TIME How-To

5 Cash-Saving Tech Tools

Saving money is gratifying—plain and simple. And technology can make lining your pockets even easier.

These five apps and websites help you put more dollars where they belong: in your wallet or bank account.

Find the Best Price: InvisibleHand

invisible hand
Invisible Hand

This free browser extension for Firefox, Chrome and Safari tells you if the flight, hotel, rental car or product you’re looking at is available for less money on another site. When the tool finds a cheaper deal, it shows you a narrow yellow band at the top of the screen with a drop-down list of competing prices.

For instance, in this screenshot from Amazon, InvisibleHand found the same new TV on eBay for less money—and with free shipping. The service also includes a feature that will alert you to any available coupons for wherever you happen to be shopping.

Also appreciated: You’ll never see InvisibleHand unless it’s working.

Price: Free at getinvisiblehand.com

Save On In-Home Health Care: CareLinx

carelinx
CareLinx

Hiring in-home care for a loved one can be expensive, so this online marketplace promises to save families up to 50% over traditional agencies. It connects you directly with nursing assistants, medical assistants, nurses and the like.

The service charges a 15% fee, which covers the cost of time tracking, secure online ACH payment processing, payroll tax services and a dedicated family advisor that helps families navigate the process of hiring a caregiver. The company also runs background checks on caregivers and provides professional liability insurance that covers property damage and injuries.

Price: Hourly wages plus a 15% service fee; available at carelinx.com

Get Free Off-Airport Parking: FlightCar

If you live in Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco, the FlightCar service will let you park for free in a special lot—and earn you some extra cash while you’re away.

FlightCar rents out your car to other vetted FlightCar members while you’re away. Your take is anywhere from $0.05 to $0.40 per mile, depending on the make and year of your car and how many miles a renter drives it. Included with the service: A free car wash, $1 million in insurance, and a black-car chauffeur to the airport.

If you’re traveling to any other FlightCar city, a web app will text you information about nearby cars available for rental. The service will be expanding to Seattle next, with other cities to follow.

Price: Free, with the opportunity to make money while you travel; available at flightcar.com

Get Free Stuff: Yerdle

yerdle
Yerdle

This iOS app and website is a store where people barter for free stuff using virtual currency. If you have stuff lying around the house that you don’t use or no longer enjoy, you can offer it on the site for a certain number of “credits”—everyone gets 250 to start. A coffee mug typically goes for around 25 credits, while a Patagonia jacket might run around 650.

It’s similar to eBay in that you can set it up as an auction or set a price for buyers to “get it now.” Once someone accepts your offer, Yerdle sets you up with a UPS label. Credits will appear in your account as soon as you drop the package off at a UPS store. Shipping payments are facilitated through Amazon Payments.

Price: Free, except for shipping in the event you can’t do local pickup.

Reduce Your Interest Rates: Credit Karma

People with high credit scores get lower interest rates on their loans and credit cards, but boosting your score takes time and know-how. Credit Karma is a free web-based service that gives you insight into your TransUnion credit score, the factors that affect it and tips on how to improve it.

If you have a low score, for example, it will suggest products that can help raise your score, such as low-limit credit cards that will increase your limit as a reward for a good payment history. You can also connect your bank and credit card accounts to track your spending.

The platform includes several helpful calculators, such as one to help you determine if you can afford a home and one that figures out how long it will take to repay a debt. Companion apps are available for iOS and Android.

Price: Free at creditkarma.com

This article was written by Christina DesMarais and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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MONEY Airlines

Airline ‘Transparency’ Law One Step Closer to Misleading Passengers

Boy holding paper airplane behind his back
John Lund/Sam Diephuis—Getty Images

A bill that would allow airlines to hide the true cost of flights (fees and all) was just passed by the House

Currently, airlines must include the full price of a flight—including federal taxes and fees—in advertisements. However, a new bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday, would allow the ads to exclude government fees, allowing for marketing that could fool consumers into thinking their flights will cost significantly less than they’ll actually end up paying.

