As Turkey Day approaches, so does the the much-dreaded shopping season with its onslaught of store "deals" and half-sales competing to pry you away from your hard-earned cash. But if you're anything like me, then you probably haven't gotten your Christmas shopping strategy together yet. That means venturing off into the unknown and hoping that you won't get ripped off too badly.
But this year I made a commitment to get my act together and shop sensibly. Armed with my trusty iPhone 4S, I compiled a list of apps to find the best deals on presents without dipping into my life savings once again.
Arm yourself with these trusty discount trackers and you too will be ready to tackle the shopping frenzy.
Save money by browsing flyers from your favorite stores across the U.S. and Canada on your mobile devices. Flipp (iOS) is a beautifully designed app that puts the best sales right at your fingertips. Check out selections from popular brands and retailers. Set your favorite stores for quicker navigation, or clip out deals on things to purchase later. My favorite feature is the discount slider that lets you narrow down the best deal based on the savings (bigger is cheaper!). Flipp offers syncing between multiple devices so you don't ever have to miss out on a steal.
Think coupon clipping should be an extreme sport? Retale (iOS, Android) allows you to browse deals from some of the largest American retailers. By gathering all the sales offered by nearby shops, Retale can save you from clipping coupons. Get special discounts from popular stores such as Macy's, Kohl's, Toys"R"Us, Kay Jewelers, Ace, and more. The app also has a built-in clipping function to let you save your favorite coupons and a deal alert that can notify you of specials on specific products or sales from particular retailers.
ShopSavvy (iOS, Android) is less of a deal finder and more of a gift discovery app. The app has a built-in reader that can scan barcodes and help you compare prices, but the best part has to be the featured products. Aggregating data from other users and your Facebook friends, ShopSavvy displays current shopping and price trends. You can explore popular products, browse a variety of categories, or search by keywords for lists of related items. See what other people are buying and view price history to make sure you're the one getting the best deal. ShopSavvy can also save you time by locating the lowest price from both online and local stores. The app is especially useful when you're looking for gift ideas or shopping inspiration.
Remember when highly talented Star Apps columnist Josh Rotter interviewed eBay's VP of innovation, Steven Yankovich, back in June? The new app he mentioned is here, and it's better than predicted. eBay (iOS, Android) is still the No. 1 source for buying under retail. If you don't want to deal with the Craigslist crowd, the online marketplace is the best place to find rare items at a discount. The best part is that you won't have to meet random strangers in a Starbucks parking lot -- unless that's your thing. Updated with a sleeker look, the new eBay app is intuitive and easy to browse. Search items by name or categories, or (if typing is too much of a bother) you can scan the barcode via the reader. Narrow your requirements (price, condition, shipping, etc.) to find that perfect deal. I dare say that the eBay mobile app might even offer a better user experience than the company's main site.
As a community of tech-savvy penny pinchers and master couponistas, Slickdeals.net has grown into one of the top resources when it comes to finding the best online discounts. Deals are scouted by users or uploaded by vendors to be screened and nominated by members. The cream of the crop gets promoted to the front page for all to see. Now you can view these "frontpage deals" from anywhere with the official Slickdeals app (iOS, Android). Now Slickdeals has released a companion app specifically for Black Friday (iOS, Android). Be warned that buying things you don't need just because you're saving a ton of money is not actually saving a ton of money.
Buyvia (iOS, Android) lets you save shopping preferences in the cloud so that you don't ever have to miss a sale. Search both local and online deals on Buyvia's intuitive interface, and get coupons from your favorite online or B&M stores. Set up shopping alerts, create your personalized shopping list, and track items from anywhere. The app also features a Black Friday section where you can peruse hundreds of scanned ads and discounted sales from online catalogs. There are some rare finds, as smaller local stores don't necessarily upload their discounts online. The app also features a QR and barcode reader for when you have to find a sale on a specific product. If you love hunting through the local classifieds, Buyvia is the app for you.
Lukewarm deals leaving you wondering if you should pull the trigger on a purchase? ShopAdvisor (iOS, Android) can help you make that decision faster. The app compares prices on thousands of items across hundreds of different retailers, ensuring that you're getting the best bang for your buck. View product specifications, cost comparisons, and reviews. Add items to your watch list, and get alerts when there's a deal. ShopAdvisor can give you all the pertinent information you need before you whip out the credit card.
8. Shop It to Me
The holiday season offers great opportunities to switch out that moth-eaten winter wardrobe. With clothing retailers vying for your attention (and wallet), this is the best time to update your clothing collection. Shop It to Me (iOS) is your new personal shopper/stylist, scouring deals from your favorite stores. Just create an account, select your clothing sizes, pick your preferred brand, and the app will instantly find you deals. Having a hard time gift shopping? Shop It to Me can also recommend presents from over 370 popular brands.
9. Smoopa Shopping
How about an app that pays you to shop? Smoopa (iOS, Android) is part price tracker, part shopping reward service. Sign up to access thousands of user-submitted prices for items from all the big chains. Become a bargain hunter by using your mobile device to scan prices, and submit your purchases to Smoopa for cash, credits, or gift cards. Not a bad deal if you're already planning to do some major credit card damage this holiday season.
Woot.com's popularity stems from the deal-a-day fad back in the mid-2000s. From its small beginning, Woot now has multiple spin-off sites featuring the standard daily offer -- one for every category. In addition to the main Woot page, you also get Wine Woot, Shirt Woot, Tech Woot, Kids Woot, and many more. The deals are amazing if you catch them in time, and they come with the company's signature $5 shipping on any item -- regardless of size (even TVs!). Wootstar (iOS) is an elegant, third-party app that lets you browse all the Woot sites in one convenient place. You can shop directly from the app or go online. Buy early, though, since low-cost shipping takes forever, and Mom won't believe that "It's in the mail" excuse three years in a row.
That's a wrap on our top shopping apps collection. But before I pack it up, I would like to leave you with some wise words about buying gifts: Don't overpay for anything if you don't have to. Happy holidays!