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.