As MONEY’s Brad Tuttle reported in April, $61 dollars of a typical $300 flight comes from federal taxes–20% of the overall ticket price. Under the new law, airlines could ignore that portion of the fare and advertise the same flight at $239. Could anyone actually buy that flight for $239? Of course not.

Regulations passed in 2012 outlawed this type of misdirection, but the airlines are now one step away from bringing it back.

The bill’s advocates argue that letting airlines advertise their unmodified prices would show consumers how much the government is adding to their travel bill. When the law was first proposed in the spring, supporters said it would “restore transparency to the advertising of U.S. airline ticket prices, and ensure that airfare ads are not forced to hide the costs of government from consumers.”

Knowing about government-added expenses is all well and good, but consumer advocates believe the law will do more to confuse flyers than educate them. The National Consumers League says the bill doesn’t provide transparency, and merely allows the airlines to advertise eye-grabbing but deceptive lower prices in order to win more business. In this way, the “Transparent Airlines Act” actually makes what consumers must pay for flights more opaque. That’s the opposite of transparency.

The Transparent Airlines Act still needs to pass the Senate before it becomes a law, and its opponents aren’t going to give up without a fight.

“Our organization, together with other consumer groups, will work closely with Senate staff to stop the passage of a companion bill,” said Charlie Leocha, Chairman of Travelers United, a consumer protection organization focused on travelers. “Even though the name of the bill contains the word ‘transparency,’ the effect of this legislation would be anything but.”

MONEY Saving

You’re Giving Away Money By Shopping Before This Weekend

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Getty

No fewer than 15 states offer a remarkably no-hassle way to trim a few percentage points off back-to-school purchases, most with deals starting this Friday.

Every year around this time, states host sales-tax holidays, in which the usual sales tax is waived on a wide range of purchases. In most cases, tax-free purchases are limited to back-to-school items such as computers and traditional school supplies like notebooks, protractors, and pens, but clothing, footwear, and accessories are typically on the table as well.

What’s more, the tax is waived on online purchases as well as sales in traditional brick-and-mortar stores, and there’s no actual requirement that the items being purchased are for back-to-school prep, or even for kids. It would be too hard to police any such requirement, so instead most states simply limit purchases to a flat dollar amount—for instance, any article of clothing priced at $100 or less, typically.

Let’s be honest: The savings represented by these events isn’t all that spectacular. Most participating states have sales tax rates of 4% to 6%, so that’s the extent of the savings. Big whoop, you might say. But when the tax holiday is combined with terrific sale prices—and virtually every retailer has back-to-school promotions going on right about now—the net amounts paid by shoppers can be true bargains. Why not get an extra 5% or whatever off what is already a good deal, on stuff you absolutely need to buy? To do so, all you have to do is wait a few days.

There are those who say that sales tax holidays are gimmicks for exactly the reason hinted at above. The argument is that the holidays don’t promote more spending as much as they encourage shoppers to strategically postpone spending, with no net increase in purchases whatsoever. What’s more, while sales tax holidays play well in terms of politics, critics say they are questionable at best in terms of local economic stimulus, and that they cost states and municipalities millions in much-needed revenues. States such as North Carolina have dropped their annual sales tax holiday tradition because of this argument, though shoppers did still get to take advantage of a “Better Than Tax Free” sales event at a North Carolina outlet mall last weekend.

Gimmick or not, if you need to buy any of the many, many items eligible for tax-free purchase, you might as well wait until Friday, or whenever your state has its sales tax holiday. Failure to do so is tantamount to unnecessarily paying an extra 6% or so.

Resources including Bankrate and the Federal Tax Administrators site list the basic details, and below are the states with sales tax holidays starting this weekend. Check the links for all of the fine print about what is and isn’t included in your neck of the woods.

