Ah, December – that time of year when the weather turns colder, spirits brighter, and gift shopping is traumatic. As wonderful as the holidays can be with music, decorations, gatherings, and goodwill, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year. Finding gifts for loved ones without putting your budget into national deficit mode can leave you feeling physically, mentally, and financially drained. But what if you knew a few secrets that could make the experience easier to use?
The secret to surviving the holidays with your sanity intact is to be rich and hire someone to handle all your gift purchases. But if that’s not an option, there is another way! Smartphones and tablets are the modern shopper’s best friend, except when he gave his friend that “absolute best friend in the world” t-shirt last Christmas. These smart devices are helping consumers shop efficiently and find the best deals without suffering from a headache the size of a snowman.
Aside from squeezing my eyes shut and pretending they’re not there, I can’t do much about the tons of stress-inducing traffic and people on the road and in shopping malls this holiday season. But I can share some of the best ways to use your smart device for a better experience. So read on, my eager friend, to discover the secrets.
Red laser (iOS, Android, Windows. Free) is an application that uses a barcode scanner. Simply scan the barcode of the item you are considering purchasing and Red Laser will search nearby stores and online retailers to find the best price.
Google Buyer (iOS, Android. Free) is one of the best comparison apps available. You can search for a product by typing what you are looking for, scanning a product’s barcode, or saying the product name to see if you are really getting the best deal available. You can also assign “favorite” status to items that you want to find later.
Coupons / MoneySaving
Sherpa Coupon (iOS, Android. Free) allows you to track coupons no matter where you are and download them directly to your phone, allowing cashiers to scan them for easy redemption.
ShopKick (iOS, Android. Free) says that the more you buy, the more points (or “kicks”) you earn. Redeem your kicks for gift cards at places like Old Navy and Toys ‘R’ Us, or redeem your kicks for movie tickets or even an Xbox 360. You can earn kicks by simply entering a participating store or scanning the barcodes of featured articles. It also offers exclusive offers.
CardStar (iOS, Android. Free) replaces the annoying store-specific cards needed for discounts by scanning your loyalty cards and stores them in your memory. The cashier then scans your device to apply the discount.
Lemon wallet (iOS, Android. Free) compiles a digital database of all your receipts and cards (identification, insurance, loyalty and payment cards) so that you always have a backup in case your wallet is lost, misplaced or stolen . You also have interactive balance updates and you can create personalized special offers from your favorite brands.
Better parking (iOS, Android, Blackberry. Free) Compare parking rates to find the best deals and guide drivers to the cheapest and most convenient parking lots and lots in 43 cities and 79 airports nationwide.
Wish lists / schedules
mint (iOS, Android. Free) makes sure you don’t spend beyond your means by providing a summary of your current expenses, including expense reports that can be separated into categories, such as entertainment and food. Users can link their bank accounts and credit cards to the app to see how much money they can spend and how much they owe, making it easy to create and stick to a budget.
MyRegistry (iOS, Android. Free) helps you get the gifts you really want. Your smart device serves as a barcode scanner, allowing you to add items you find in stores or online to your gift list and then invite others to view them.
mGifts (iOS. $ 4.99) helps you plan and keep track of your gifting needs for any holiday or special event. See how many gifts you have purchased, still need to receive, and how much money you have spent per person. It also allows you to quickly see what gifts you need from a particular store, event, group, or individual, and stay on budget. Android users, try Gift List Manager.
Cards (iOS, Android. Free) from Apple allows you to design and send tangible cards from your iPhone. Choose your own photo and start designing. Once finished, enter the address where you want the card to be sent and you’re done. Sending a card within the US costs $ 2.99, internationally it costs $ 4.99. Android users, try Christmas cards by Sincerely Ink).
Swackett (iOS. $ 2.99.) provides one-touch weather forecast. As well as displaying the typical temperature and probability of precipitation, it gives users an idea of how to best dress for the weather conditions, from beanies to shorts. Swackett’s forecast feature can also help you plan what clothes to take with you on vacation.
Find my car (iOS, Android. Free) is ideal for when you are tired of looking for your parked car, hotel or any other location (with GPS). Use Google Navigation to navigate to your car and send a preset text message with your current position to a family member to notify them of your whereabouts.
FastMall (iOS, Android. Free) is an interactive experience and community that allows you to find and then be guided step-by-step to restrooms, shops and restaurants in shopping malls around the world, all without using GPS or WIFI.