Shopping Apps and Tips to Save You Money on Christmas Shopping

Here comes the holiday cheer, and you're wondering how to keep everything merry and bright without going broke. Money management and staying within your budget can be tough during this indulgent time. In 2012, holiday spending grew 3.5% over the previous year, jumping to a whopping $579.5 billion. This year, the National Retail Federation expects that number to grow to $602.1 billion, a 3.9% increase over 2012. From extravagant meals and parties to holiday gift giving, this is a time that celebrates the power shopper within.

One of the greatest stressors of the holidays involves comparison-shopping for gifts. We want to stretch our dollars by getting the best deal. That leads us to endlessly surf for the lowest price on an item, and then when we do snag it we continue to check to see if the price drops as we get closer to the big day. How can we get out of this perpetual cycle of comparison-shopping and actually enjoy the holidays? We have technology on our side.

Here's a list of handy apps, most of them free, that will help you manage your budget, as well as your time and to-do lists this holiday season, so that you get your fill of holiday happiness and start the new year without a mountain of debt on your credit cards: 

Shopping apps
Shopular
This app pushes deals right to your mobile device the moment you set foot into a retailer or shopping center that has a deal listed with Shopular. Best of all, every deal listed on Shopular is vetted by the Shopular team so that you know it's valid and ready for use. Participating retailers include Best Buy, Target, Kohl's, and Macy's. 
iOS and Android. Free

BuyVia's Black Friday Ads and Cyber Monday Deals
Completely customizable for the products you want and the stores where you shop, these two apps will serve up the very best deals online and in-store on the two biggest shopping days of the year.
iOS and Android. Free.

The Christmas List
This list helps you keep track of what you've purchased for everyone on your gift list. It integrates with your existing contacts and you can create groups such as "family," "friends," or "coworkers." You can add gifts and associated stores for each person, set a status such as "shipped" or "to buy," track spending per gift and per person, and how important that gift is to each person. This year you can also share the list to your Facebook wall and you can sort by store so that you make sure to check off each item on your list when you're in the midst of shopping.
iOS. $1.99.

Holiday Gift Guide by Real Simple Magazine
Powered by NearbyNow, Real Simple has an app that helps you tap two powerful and expertly curated lists from the publication that places simplicity front and center in every area of life. Use this app to search the annual "50 Fabulous Gifts Under $50" and "31 Great Gifts Under $31" by category, recipient, or price. From the app, you can purchase these items online or tap into your device's GPS to find and reserve the gift at the store closest to you.
iOS. Free. 

Travel apps
Gas Buddy
If you're hightailing it to see friends and family this holiday season, find the best deal on gas using Gas Buddy. This simple, straightforward app uses your GPS to help you find the best deals on gas wherever you are in a list or map view.
iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Free.

FlySmart
This app gives you everything you need while in the airport waiting for your flight. Get a list of all flights, shopping, food, and services by terminal and gate.
iOS, Android, and Blackberry. Free.

Holiday party planning app
PitchIn
Throwing a holiday party with friends is a great idea to share the work and the expense of your festivities. Keep everyone organized with the PitchIn app. Add co-hosts from your contact list and then set up to-do lists, task tracking, and costs.
iOS. Free.

Simple Soiree
This is your one-stop shop for invites, RSVPs, to-do lists, shopping lists, menus, and even decor.
iOS. $1.99.

Meal planning
Pepperplate
A little help in the kitchen, please! This app is here to make your meal planning and preparation easier. Manage recipes, create menus and shopping lists, use multiple cooking timers while in the kitchen, and set up and share meal schedules via email, Facebook, and Twitter. You'll start using this app for the holidays and then use it year-round.
iOS, Android, Windows, Nook, and Amazon. Free.

Hello Vino
What wine pairs with your perfect holiday menu? Let Hello Vino do the work of a sommelier while you're in the wine store. Tell it what food you need to pair with the wine, the occasion at-hand, taste preference, type or variety, popular wines, or even seasonal picks. With a couple taps, you get a list of the perfect bottles based on these preferences. You can then see ratings of the different wines on the list, share these through social networks, add to a shopping list, and keep a personal history of the wines you buy.
iOS and Android. Free.

Holiday cards
Postgram
With the incredible camera capabilities in our mobile devices, turn pictures into real postcards you can mail with a few taps. The app also links with Instagram and Facebook. Take or select a picture, add a message, add a recipient, pay the postage, and off it goes.
iOS and Android. Free.

Fashion
Snapette
Holiday parties give us the chance to break out the glitter in our fashion. Snapette helps you discover and then share great fashion and fashion deals based on nearby store locations or buy them online directly through the app.
iOS and Android. Free.

TikTakTo
This app is all about fashion savings. You can view current trends and then shop for the deals that match those trends. You'll also see the best deals of the day and best sellers. This app is for personal and home fashion, and every item is categorized and searchable by brand name, pricing, discount, and location.
iOS and Android. Free. 

Tools beyond technology
This list of apps will help keep your stress in check and your budget under control as you plan, organize, and make your purchases for the holidays. Technology isn't the only remedy to keep your spending reined in and your stress level low. Here are some additional ideas:

1) Competitor price matching
Many retailers have expanded their competitor price matching programs to save you the hassle of making returns and multiple stops in your pursuit of the best prices. Just ask about the policies in-store at the customer service desk, call your local store, or visit the store's website online before you leave home to make sure you know their policies before you shop.

2) Give experiences
If all the holiday shopping already has you in knots, try this trick that I use on a regular basis: give experiences. Concert tickets, classes in everything from dancing to cooking to painting, gift certificates to a favorite restaurant, personal services like manicures and haircuts, movie tickets, and charitable contributions to an important cause all make incredible gifts for people on your list.

Most of all, enjoy the process. It's easy to get swept up in the stress and hectic nature of the holidays. Don't buy into it. Combat it by taking a moment every day to remember the reason for the season: giving thanks. Let that be your motivation for every action, including shopping. Happy holidays!

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