Whether you’re shopping for a family or fitting up a bachelorette pad, you don’t want the process to take over your life. Especially for big items or things we have to buy frequently, like groceries, we’re often forced to choose between saving money or saving time and effort. If you do research and plan ahead, it’s possible to cut down heavily on costs. If you have the time to be a really savvy shopper, here are some tips. But unless you have a lot of time, smart shopping is a challenge.
Fortunately, this can start to change now that we can carry around some serious power in our pocket in the form of a smartphone. There are plenty of apps that will let you do price comparisons and find discounts while you’re already standing in the store with the new purchases in hand. Below is a list of ten of the most popular. Each serves a different purpose and will help you out with slightly different tools, so check them all out to see which one is the best fit for you as a shopper:
- Red Laser- Uses the camera to scan barcodes and compare prices from online merchants, including Amazon and Google Products. You can then either buy from these merchants directly from your smartphone, check reviews, or email your list to any address for later reference.
- Google Shopper- Another price comparison app, this one even lets you check inventory at local stores. Besides barcodes, you can also use text, cover art and voice search to find your items.
- Amazon Mobile- Provides all the tools of the Amazon.com website, including prices and reviews on-the-go. The Amazon Remembers feature provides details about any item you take a picture of and add to your wish-list.
- Coupon Sherpa- Uses your phone’s GPS or lets you manually input what store you’re in and then searches for available coupons. No need to plan ahead by printing and carrying around coupons because these can be scanned directly from your phone.
- ShopSavvy- Serves many of the same functions as Red Laser with a few extra features, including price alerts and search history. However this app is not always aware of small, local stores where you may be able to get the best price.
- eBay- All the great deals of the eBay site, but with a smoother interface. Although some of the site’s functions are missing, the ones you need for buying are all there and rumor is that the app will soon be adding a barcode scanner to the app.
- FastMall- Although this app isn’t built to save you money, it can definitely save time. It provides store listings and maps of malls in thirty one countries, including route mapping, store reviews, available discounts, restroom finder and a great feature called “Where Did I Park?”
- Groupon- Like the Groupon site, this coordinates group buying deals in your area. Although it’s unlikely to save you money or effort on time sensitive purchases, you can get some great deals on recreational activities and other fun purchases without having to print coupons.
- Key Ring Rewards- Lets you carry all your membership, discount and loyalty cards in one app on your phone rather than in your wallet or on your key ring. To those of us who constantly leave those cards at home just when we could have used them, the advantage is clear.
- Snaptell- Rather than just providing a price comparison, this app lets you take a picture of a product and then provides you with related information from sites like IMDB, YouTube and Wikipedia, as well as descriptions, reviews and ratings.
Eva Forman is a writer and researcher for Consumer-Rankings.com, a leading product review site which compares a wide variety of gadgets and online services. She often blogs about how to become a smarter consumer.