Alabama: August 1-3, limited to $30 per book, $50 for school supplies, $100 on clothing, and $750 on computers

Florida: August 1-3, limited to school supplies of $15 or less, $100 per clothing article, and $750 for computers and accessories

Georgia: August 1-2, limited to $20 school supplies, clothing priced at $100 or less, and computers capped at $1,000

Iowa: August 1-2, limited to footwear and clothing priced up to $100

Louisiana: August 1-2, sales tax is waived on purchases of all items for personal (rather than business) use, priced up to $2,500.

Missouri: August 1-3, limited to school supplies of $50 per purchase, clothing and footwear priced up to $100 each, computer software up to $350, and computers or accessories up to $3,500

New Mexico: August 1-3, limited to school supplies up to $30 per item, clothing and footwear up to $100, computer hardware up to $500, and computers up to $1,000

Oklahoma: August 1-3, limited to clothing and footwear up to $100 per item

South Carolina: August 1-3, with sales tax exemptions for all clothing, footwear, school supplies, computers and electronics, college dorm supplies like pillows, blankets, and shower curtains, and even delivery charges on all of the above

Tennessee: August 1-3, limited to clothing, footwear, school and art supplies priced up to $100 each, as well as computers up to $1,500

Virginia: August 1-3, limited to school supplies up to $20, and clothing and footwear of $100 or less per item

And here are a few more states offering tax holidays a little later this summer:

Texas: August 8-10, limited to clothing, footwear, backpacks, and school supplies up to $100

Maryland: August 10-16, limited to clothing and footwear priced up to $100

Connecticut: August 17-23, limited to $300 on clothing and footwear

Massachusetts: Lawmakers in the Bay State have promised shoppers will get a tax-free weekend sometime in August, but they haven’t gotten around to settling on a date yet.

MONEY Shopping

Why We Spend So Many of Our Dollars at Dollar Stores

99 cent sign
joeysworld.com—Alamy

And why the $8.5 billion Dollar Tree–Family Dollar deal is probably a sign that the dollar store's heyday is coming to an end

The dollar store has been one of the great success stories of the recession era, with chains such as Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Dollar General posting record sales figures, broad expansions, and soaring stock prices over the past half-dozen or so years. Now that Dollar Tree is purchasing Family Dollar for $8.5 billion, it appears as if the era of rampant dollar store growth is plateauing, even while many household finances remain pinched and dollar store shopping continues to be popular.

How did we get to the point where such a colossal merger would make sense? Here’s a look back at the recent evolution of the dollar store, with a particular focus on why many shoppers have come to view them as handy neighborhood general stores—and not just for cheap stuff.

The Great Recession destroyed shopper budgets. In the late ’00s, the housing bubble burst, the stock market crashed, and the jobs market took an ugly turn. All of the factors combined meant that the free-spending habits developed by consumers in the preceding years would have to be broken and replaced by new strategies to live cheaply. The much-heralded demise of conspicuous consumption spelled trouble for products like GM’s Hummer, but it also meant boom times for low-price retailers—dollar stores especially.

With little money to spend, especially if they’d cut up their credit cards as many had in a move to a cash-only existence, consumers stretched what few dollars they had at dollar stores. Consequently, dollar stores flourished. Dollar General doubled its store locations in the first decade of the millennium, for instance. According to one study, by 2011 there were more dollar stores than drugstores in the U.S.

Dollar stores pushed one-stop shopping. Shrinking American household budgets helped the rise of dollar stores. So did the broad campaign by dollar stores to push beyond the idea that they were good only for junky throwaway trinkets, off-brand canned goods, and anything else that had grown stale on the shelves of mainstream stores.

Among the goods shoppers started seeing more of at dollar stores are groceries, home decorating items, and even beer and wine. In some cases, dollar store offerings have been celebrated as surprisingly chic: A New York Times columnist wrote about his adventures decorating his apartment with dollar store purchases, while the 99-Cent Chef developed a following based on recipes that use ingredients purchased only at 99¢ Only stores. According to one survey from 2010, 18% of shoppers said that they were buying food and drinks for holiday parties at dollar stores.

