These online tools can save you big money on holiday shopping
After a lackluster Black Friday (and a less-lackluster-but-still-not-great Cyber Monday) it looks like Americans still have plenty of holiday shopping ahead of them. Indeed, many shoppers now assume that the best deals are likely to appear weeks after the frenzied launch of the shopping season has passed. And they are probably right.
But with sales so ubiquitous throughout December, it’s hard to know if you’re actually getting a bargain at any given moment and at any given store or website. Luckily, using one of these free online tools can ensure that you always get a solid deal.
Arguably, there’s no longer a compelling reason to leave your home (or even your bed) to shop. But if you prefer to hold an item in your hands before you buy, you like to come across gift ideas via serendipity, or you simply enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you still might find yourself in brick-and-mortar stores at holiday time.
Whatever the reason, use The Find to make sure you’re getting a decent price before you pull out your wallet. It’s true that many apps let you scan products inside a store to compare prices at other retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online. I like The Find best because it usually cross-checks more retailers than the competition (it’s the only price-comparison tool I’ve seen that includes Amazon results, other than Amazon’s own app) and it saves your scans so you can view them later when you get back to a computer. The Find also works on both iOS and Android, making it available to most shoppers.
RetailMeNot is useful for a different reason: It will show you a selection of the latest deals, a map of coupons for nearby stores, and allow you to search for specific store coupons. You can save these deals right in the app and then use them at checkout. RetailMeNot also shows online offers for a particular store right next to the in-store deals, so you’ll know whether it’s better to buy in person or over the web.
Many stores have their own app that comes loaded with coupons, deals, and other ways to save. Walmart’s Savings Catcher, for example, lets shoppers scan their receipts and then get instant rebates if another store offers the same item at a cheaper price. Target’s Cartwheel app gives customers instant coupons that they can then apply to their purchase. If you’re about to go shopping, search your phone’s app store and see if your retailer of choice has their own official app that offers similar deals.
Make no mistake: The apps listed above can ensure you’re getting a competitive price — but they can’t always get you the best price. For that, or something close to it, you probably have to shop from home on your computer, and it helps if you also monitor prices, deals, and coupons over time.
PriceBlink, for example, tracks the competition as you shop in real time. This browser extension automatically recognizes that you’re looking at a product and shows you a list of competing prices right on the same page. See a better deal? Just click and you’re there. It also alerts you to any coupons or deals it detects.
Maybe you already found the best available price on the web, but aren’t sure whether to buy now or wait for an even better deal? That’s the kind of first-world anxiety TrackIf exists to treat. This website allows you to set price alerts on any product, and will email you if the price drops any lower. It even comes with a handy browser extension that will show you a product’s recent price history so you’ll know whether you’re getting the best price.
Coupons are another great way to save money, but most people don’t use them because it’s annoying to go around the web hunting down the right codes. Coupons at Checkout addresses that by making coupons pretty much effortless. Just install the browser extension and it will automatically offer you relevant coupon codes when you go to checkout at an online retailer.