There's an App for That
'Tis the season to celebrate, give gifts and eat wonderful meals with family and friends.
Yet December, for all of its joys, can be stressful—particularly if you're in charge of the behind-the-scenes work needed to make all the merry happen. For the moms and dads who juggle, plan and shop to make the holidays merry and bright: You don't have to go it alone.
About 80 percent of shoppers use their phones to look up product reviews and compare prices when they shop, according to OuterBox, an Akron-based e-commerce and web developer.
So, in that spirit, here are a few apps that can be especially helpful during the holiday rush. All are available for both Apple and Android unless otherwise noted.
Shopping and Saving
Flipp feels like Sunday advertising circulars gone high-tech. It's a digital library of all of the newest sales fliers. When you tap or circle an item, the app adds it to your shopping list. Then, it matches items on the list to a database of e-coupons and loads them onto your store loyalty card. Users can cross off items as they shop and share the list with other people—perfect for those, “Hey, honey, can you pick this stuff up on the way home?” moments. Flipp also highlights the best deals (i.e., biggest discounts) in each flier with a touch of a button.
ShopSavvy barcode and QR scanner: If you frequently wonder if the item in your cart is cheaper online or in another store, this is the app for you. Simply scan the barcode, and ShopSavvy will show the price online and in local stores. The local store option is what sets this app apart, especially if it's Dec. 23 and there's no time for shipping. The app has other features, too, including links to cash-back offers from major brands and retailers.
Discount Calculator: How much does that sweater cost at 25 percent off? Or if it's buy one, get the second at 50 percent off? Discount Calculator figures out the sale price of any item. Simply enter the price, then the discount percentage, and it'll tell you what you'll pay. It even lets users calculate the sales tax, so there are no surprises at the checkout. (Android only)
Ibotta is a rebate app similar to Ebates. Use it to search for and select coupons and rebates for items you're about to buy. After you shop, take a photo of the receipt, and in a few days the value of all eligible discounts and rebates will land in your Ibotta account. Once you've earned at least $20, you can transfer the money to your PayPal account or onto a gift card. It's accepted by hundreds of major retail chains, including Babies R Us, CVS, The Home Depot, Kroger and Wal-Mart.
Store apps: Shoppers who spend a lot at one store should research individual retail apps. The Amazon app allows users to scan bar codes and compare a store price to the Amazon price. For Prime members or those who rely on reviews, this could be a winner. The Wal-Mart app has a Savings Catcher. Scan your receipt after you shop. If a local competitor sells the same item at a lower price, Wal-Mart will refund the difference in the form of a gift card. And don't forget Cartwheel from Target, which comes with exclusive coupons and discounts.
Shopping is only one part of the holiday season. Planning is the bulk of it. Never fear. App developers have created products to help manage the chaos.
Christmas Gift List lets users create budgets and idea lists for family, friends and co-workers. Check off items as you shop, and track money spent on each person as well as the overall holiday budget. (Android only)
Santa's Bag – Christmas Gift List is similar, with cute holiday graphics. Users can set a budget and create gift lists with images and notes. It also has a countdown-to-Christmas feature. (Apple only)
Food apps: Need to bring an appetizer to the holiday potluck but don't know what to make? Get Allrecipes Dinner Spinner, which has access to more than 50,000 recipes. Search by dietary need, create shopping lists and see which ingredients are on sale near you. Need to buy wine? Check out Vivino, which lets users take a photo of any wine label for reviews, ratings and average prices. Now that's an app you can say cheers to!
Denise Trowbridge is a self-professed money geek who writes about personal finance, banking and insurance. Follow her on Twitter at @DeniseTrowbridg.