Retailers have the holiday season down to a science, complete with lighting that makes you look your best (or worst), specific sale days, particular music playing and even what scent permeates throughout the store. Don’t let them get the best of you.
Equipped with your smartphone or tablet and the right apps, you are no longer a mere Christmas shopper. You are a shopping warrior. Here are five apps (or more) that you need to be armed.
One way to stick to a budget is to know what you’re buying before you hit the store. You’ll be less likely to impulse-buy your way to the poor house.
Santa’s Bag (Free; iOS) and Christmas List Snowball for Android (Free; Android) will help. They let you create a profile for each person in your life, set a budget, add gifts with estimated costs and then record what you’ve spent so far.
You can quickly see who still doesn’t have a gift and where you’ve gone over budget. Christmas List Snowball also has some fun animations to keep you in a good mood while you’re dealing with the crowds and long lines.
You’re in the store, about to buy that perfect gift for that special someone, but the price is a little steep. Are you sure there isn’t a better price somewhere else?
Don’t waste gas and time driving to other stores or spend hours comparison-shopping online. Scan the item’s barcode with the ShopSavvy app (Free; iOS, Android). It checks prices at local stores and major online retailers to let you know who has the best deal.
You can also get customer reviews on items, create lists of things to buy, browse ongoing sales at various retailers and set up alerts for price drops on products that interest you.
If you’re looking for more specific comparisons, check out the Amazon app (Free; iOS, Android) or Walmart Savings Catcher (Free; iOS, Android). Amazon lets you search for products by voice or with your phone’s camera, so you can quickly see how much you’d pay on Amazon instead.
The Walmart Savings Catcher not only lets you scan bar codes and look at product reviews, you can use it to scan your store receipt, too. If there are products on the receipt that have been advertised at a lower price by Walmart or any major competitors, Walmart will put the price difference on an e-gift card that you can redeem at a later date.
Buying for kids
Chances are you’ll be buying at least one small relative a present this year. Whether it’s one kid or a dozen, Shop for Kids (Free; iOS, Android) is an app you’ll want to have handy. It lets you scan a toy in the store to bring up reviews from TimeToPlayMag, including helpful information like toy durability, how easy it will be to set up, play-time staying power and more.
You’ll also get an instant price comparison with major retailers so you get the best deal. The app also shows you the latest posted toy reviews and what toys are trending, and it lets you filter toys by categories, such as baby toys.
Credit card rewards
It’s almost impossible not to use a credit card during the shopping season. Fortunately, many cards offer rewards so you can get a little money back or perks like travel miles.
That being said, every card has different rewards, and the best one can vary based on the store and how much you’re paying. You can’t hope to keep track of the best place to use every card you have.
With Reward Summit (Free; iOS, Android), you can easily choose the best card for every purchase. Just tell the app what bank and cards you have — no identifying information needed — and then the store and how much you’re paying. It will tell you which card gets you the most benefit.
You can also see your recent purchases and gather a history report of your card usage. It’s a great way to keep an eye on your budget and rack up rewards.
Save on holiday meals
Not everything you shop for this season will be a gift. You might be in charge of a party or dinner. Maybe you need to stock up on toiletries for guests.
No matter what it is, you still want to save, which is a job for coupons. But that doesn’t mean grabbing the local paper and some scissors anymore.
Coupons.com (Free; iOS, Android) covers over 2,000 brands from more than 700 companies and makes hundreds of coupons and discount codes available daily through its app.
When you walk into a store, you can quickly pull up a list of deals on food or personal care products there. The app can even alert you when you drive by a store that has coupons available. No more forgetting the coupons at home and losing out on valuable savings.
Finally, these apps are great, but remember to grab a budgeting program that can help keep your spending on track, and know what tech gifts you SHOULDN’T buy people this Christmas. Unless you own a mansion, you should also avoid buying anything from this year’s outrageously expensive Neiman Marcus catalog, even if it is really fun to look at.
By Kim Komando