Our efforts to be responsible with our personal finances and the desire or need to shop often clash, so being frugal and educated when hitting the mall or grocery store is essential. That rings especially true these days, when everyone is about to or has just kicked off the holiday shopping season.
Thankfully, a number of shopping apps for iPhone and Android phones seamlessly enhance your shopping experiences with price comparisons, targeted coupons, information, reviews, rewards, and more.
We went searching for the best shopping apps on the market, and keeping in line with Mint.com‘s frugal values, they are all free.
Potentially the hottest shopping app this holiday season, Shopkick is a rewards app that gives you ‘kickbucks’ for walking into its partner stores, scanning barcodes on specified items, and completing certain actions, which can be combined and unlock bonus rewards points (almost like putting together a puzzle). These reward points can then be redeemed for free gift cards at those stores, iTunes gift cards, or other incentives.
The app is still in its infant stages and its most notable partners at this point are Best Buy, Target, American Eagle, and Macy’s. Will these promotions pay off for Shopkick’s partners to the point that they will want to continue running the incentives or will people game the system and end up not purchasing things? Time will tell, but if more national partners are brought on board, this app could really take off due to its fun factor and uniqueness.
Available on: Android (free)
Search for a product by image, barcode, voice, or typing what you’re looking for. Once the product is identified, you’ll find a product description, online reviews, price comparisons, local stores that carry the product, and even detailed directions on how to get there. Zero app developers have as much backing to create apps as Google, which is why this app remains free and incredibly functional.
Not as full-featured as Google Shopper, this is nevertheless the go-to app for barcode scanning for iPhone (where Google Shopper is not yet available). You can scan a barcode, get online price comparisons, see user generated reviews, and then directions to the nearest store that carries the item.
Available on: Android Market (free) iPhone (free)
How many times have you been lost in a mall or airport, couldn’t find a directory map, and had absolutely no clue where you were or where you needed to get to? Points Inside aims to come to your rescue. It includes interactive maps for over 700 malls and 85 U.S. and international airports that shows you where you are located and where your destination is. Pretty sweet. Check out this list to see if the mall in your area or airport you’ll be flying into is covered.
This grocery shopping app (created by Coupons.com) takes grocery shopping to the next level. Make grocery lists, scan barcodes of items you frequently buy, sync and share your grocery lists with others (so you don’t double down on the same items as those you live with), and send coupons right to your loyalty card. Having a consistent grocery list for each store you shop at is a fail-safe way to keep your grocery expenses down. Getting targeted coupons on the stuff that you already buy? Even better.
Love loyalty cards but hate having a key-ring that feels like a mini flip book engulfing your pocket? Or maybe you have the bigger versions stuffed into your wallet, which is single-handedly giving your chiropractor job security. You can use this app’s scanner to scan your key ring barcodes (or manually put in the numbers if the scanner doesn’t work). From there, you can simply use your mobile device at checkout as your loyalty card. Also, for those stores that you have a loyalty card with that partner with Cellfire coupons and 33 grocery store chains, the coupons automatically get uploaded to your loyalty card, you can track which coupons you have available.
Which of these apps do you frequently use? And which of your shopping app favorites didn’t make our list?
G.E. Miller is the author of 20somethingfinance.com – recently voted as the best money blog for twenty-somethings by Kiplinger.