By Mark Di Vincenzo
Mark Di Vincenzo is a journalist with 24 years of experience and a New York Times best-selling author. Mark blogs via Contently.com.
It’s becoming harder and harder these days to be a smart shopper without a smart phone and, of course, the right apps, which can help you find the lowest prices, the best coupons and the biggest garage sales.
Here are a dozen of my favorite shopping apps, in no particular order. The best part is they’re all free.
1. Let’s start with the place where you can potentially find the best deals: garage sales and yard sales, where that filthy oil painting you bought for $2 is actually worth $20,000 — or $20. Garage Sales Tracker, an iPhone app, can’t identify incredibly valuable paintings, but it will help you find garage sales, yard sales, flea markets and consignment shops in your town.
2. Long gone are the days when you had to waste a lot of gas and time driving around town to compare prices from your favorite stores. Grocery Smarts, an Android app, tracks prices at some of the largest stores, including Walmart and Target, and cross-references the price in the stores’ circulars with the most recent manufacturers’ coupons to show you the very lowest prices on thousands of grocery items.
3. Another cool app to help with comparison shopping is Google Shopper, which helps you find information on millions of products. It recognizes products by cover art, bar code, voice and text search, locating local and online prices, product reviews and specs. It works on the iPhone and Android.
4. So much of the shopping we do these days is online, and it’s great to know right away what shipping and handling will cost. (I recently bought a laptop charger for a penny only to later discover that shipping was $6.99. Oh, well.) PriceGrabber, which works on iPhone and Android smart phones, lets shoppers know which stores are selling what you want to buy and gives you the most updated prices, including tax and shipping and handling fees.
Many of the most popular shopping apps on the market specialize in finding you the best and the most coupons, and the best thing about these apps is you don’t have to clip or print out the coupons they give you. Just hand your phone to the cashiers and let them scan the coupon codes, and you get your savings. Here are some excellent coupon apps, again, in no particular order:
5. Grocery IQ, on Android and iPhone, has been getting rave reviews because it manages so many of all of your grocery shopping needs. If you run out of something that you need, the app will scan the barcode and add the item to your grocery list. It’s also great at keeping track of grocery store discount cards and letting you know about current coupons for whatever is on your list.
6. Cellfire partners with grocery stores that have discount loyalty cards and sends coupons right to your cards. When you go grocery shopping, just make sure you bring your discount card and take it to the checkout line to get your discount. Cellfire works at more than 4,500 locations, including at Safeway, Kroger, Ralphs, Vons, Smiths, Frys, ShopRite, Randalls, Dominicks and Giant Eagle. It works on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7.
7. The Coupons App, an Android product, offers coupons on retailers as diverse as Old Navy, Waffle House and Barnes & Noble. It finds coupons for stores and restaurants wherever you happen to be. To redeem the coupons, all you have to do is show them to the cashiers when you check out.
9. Where is a lot more than a coupon app. It helps you find good restaurants, cheap gas and the most updated weather forecasts, among other things. As a coupon app, you type in your favorite stores, and it lets you know when those stores issue a coupon. It works on Android, iPhone, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7 and Palm Pre.
10. Pushpins, an iPhone app, scans grocery items at 2,000 or so stores and lets you know about coupons for the items. When you choose deals, they go to your loyalty card, and you garner the savings at the time of purchase.
11. Coupon Sherpa, an iPhone app, is great because of the variety of in-store coupons it finds – everything from clothing, shoes, and electronics to restaurants, jewelry and sporting goods, and lots more. It also sometimes finds online coupons.
12. Cardstar, which works on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, helps you manage your store discount cards. Use your phone’s camera to scan in cards for hundreds of retailers, libraries and associations. If the app doesn’t support a card, it’s easy to add your own. And the app gives you relevant coupons from those stores.
There are so many shopping apps out there that you may not have any of these on your smart phone, but if you do, you’ll save time and money.