Shopping can be overwhelming at any time of the year--not just around the holidays. So don't head into your favorite store empty-handed. Take some of these handy smartphone apps with you. They'll make sure you get the best deal and find the best coupons; at least one will even show you the way to the nearest restroom.
"Warning! You're about to pay too much." Wish stores had signs like that? Keep dreaming. The closest thing to price alerts that can keep you from paying too much comes in the form of the Red Laser app. Free and available for Android and iOS devices, it turns your phone's camera into a barcode scanner. Take a picture of a barcode, and Red Laser lets you check prices from online and local retailers, so you can find the product in nearby stores for (hopefully) less.
Cash-back programs come in all shapes and forms. This one--Shopkick--has a geolocation twist. A free app, available for iOS and Android phones, it lets you collect rewards for checking in to select retailers (such as Target, Best Buy, Macy's, and more). Your check-ins earn you points, called kicks, that can be redeemed for rewards like gift cards, Facebook credits, and movie vouchers.
Like coupons, but hate carrying them around? With Coupon Sherpa's mobile app, available now for the iPhone and coming soon to Android and BlackBerry devices, you can ditch that inch-thick coupon collection held together with a rubber band. Coupon Sherpa lets you search for relevant coupons via your smartphone, coupons that can then be redeemed at the store. The app displays either a scannable image or a numeric code that the cashier can enter.
I have dozens of store loyalty cards, but it never fails that when it's time to check out at a store, I never have the one card I need. That's why I need Key Ring: This free app scans and stores your store loyalty cards, so all you need to show to the cashier is your Android, BlackBerry, iOS, or Windows phone handset. See that long line of shoppers standing behind you, the ones who no longer have to watch in annoyance as you dig through your pockets and purse? They say thanks.
You know that sales can save you money, but it can be hard to figure out exactly how much you're saving. Rather than trying to calculate 40 percent off of a dress that's already been discounted by $25, rest your weary brain and let Sale Saver do the math for you. It even includes an automatic tax calculator, so you can easily get the bottom line. The free Sale Saver LT runs on the iPhone only and is ad-supported; the $1.99 full version is ad-free and runs on the iPad, too.
The power of Groupon's group-buying discount service has gone mobile with the company's three smartphone apps. Available for the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS platforms, Groupon's app allows you to search for and purchase deals based on your location. It also helps you keep track of all the Groupons you've purchased and lets you redeem them paper-free.
You might think that buying in bulk will save you money. But you can't be sure--unless you have CompareMe. This $1.99 iPhone app lets you calculate and compare the prices of products that come in different package sizes. Never has it been so easy to see how much of a discount you get when you buy 200 rolls of toilet paper instead of just 4.
Google Shopper, a free app for the Android and iOS platforms, does a little bit of everything when it comes to saving you money. It alerts you to nearby offers, shows you a deal of the day, lets you scan barcodes to learn more about products, lets you find products by scanning the covers of books and DVDs, lets you search for products via voice input, and delivers detailed product information. Just about the only thing it can't do is actually buy your products for you.
With MidCentury Software's Shopper app, you can create and share shopping lists online, along with being able to search for local deal and sale flyers. This $1 app, available for the Android, BlackBerry, and iOS platforns, even lets you set up alerts to notify you of any product recalls on earlier purchases.
Addicted to Amazon.com? You don't have to leave your favorite shopping site behind when you're away from your computer. Amazon Mobile, a free app for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices, lets you search for and buy products from your smartphone. The free app makes it much easier to navigate the shopping site than a mobile browser does, and also offers access to Amazon's One-Click buying. iPhone users can pair this app with Amazon Price Check to find the best bargains and with the Amazon Deals app to get information about Amazon's daily discounts.
Lost again at a nondescript shopping mall, desperately hunting for the Nordstrom you just know is in there, somewhere? Then you're going to wish you had FastMall. This free iPhone and Android app has maps of 1250 malls in 27 countries, so you never have to get lost again. It offers turn-by-turn navigation, and a simple shake of your phone will have you on your way to the nearest restroom.
One of the best parts of online shopping is that your PC delivers instant access to millions of user reviews, helping you decide which product to buy. With Buzzillions Reviews, a free iPhone app, you have easy access to those reviews while you're in the store. You can scan barcodes to find out more about products, read and compare user reviews, and check prices.
Milo Local Shopping
Few things are more annoying than heading to a store to pick up an item only to find that it's out of stock. Save yourself time and eliminate that annoyance with Milo's Local Shopping app. Available for Android and iPhone, Milo lets you search the shelves of local participating retailers, virtually, ensuring that your shopping trip will not be in vain. Some major retailers are Walgreens, Target, and Gamestop. It also lets you compare prices across local retailers.
Make sure you're getting the absolute best deal with Save Benjis, a $1 iPhone app that lets you compare prices on a specific item across local and online retailers. The $2 Save Benjis+ app adds barcode scanning for easier price comparisons.
Shopping by TheFind
TheFind.com, a popular shopping search engine that helps you track down the best prices on products, has gone mobile with Shopping by TheFind, a free iPhone and Android app. You can check prices of items sold online and in stores, scan barcodes for detailed product information, gets maps to stores, save product lists, and set price watches.