3 Ways to Shop Smarter with Your Smartphone

New apps make it easier to compare prices and find deals.

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It seems we’re all on the go more these days. Grocery shopping seems to take longer than ever, and errands aren’t always planned. If scouring sale flyers and organizing an ever-growing stack of plastic reward and gift cards are no longer in your schedule, you might try shopping with your smartphone.

Here are three ways you can use your phone to save time and money.

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Price Comparison:

Even with the Sunday sale flyers stashed in the recycling bin, you can still compare prices on the go. For starters, consider barcode scanning smart phone apps. There are quite a few popular ones, including one from Microsoft Bing for Mobile, one from ShopSavvy, and one from Amazon. Consider using these powerful apps next time you are in an aisle—you may be able to get the same item elsewhere for less.

You can also use price comparison apps and mobile sites. For sites, I’m a Froogle fan, especially since it also uses local search to find other availabilities in your area and online. But Lori Cunningham of Well Connected Mom points to PriceGrabber as her comparison site of choice.

And when it comes to apps, there are several of them on the market, like Save Benjis for the iPhone-toting crowd. And folks in NYC also have access to Goodzer, which uses GPS tagging technology in combination with store data to help you find whatever you need conveniently, no matter where you are in the city.

Deals:

Deals come in many forms, from many sources. One traditional way is through customer loyalty reward cards. My Card Star lets you digitally store all of your membership rewards cards to scan on the fly, saving you loads of wallet room. The iPhone version even feeds you coupons based on your preferences and shopping habits. OO on the Go, the mobile version of Overwhelming Offers from Next Jump, feeds you deals up to fifty percent off and lets you know when they start, so you can keep an eye on items that you’ve been waiting for. Bigger companies are getting in on the action too, as Discover has a mobile app where you can sign up for 5 percent cash back bonuses for use with your rewards credit cards.

[Visit the U.S. News My Money blog for the best money advice from around the web.]

Gift Cards:

Whether you’re giving or receiving them, gift cards are a convenient way to be generous. During the holidays, or any time of year however, you really want to make sure you don’t get steamrolled by the shopping scene. One way to keep things efficient is with Chase’s new Gift Shelf app, which lets you purchase and send gift cards to anyone via your smart phone, as long as you’re a Chase cardholder.

So if you are shopping for gifts on the subway ride home, and don’t like the idea of having to whip out your credit card in the crowd, this app might just be for you. Another way to manage and track gift cards is with SWAGG. It’s new this month, and allows iPhone and Android users to store, combine and track gift card balances from the viewing screen of your device. Or alternatively, if you have a bunch of gift cards on hand that you’d rather get rid of, you can always sell them on sites like CardPool.

It’s only going to get better:

New apps and technologies are coming out all the time, including a few exciting ones that have yet to go national, but are on my writing radar to bring to your attention when appropriate. In the meantime, these strategies are usable by anyone in the backpack and briefcase crowds, as well as soccer moms and anyone else in between. So save yourself some time, toss those coupon mailings in the recycling, and make your smartphone earn its keep.

Tim Chen is the founder of NerdWallet.com, a site that helps consumers find the best low apr credit cards.