In my book, shopping isn’t really shopping unless you’re getting a deal. Doubly so when it come to the crazy holiday shopping season that officially kicks off this week. There are plenty of apps for holiday shopping, and websites with promo codes all promising you easy savings. But, honestly? I have tried tons — tons — and so many of them are clunky, gratuitous, or just plain not useful. So I’ve filtered all those shopping apps out there (did I mention tons?) down to these 10 (plus a bonus!) of the best holiday shopping apps that I’ve found. In fact, I would totally use them myself. And I do.
Best holiday shopping apps for the local shopper
We’ve sung this app’s praises before, and it still stands as one of my favorite apps to have when venturing into the Black Friday madness and beyond. The Zoomingo app for iOS and Android (shown above) takes the sales hunt hyperlocal. It pulls together all the holiday offers from over 70,000 retail outlets around the US, and then it uses your zip code to track all the sales in your neighborhood. And it keeps updating this info, so you have the most current intel on every Doorbuster Deal and Black Friday special coming down the pike. You can also streamline things by selecting specific stores or outlets to follow, and those deals will pop right up in your Zoomingo feed. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
I’ve already had it with all the store fliers flooding my mailbox on a daily basis. Too many. Too much. At this point they go directly into the recycling bin. The Retale app for iOS and Android hears my pleas for help. It aggregates all of those in-store promotions, brochures and sales for 130 of the top US retail brands and sends them right to your phone or tablet. You can also shop by category, if you’re looking for a particular product. (Oh, Olaf snow cone maker, where are you?)
I also love that this app actually goes a step further in keeping me on top of the sales game by sorting all of the deals by my GPS location. And for super shoppers, Retale alerts you when an offer is about to expire, and lets you set up automatic notifications for new offers that pop up. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
Best holiday shopping app for the couponing enthusiast
After learning about this app on our site last week and trying it out — and I’m still using it! — I would definitely recommend the BluePromoCode app if you’re an iOS user. This extensive coupon search engine gives you access to deals at more than 40,000 stores. That’s a whole lot of stores. And I like that you can house all of your online promo codes and in-store coupons in one place — your iPhone.
I also like that the editorial staff works to ensure that all of those codes actually work. Nothing more annoying than finding out your code is void when you’re wrapping things up at the final checkout page online. Plus, the Deal Guides in categories like travel, beauty, or baby help you stay organized and on top of your gift-buying plan. (Free, iTunes)
Best holiday shopping app if you want the deals to find you
Once you’ve download the free app, the coupons, flyers and store deals start piling up on your phone. The key thing here is geo-targeted mobile alerts, meaning you’ll see coupon deals pop up on your phone while you’re actually in the store shopping. How cool is that?
The functionality is the same as Apple Passbook with one key difference: with Apple Passbook, users need to stay on top of adding store coupons and cards to the app in order to set off the alerts. However with Shopular, it does it for you. Just set your favorite stores and the coupons update on their own daily. And Shopular pulls deals from over 40,000 retail spots across the US, so get ready for the bargains to flow in. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
Best holiday shopping app for the decisive shopper
If you’re not up for browsing and already know exactly what you want, then this shopping app is for you. Just enter the product or item you’re looking to purchase (or opt to scan in its barcode), and ShopAdvisor takes the wheel from there, creating a watch list for you and setting a wide search — both online and in retail stores — to find you the absolute lowest price at a nearby location. ShopAdvisor also provides you with a chart of the item’s price history, and you can set price alerts to notify you once the hot-ticket item drops below your set price. Holiday bargain hunting made easy. (Available for free on iTunes and Google Play)
Best holiday shopping app for the crowdsourcing shopper
Twitter via Amazon
Here’s one you might not know: New this year, Amazon customers can add items that they’ve discovered on Twitter straight from their feeds to their Amazon shopping carts and Wish Lists. And no, you don’t have to limit your wishes to 140 characters. Here’s how it works: First, connect your Twitter account to Amazon. Now, when your cool mom friend, the one who’s forever in-the-know about all things, tweets about a new bag or musical artist she absolutely adores — along with an Amazon product link — you can just add #AmazonCart or #AmazonWishList and that new, rad thing is added to your cart or Wish List. Done.
Best holiday shopping apps to get you in and out of the mall faster
If you’re like me, and want to get in and get out of these holiday sale-a-thons as quickly and efficiently as possible, then Chameleon is calling your name. Get this: the app will actually tell you the aisle and provide real-time inventory status of items on your shopping list. Genius. The only hiccup is, the app only works at participating businesses, like Best Buy and Target. But, if you think about it, those are precisely the kinds of places you’ll need this helpful heads-up, especially if you’re braving the crowds and shopping in person on Black Friday.
The app serves up the coupons and deals for the store you’re in, which is great. But there are two other cool things Chameleon does for you: It scans barcodes to check the price and show you online ratings and reviews; and it shows you a guided map of the mall, including the closest restrooms and elevators. (Thanks on behalf of pregnant women and parents of toddlers, everywhere.) Oh, and thanks to the latest update, Chameleon can now show whether the store you’re in accepts Apple Pay. It’s like having an all-knowing, future-seeing, tiny robot shopping buddy with you. (Free on iTunes)
At first it kind feels like a game called How Fast Can You Score a Parking Space? But after four or five slow loops around the mall lot, it’s a total drag. This is where ParkWhiz app can help. Essentially, the app lets you book a spot in a parking garage or “rent” a space from a private owner who’s not using it. With over 2,000 locations across the US, the app can guarantee you a spot in advance and at a slightly discounted rate. Now, some folks might consider this one of those life hacks that borders on cheating. But I think I’d still be able to sleep at night after being smart enough to know about an app that gets me parking right up front near the elevator. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
Best holiday shopping app for the gift card connoisseur
Gift cards can be so convenient…that is, when you actually remember that you have one sitting in the bottom of your tote or (worse) at home on the dresser. Thank goodness for Gyft. It takes all your gift card business mobile. With this nifty app, you can upload, buy, send, and redeem gift cards in stores or online all from your iOS or Android phone. Gyft also helps you keep track of your balances. I also like the long list of brands from which to choose a gift card. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
Best holiday shopping app shoppers on a money-saving mission
If saving money is priority No. 1 for you this holiday season, then Flipp will help keep you on track. The app digitally consolidates all the flyers and circulars for stores in your area, whether it’s grocery, sporting goods, pet stores or clothes. The best part is, the only thing you have to actually do to score all these deals is shop. Done and done. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
Best holiday shopping app if you’re all about rewards
Let’s be honest: Everyone likes a reward. And earning one through shopping is always a plus. Better still, how about getting a reward for shopping even when you didn’t buy anything? Well, say hello to Shopkick. You can nab points — or kicks — simply by walking into any of the long list of stores linked to this app, like Best Buy, Crate and Barrel, and Toys ‘R’ Us. When you stroll into the store with your phone, you get automatically credited. You can also earn more points by scanning products with your phone. You then redeem your kicks for gift certificates at other participating stores. Window-shoppers will definitely get a kick out of this one. Ha. (Free on iTunes and Google Play)
Check out our holiday tech picks to help fill up your shopping list!