Chances are, they were also buying wrapping paper and some stocking stuffers at dollar stores too. And that’s the point. When a shopper can buy fresh bread, produce, a gallon of milk, birthday cards, laundry detergent, shampoo, Christmas presents, and maybe a few bottles of cheap Chardonnay at the dollar store, there’s less need to hit the supermarket, liquor store, drugstore, or big box retailer. Dollar stores have been actively promoting themselves as one-stop shopping options with almost anything you need to buy—and with more locations and a smaller, easier, more manageable layout than, say, the nearest Walmart.

They’re not as cheap as you think. While there are undoubtedly some great bargains at dollar stores, shopping experts also advise against the purchasing of certain items there. Like, say, electronics and pots and pans. If you’re surprised that dollar stores even have such items, bear in mind that oftentimes, not everything in a dollar store is priced at $1. Dollar Tree has stuck to $1 pricing for everything in its stores, but Family Dollar and Dollar General don’t bother abiding by the $1 price rule. Among other items, the Dollar General website lists a Craig Android tablet for $78 more than $1.

Dollar stores employ the age-old strategy of drawing shoppers in with bargains and hoping that they grab some other (non-bargain) goods while they’re at it. A Family Dollar spokesperson told the New York Times columnist mentioned above that low-priced cleaning supplies were “almost like the gateway product” for dollar store shoppers. “It starts with cleaning goods,” he said, “and ends up with a bedspread.”

Or perhaps a tablet, or a bottle of wine—which will also cost more than a buck ($2.99 and up, usually, when available.) Shopping centers have been embracing dollar stores in their slight turn upscale because they’re able to attract slightly better-off clientele. But budget-conscious consumers must be careful: In many cases, dollar stores charger higher prices per unit than what’s to be found at Walmart, Target, or a warehouse club such as Costco. It’s just that dollar stores seem like bargains because the items are low quality or they come in exceptionally small sizes. Just last week, a controversy was stirred up when Dollar General offered a special on diapers in “all counts and sizes” that Walmart and Target failed to match, even though they have price matching policies. Why? Because Walmart and Target offer diapers in far bigger sizes than what’s available at dollar stores.

Speaking of Walmart and Target, they’ve slowly been rolling out a counteroffensive to dollar stores by way of smaller retail locations, often in the densely populated urban hubs where dollar stores are ubiquitous. Supermarkets have entered the battle too, with stores that are half the size of the usual grocery shop. The smaller size means these stores can easily fit in a strip mall or city block, making them a lot more convenient and practical for millions of shoppers.

So now we have a situation in which dollar stores do what Walmart and Target do best by stocking groceries, electronics, and a little bit of everything, and Walmart, Target, and grocery chains do what dollar stores do best by offering small, convenient locations (and more of them) and many bargain-priced goods. The retail lines are blurring. Every player wants to be the convenient, one-stop shopping destination for shoppers, and it has gotten much tougher for a dollar store or any retailer to stand out. When it’s hard to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, and it’s hard to grow, it’s probably time to combine with someone in the same boat to help you compete. That’s what seems to be happening with Dollar Tree’s purchase of Family Dollar.

MONEY Shopping

CONTEST: Are You America’s Smartest Shopper?

All You America's Smartest Shopper presented by Samsung

MONEY's fellow Time Inc. publication, ALL YOU, is launching a contest to track down the country's savviest shopper, sponsored by Samsung. Here's how to enter.

Visit allyou.com/smartestshopper to share your best shopping tip and a photo that illustrates that tip. You can also enter on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #aysmartestshopper. Entries will be accepted from July 25th through August 15th.

