The crush of holiday spending can do major damage to budgets, despite our best efforts to stay in control. Fortunately for shoppers, entrepreneurs and app developers have embraced the challenge of the season and put their talents to good use: Building tools to help us survive with our sanity, and our bank accounts, intact.
Here are 10 new tools that make it easier to defend your time and cash from the onslaught of the season:
If you're stuck on what to purchase for your significant other, parent or any other loved ones in your life, this free app can help. It tells you what products are flying off the shelves at your favorite stores (out of a database of more than 3,000 stores) and also sorts through your custom preferences - and email newsletters you receive from retailers - to help make suggestions. TechCrunch recently reported that the service received $2 million from supporters to further expand.
"Sift helps consumers save tons of time and money by aggregating all of their shopping and deal-related emails. ... Instead of having to weed through countless emails, users can simply flick through Sift and find items and deals that are tailored to their specific shopping fingerprint," says Saurin Shah, co-founder and CEO at Sift. He adds that Sift users access five times the number of deals as people who just look through emails.
Best for: Anyone in need of last-minute gift ideas.
Since gift cards will be a popular gift this year, with the National Retail Federation reporting that the average shopper will spend a record $163 on them, you're going to need a way to keep track of the ones you receive. (Forgetting to use a gift card is as wasteful as losing cash, after all.) The app Gyft lets you upload your gift cards, purchase new ones, track balances and spend them. "You never have to worry about losing a card again," says Vinny Lingham, CEO of Gyft. He adds that Gyft's loyalty program also allows users to earn points that can be redeemed for purchases.
Best for: People with wallets full of gift cards or plans to hand out gift cards at the holidays.
Already used by more than 1 million shoppers, this app lets you know about current deals while you're shopping. In other words, you can walk into the shopping mall, and get alerts about discounts from your favorite nearby stores. In that way, it's similar to other apps, like SaleSorter, that pull information on current markdowns at shoppers' favorite stores and push those alerts to consumers.
"Shopular will give its users an edge this holiday season, [since] they'll carry the best in-store coupons and circulars all on one device ... As you reach the mall, Shopular will automatically alert you to hot deals at your favorite stores," says Shopular CEO Navneet Loiwal. Coupons can be redeemed by just showing your smartphone at the register, he adds.
Best for: People who love to browse shops in-person but don't want to miss out on any special deals.
Like the online tool PriceBlink, ShopGenius works as a browser add-on that lets shoppers check prices elsewhere on their item without leaving the website that they're on. The tool lets you know if you'll be able to find a lower price for the same product elsewhere. "ShopGenius [enables consumers] to view the best available price for products they are shopping for online without leaving the e-commerce page they are on. This has special benefit for time-pressed, budget-conscious shoppers who have limited time to search for the best available product price," says Dave Compton, CEO of ShopGenius.
Best for: Shoppers who make a significant portion of their purchases online.
If you like the appeal of bulk discounts at Costco or Sam's Club, but don't live near a warehouse club or don't want to bother visiting (and paying to join) one, then Boxed is for you. Shoppers can make purchases via the app, schedule deliveries and get free delivery for orders more than $75.
"Boxed brings the savings of warehouse club right to your mobile device," says Chieh Huang, CEO and founder of Boxed. Membership is free, and Huang says most orders arrive within a day or two. (Free overnight shipping is available in select cities.) "Save your free time for things that really matter," he adds.
Best for: People who love buying in bulk but dislike the hassle of visiting warehouse clubs.
Many of us feel overwhelmed at some point during the holidays, and the app EasilyDo promises to act as a "personal assistant" to help us stay organized and save time. It deletes deal-related emails that have expired from your inbox, files e-receipts for you, tracks packages and lets you know when they've arrived, and makes it easy to store your lists in one place. It also sends you bad weather alerts.
"Most of us shop, travel and party more during the holidays than at any other time of the year," says Mikael Berner, founder and CEO of EasilyDo. "Jumping between airports, malls and holiday get-togethers can make it difficult to stay on top of our lives, and it's easy to miss something we care about when we are overwhelmed by all the little things we haven't had time to do. EasilyDo proactively makes sure you never miss anything."
Best for: Stressed out, overbooked holiday shoppers.
Slice, an app and online tool, collects your purchase and shipping information from online purchases to make it easy to track your shipments, make returns, get price drop alerts (and then assistance on requesting a partial refund from retailers to make up the difference) and alerts if one of your purchases is recalled. Since it collects this information automatically, you don't need to manually enter anything.
"Slice helps consumers effortlessly make sure they get the best price on the gifts they buy with price protection. Most shoppers don't think to monitor the price of an item after they've bought it, but Slice does it for them by automatically alerting them when the price drops, so they can recoup the difference and make sure they get the best deal," explains Thad Hwang, vice president of product for Slice.
Best for: Time-pressed online shoppers who want to make sure they always get the best deal.
8. Scoutfit or Shop It To Me
Instead of constantly monitoring items for potential price drops, ScoutFit tracks items on your shopping list for you and then sends you alerts when they go on sale. The browser button lets users track specific items, and then sends an email when it reaches the shopper's desired price or goes on sale. It also offers recommendations for related or similar products. Shop It To Me, an email service as well as a new app, lets you know when your favorite clothing brands go on sale in your size.
"Scoutfit saves all gift lists in one place, and if things go as expected, Scouters will receive emails every day with price drop alerts so that they can buy all of the items they're shopping for at a sale price. Scoutfit will also provide up-to-date coupon codes while you shop," says Scoutfit's co-founder and vice president of marketing, Lainie Herrera.
Charlie Graham, CEO of Shop It To Me, says his service "makes shopping all of the December sales easy. Put in your favorite brands of clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories, and your individual sizes. We'll track the store sales for you and let you know as soon as your favorite brands go on sale in your size." He adds that using the service also saves you time because you don't have to sort through retailer emails or aimlessly surf the web for sales.
Best for: Online window shoppers who don't want to buy until they know they're getting the lowest price.
Foolproofme.com, an educational website, offers an impulse buying test that calculates just how much impulse purchases can cost a person over his or her lifetime. For example, it reports that shoppers spend $11 or more on average each time they use a credit card instead of cash for small purchases, which can add up to $55,000 over one's lifetime. It also offers videos, articles and tips for staying in control of purchases. "The test allows you to see which areas can get you into trouble," says FoolProof spokesman Remar Sutton. "It gets you to slow down and have some fun online learning about how you waste money," he adds.
Best for: Overspenders who need some help with tamping down their costs during the holidays.
The website PopNod has collaborated with more than 350 retailers and organizations, including Zappos and Best Buy, to make it possible for shoppers to get cash back on their purchases, and then donate a portion to charity. Shoppers can shop at their favorite stores online from within the site and then choose to donate between 0 to 100 percent of their cashback. "PopNod does all the hard work so shoppers can save money and help their favorite causes," says Stephanie David, co-founder of PopNod.
Best for: Online shoppers who want to feel good about giving back while taking care of their shopping list.
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