In this tough economy, consumers are laser-focused on finding ways to stretch their budgets, and their best tool may be in their pocket.
There are a number of smartphone applications that can help you to organize your shopping, track your spending, and let you know that you’re walking away with the best deal available.
“Shoppers are looking for deals before they are looking at brands,” said Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, a New York City-based brand and customer loyalty research consultancy.
About 60 percent of shoppers will use online shopping and price comparison applications to hunt down the best deals, Passikoff said.
We’ve gathered up 10 of the best apps to help you save money this holiday season. All the apps listed here are free and widely available across multiple smartphone platforms, such as iOS and Android.
No doubt, shoppers will also want to look for apps from their favorite retailers and even daily deal sites such as Groupon, Gilt Group, and Living Social. There also are apps such as CheckPoints and ShopKick, which allow consumers to earn points while they shop.
Click ahead to see some of the best shopping apps out there to save you money.
By Christina Cheddar-Berk
Posted 02 November 2011
One of the best ways to save money is to start with a budget, and Gift List allows you to do just that.
It’s not the only app out there that can help you create a budget, but it’s one of the easiest — and it’s free. Its simplicity also makes it more likely that you will keep using it throughout the hectic holiday season.
So before you hit the mall or fire up the computer, set up a budget for all of the people on your gift list, then make note of the gifts you want to buy and how much they cost, and Gift List will keep a running tally, making it easy to see if you are about to bust the bank.
If you want other features such as password protection (to keep prying eyes from spying what you’ve purchased), or a checklist of what gifts have been wrapped and mailed, or the ability to email the list to someone, you might want to consider other apps, such as Erik Eggleston’s Christmas List or mSeven Software’s Gift List Manager, which offer some of these features for a small fee.
With gifts to buy and places to go, the last thing you want to do during the holiday season is lose precious minutes trying to hunt down a restroom at the local mall.
FastMall has maps and allows interactive navigation at more then 1,250 malls across the country, and they are adding updates and new locations all the time.
In addition to hunting down the location of the nearest restroom, FastMall helps you pick the quickest route to your favorite store. You can even tell it to find the fastest route using elevators if you’re navigating the holiday crowds with a stroller.
Since signal strength can be a problem inside stores, FastMall downloads the map to the mobile phone as long as the user remains logged in. This way the map is always there to be a guide.
If you record your favorite stores, the app will send you special deals that you can take advantage of while you’re at the mall.
And don’t worry about losing your car in the parking lot. FastMall allows you to use GPS and audio recording to hunt it down.
Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, and advertisements for the Black Friday deals are already beginning to leak out.
This app allows you to easily scan the Black Friday ads for all major retailers before they show up in the your local paper and make a personal shopping list with a touch of a finger.
The app also makes it easy to share deals with other people by email, compare prices to make sure you’re getting the best deal, and shop online for products that may be available before Black Friday.
You can even set up push notifications to alert you when a new ad is posted.
Let’s face it. Not every gift will hit the mark. Inevitably there will be the sweater that’s too big, the toy that’s missing a piece, or the gadget that won’t work. That’s when you need to hunt down a receipt, and where Lemon can help.
The app pitches itself largely as an organization tool. Take a picture of your receipts using your smartphone and Lemon will turn them into digitized copies that can be retrieved and printed as needed.
Not only will you be able to easily find receipts you need, but you can also keep track of what you are spending. (Lemon will even generate bar graphs of where your money’s going.)
But Lemon’s more than just a digital filing cabinet. You can give online merchants your @lemon address and skip the offers that they will inevitability start sending you. Lemon also promises to prioritize these emails and send you the sale information you want.
Now, that’s better than a bulging wallet filled with paper slips.
Developers: Moestream Media
Being a member of a store’s loyalty program is a great way to save money or earn special rewards, but if you’re like me you have amassed quite a number of them and hate flipping through them frantically at the cash register.
This app will have you looking like the picture of organization when you hold up your smartphone to scan the loyalty barcode.
With Key Ring Rewards you take a picture of your membership tag, and viola! You’re ready to go. Just use the app when you’re in the checkout line. The cashier can either scan the barcode from the image on the phone, or enter in the membership number.
If fashion is your thing, and you don’t want to bounce around from retailer app to retailer app, you’ll want to check out ShopStyle.
This app lets you browse, search, and buy clothing and accessories pretty easily. You can narrow your search by brand, store, size, or price, and also receive alerts for sales of your favorite brands.
It’s also just a great looking app, with plenty of product images that load quickly and are well organized. You can even zoom into the pictures to take a closer look at the detail.
ShopSavvy is a must for the bargain hunter’s toolbox.
It’s is the kind of app that has already altered the retail landscape. With a simple scan of a product’s barcode, ShopSavvy delivers a wealth of information to the shoppers on the fly. Compare prices, read product reviews, or share information about potential purchases with friends.
The app has been around for a while, but if you haven’t used ShopSavvy since last holiday season you’ll also notice some changes. At the beginning of this year, the company rolled out Live Deals, a stream that highlights deals discovered by other users, and they upgraded the scanning technology to make it even faster.
There also is a feature for advertisers that will deliver more targeted ads to shoppers, as well as coupons, warranty offers, and promotions when the shopper is standing in the store with a potential purchase in hand.
Developer: AMZN Mobile
Amazon’s Price Check app is another way to compare prices. You can scan the product’s barcode, take a photo of the item, say the name into the mic, or type the name of the product into the search box.
Of course, the app also makes it easy for you if you’re standing in a store, and see the product for less at Amazon, to simply tap your finger a few more times and buy it from the online retailer.
Google, which is the tool many people use when they’re researching products at home on their computer, also has a price comparison-shopping tool, Google Shopper. One advantage Google Shopper has is that it ties into Google Offers, the company’s daily deal platform, which is available in nearly 20 metro areas.
OK, this app is for the iPad only, but for those who love to shop, it’s worth checking out.
The Find’s Catalogue aggregates catalogs from leading retailers such as Crate & Barrel, J.Crew, Gaiam, Nordstrom, and Saks, among others. The app makes it easy to browse the catalog, save products that you like, and click through to make a purchase. That means no more folding down pages of a catalog or using sticky notes to mark your favorites.
It also does some things that you can do in a paper catalog — search products or browse only in specific categories.
Google recently launched a similar app, Google Catalogs. Its partners also include many of the largest retail chains: Williams Sonoma, Macy’s, and Anthropologie, to name a few.
These apps are well suited for tablet users, because tablets tend to be used in a slightly different manner than smartphones. For one, the pictures are bigger and easier to see, and tablet users tend to scan these apps in a more relaxed atmosphere than smartphone users. For example, a tablet user may be at home in the living room relaxing, while a smartphone consumer might be killing time while waiting for an appointment.
Perhaps for this reason, iPad users are twice as likely to make a purchase on the device than smartphone users, the National Retail Federation says. The trade group estimates about 70 percent of tablet owners will use their devices for holiday shopping this year.
Developer: GasBuddy Organization
Although mobile use and online shopping are growing trends, the vast majority of purchases are made at brick-and-mortar stores. Running from store to store can burn up gas, but with the GasBuddy app, you’ll know you’re getting the best price per gallon when you fill up.