ALL YOU will select 25 semifinalists who will be given a new Samsung Galaxy S5 to create a 60-second video that explains why they deserve the title of America’s Smartest Shopper. Those entries will be winnowed down to 10 finalists; ALL YOU, voters, and a panel of saving-savvy judges will determine the winner. The big reveal will air live on NBC’s TODAY show later this fall.

How to vote

Visit allyou.com/smartestshopper from September 17th until October 3rd to cast your vote.

The prizes

The winner will take home $1,000, plus a Samsung prize package that includes a Tab S 8.4 Wifi, Gear Fit and Smart TV.

Two runners-up will each receive $50, plus Tab S 8.4 Wifi, Gear Fit and Samsung Level headphones.

All three finalists will receive a trip with a guest to New York City, where the winner will be revealed live on NBC’s TODAY Show.

 

MONEY freebies

Marvel Comics or The New Yorker: Choose Your Binge-Reading Bargain

To celebrate Comic-Con and the makeover of a literary journal's website, fans can binge on cheap (or free!) all-you-can-read deals.

If you’re looking to escape summer’s swelter by binge-reading about alternate universes, bizarre worlds, and fascinating people you’ve never heard about and didn’t think could exist in real life, man, are you in luck!

Not one but two binge-reading bonanzas have recently made their debut. First, The New Yorker announced that it is opening the entirety of its archives to all, free of charge, for the entire summer, to celebrate the makeover of its website. (Normally, much of the archive is accessible only for paid subscribers.)

Then, in a deal coinciding with this week’s Comic-Con International in San Diego, Marvel Comics is offering a special “Marvel Unlimited” package, with one month’s access to more than 15,000 digital comics for just 99¢. (New subscribers must use the promo code SDCC14 when signing up for the service, which usually runs $9.99 per month or $69 per year.)

What might you read? Wired suggests that Marvel subscribers should check out some of the Infinite Comics that have been specially designed for the digital experience, such as the six-issue Captain America: The Winter Soldier (inspiration for the recent film). Meanwhile, BuzzFeed, Vox, Digg, and Slate are among the many publications that have weighed in with recommendations for New Yorker reading while the archive door is wide open.

The suggested free New Yorker readings from Business Insider are heavy on gripping but grisly tales of war, genocide, and evil, such as Seymour Hersh’s “Torture at Abu Ghraib” and Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” the latter about the trial of the infamous Nazi officer Adolph Eichmann. After reading some of these stories, it might be time to turn one’s attention back over to Captain America.

MONEY deals

Movie Prices are Going Up. Here’s How to Get Tickets for Less

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PhotoAlto—Alamy

Planning to catch a summer blockbuster this weekend? Use these 6 tips to save big at the movie theater.

The average movie ticket climbed to $8.33 in the second quarter of 2014, up from $7.96 earlier this year, according to the National Association of Theater Owners. Why the price creep? Industry watchers blame big summer blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which sold tons of tickets to expensive 3D and IMAX screenings.

Of course, in many parts of the country, an $8.33 movie sounds like a bargain. Take New York City, where it’s not unusual to pay $15 a pop for a regular flick, or $19 for 3D. But don’t let those nosebleed prices force you to settle for summer’s reality TV swill or drive you to—gasp!—go outside. Here’s how to get your movie fix for less.

Join a Club

Most of the big chains offer some sort of loyalty program. If you tend to go to a certain theater regularly, these clubs are an easy way to earn discounted or free snacks and tickets. One program that stands out: AMC Stubs, which costs $12 a year to join but lets members bypass those annoying “convenience fees” you usually pay when you buy ticket online.

Buy in Bulk

If you’re willing to commit to buying a stack of tickets (or, technically, “passes”), you can cut your price to $8 or less. Many theater chains sell bulk passes; Landmark Theaters, for instance, sells packs of 25 at $8 per ticket. Just be sure to read the fine print; passes will sometimes exclude certain theaters or types of screenings.

