these apps. I've grouped them together because they are similar but PriceSpy is better for electrical equipment, computers and gaming and PriceMe has a broader range.

6. ShopCookSave

$3.79 on iPhone

Plan your family's meals, record your grocery spending, make supermarket shopping lists and browse recipes. Different lists can be divided into "essentials" and "luxuries" so you can see how many treats you're buying. The key to ShopCookSave is that it makes you think about what you spend money on while you're at the supermarket and allows you to plan ahead so you don't blow the budget.

7. BillTracker

$2.59 on iPhone

manages all your bills so you can see what needs to be paid when and whether any bills are overdue. The calendar function lets you schedule bills that are looming.

8. SpendToday - Save Tomorrow!

Free on iPhone

This app won't try to hold you to any long-term savings targets. SpendToday is largely designed to tell you how much money you can afford to spend on any one day to have a bit left over for the weekend. It's very simple and allows you to load a regular payday. Good for students or kids making pocket money last.

9. Kids' Moneybox

Available $2.59 on iPhone and Android

Manage your children's chores and pocket money with Kids' Moneybox. Award money in return for tasks completed and keep track of how much is in your child's pocket money "account" so you don't have to worry about having the right change on allowance day. If they're out spending money, use the app to deduct what they've spent from their running total.

10. Bank apps

ASB: Free on iPhone, Android, Windows
ANZ: Free on iPhone, Android
Westpac: Free on iPhone, Android

All banks offer mobile banking apps that allow you to quickly check your balances and make payments. What you use will depend on your bank but there are some special features to watch out for. ASB and ANZ allow you to make payments just by using someone's cellphone number and Westpac is working on a development that will provide an app to help customers keep track of their spending. They will be able to compare their month's spending with their average spending, and see which categories have included more spending than normal in a month.