Go Wholesale

Wholesale clubs offer similar bulk deals and may have bargain options on a smaller scale. Recently, Sam’s Club offered a Cinemark gift card good for two adult tickets for $15.89.

Get a Discounted Gift Card

It’s pretty easy to track down cinema gift cards on eBay or card resale sites like CardCash.com and Raise. To get a quick sense of your options, try GiftCardGranny.com, which aggregates the deals offered by a variety of sites. A search for AMC Theaters, for instance, turned up 420 discounted gift cards.

Check Your Credit Card

Do you have Visa Signature card? If so, check out the deal the card company is offering through online ticket seller Fandango: two-for-one tickets to Friday shows.

Some cards also let you leverage your cinephilia for better cash back or points rewards. The US Bank Cash Plus card, for instance, will allow you to pick movies as one of your 5% cash-back categories.

Try Daily Deal Sites

While bargain sites are unpredictable, most of the big ones feature movie tickets relatively regularly. Both Groupon and Livingsocial have recently offered discounted Fandango deals.

 

MONEY deals

It’s a Great Day for Mas Cheap (Sometimes Free!) Tequila

Margaritas
Jonelle Weaver—Getty Images

In honor of National Tequila Day, bars and restaurants are offering deals like $2 shots and $2 margaritas—and in at least one case, margaritas are totally free.

Thursday, July 24, is being celebrated as National Tequila Day, yet another of what seems like an endless stream of fake, completely made-up holidays. Contrived marketing scheme or not, today’s holiday comes with a range of tequila-infused deals and promotions in bars and restaurants around the country—so, yeah, there’s good reason to celebrate.

Nationally, the On the Border restaurant chain is selling $2 house margaritas and $2 shots of Lunazul Reposado Tequila all day at participating locations. Other national chains with National Tequila Day specials include Abuelo’s, where hand-crafted margaritas are $5.95 all day, and Chevy’s, where deals like $2 house margaritas and $4 shots of Cuervo Silver or Cinge come with the added bonus of being available not only on Thursday, but every day through Sunday, July 27.

Individual bars and restaurants have National Tequila Day specials of their own, so it’s as easy as doing a “Tequila Day Deal + Your Town” search to find them, or just show up at your local watering hole and hope for the best. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find, thanks to the help of local bloggers and writers around the country:

New York City: Horchata, in Greenwich Village, is teaming up with Patron and is giving away free margaritas featuring the new tequila Patrón Rocca from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. A half-price happy hour stretches from 4 to 7 p.m. as well. Sources such as Metro list tons of other spots that are primed for celebrating National Tequila Day on Thursday.

Washington, D.C.: The options include $3 shots of Sauza Blanco at Agua 301.

Las Vegas: Cabo Wabo has had half-priced tequila shots since Monday, while Park on Fremont and The Salted Lime offer $2 drink specials.

Houston: Look for $2 tequila shots, $1.99 margarias, and $5 appetizers at restaurants throughout the city.

We’ve also come across National Tequila Day promotion roundups for Denver, Phoenix, and all over Connecticut, so suffice it to say: If you’re hankering for a tequila deal today, head to the nearest downtown bar-and-restaurant district and you’ll find one.

As an added unexpected bonus/justification for bar-hopping tonight, a recent health study has found that the sugars in tequila could help you lose weight. Cheers!

MONEY freebies

Free Jamocha Shakes at Arby’s on Wednesday

Arby's restaurant sign, Central Florida.
Arby's restaurant sign, Central Florida. Ian Dagnall—Alamy

The fast food chain Arby's is turning 50, and it's celebrating by giving out free shakes

In honor of its 50th anniversary, Arby’s is giving out free Jamocha shakes on Wednesday, July 23. All customers have to do for a free frosty 310-calorie beverage is follow that link, enter a name, and print out a coupon good for a complimentary 12 oz. shake at participating Arby’s restaurants.

The shake is listed on Arby’s low-priced Snack ‘n Save menu, and depending on the location, it might cost as little as $1.09 usually. But a freebie’s a freebie.

The shake giveaway is one of several periodically offered to Arby’s customers. The chain is known for handing out free curly fries on Tax Day, April 15, and customers are lured with the promise of a free Roast Beef Classic sandwich if they’re willing to sign up to receive news about the latest Arby’s deals and promotions.

And these and other efforts to please the chain’s biggest fans and bring in new customers are part of a campaign introduced two years that included a makeover of the company logo, and its image in general. At the time, consumer surveys ranked Arby’s among the worst fast food chains. Arby’s has tried to revamp its reputation by spending millions on restaurant renovations and adding more than a dozen new items to the menu. The chain has also been attempting to get hipper, scoring a big social media success earlier this year at the Grammys, when the company Tweeted about Pharrell Williams “stealing” the oversized hat on the Arby’s logo, launching a million laughs and retweets.

Rolling out the occasional freebie should put smiles on people’s faces too.

MONEY Food & Drink

It’s National Ice Cream Day!

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Cones from Maggie Moo's and Marble Slab Creamery. courtesy of Maggie Moo's and Marble Slab Creamery

On July 20, celebrate National Ice Cream Day with these additions to your sundae: a sprinkling of interesting and exciting developments in the world of ice cream.

Earlier this summer, our intrepid ice cream reporter, Brad Tuttle, brought you news of developments in the world of frozen confections. In honor of National Ice Cream Day on Sunday, we’re bringing back his post to help you celebrate by getting the most calories for the least amount of money.

As if developments in the world of ice cream could possibly be uninteresting or unexciting! Among other things, going out for ice cream this summer will be a bit …

Cheaper and Easier After realizing that consumers had begun to think that charging extra for “mix-ins” was a rip-off, sister ice cream chains Maggie Moo’s and Marble Slab officially introduced a new pricing structure this past spring, and as a result customers are a lot less likely to be surprised with a bill for $8 or $9 for a cup of ice cream. According to the new system, prices are set strictly by the size of the cup or cone (generally $3 to $6), and customers can request as many “mix-in” ingredients they want to be mashed into their personalized order, at no extra charge.

Swankier and Pricier Godiva stores recently began selling soft-serve ice cream in a choice of White Chocolate Vanilla Bean, Dark Chocolate, or a Swirl of the two, sold in a crunchy Belgian Waffle cone available with rimmed melted milk or dark chocolate, with or without pralines, or just plain. Along with the upscale cone comes an upscale price: About $6.

SONIC Blue Raspberry with NERDS Candy Slush Dan Goldberg

Slushier and Nerdier Sonic Drive-in, which is in the midst of a huge expansion around the country, has rolled out 50 special ice cream shake and slush flavors for the summer season. The shakes, made with real ice cream, come in flavors like Oreo Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel, and Chocolate Covered Jalapeno, while several new super sweet slush varieties are on the menu this year, including Polynesian Punch and Blue Raspberry—made with classic Nerds candy. Bonus: At participating locations, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., slushes are half-price, and shakes are half-price after 8 p.m. every day this summer.

Weirder and … Sandier? Included in the summer 2014 lineup at Baskin-Robbins are curious flavors such as State Fair Fried Dough (cinnamon caramel ice cream with pieces of funnel cake and fried dough) and the Sand Pail Cake, which thankfully only looks like something you’d dig up at the beach: It’s a cake featuring crushed graham crackers as the sand, along with icing decorated to look like sea creatures.

Big Gay Ice Cream truck in Los Angeles Donny Tsang

Deliciously Gayer After years of successfully operating ice cream food trucks and two New York City shops, Big Gay Ice Cream—home of a rainbow-unicorn logo, flavors like the Salty Pimp and the Bea Arthur, acclaimed as the best ice cream parlor in the U.S.—is expanding in a big gay way in 2014. Its first non-New York shop will be open this summer, in downtown Los Angeles.

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