Picking up a bargain online is a buzz any time of year, but as the holiday season approaches it’s particularly important to get your shopping game on point—whether you want to find the perfect gifts for the family or you’re chasing the biggest Black Friday discounts, these are the mobile apps and browser extensions to have installed as you enter the fray.
Chances are your favorite retailer has an app, so seek it out and get it installed first of all—you’ve got Amazon (Android, iOS), Best Buy (Android, iOS), Target (Android, iOS), and Walmart (Android, iOS) for starters, and there are many more.
Admittedly you maybe don’t want to clutter up your phone with too many of these dedicated apps, but for the stores you use most frequently, they’re worth installing. You (usually) get fast, intuitive access to the virtual shelves, instant alerts about deals and potential savings, live stock updates, and a smooth checkout and shipping process.
The Amazon app, to take one example, lets you scan barcodes on items in the real world to see the product’s price and extra details on the Amazon site, which can be very handy when you’re trying to find the best deals.
CamelCamelCamel (Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
The oddly named CamelCamelCamel does one job and does it well: Tracking prices on Amazon. If an item you’re interested in gets a discount, then this browser extension means you’ll be among the first to know about it.
We’re not privy to the decision-making and algorithms that lie behind the prices on Amazon, but we do know that they fluctuate a lot on certain goods, so having something like CamelCamelCamel on hand can be very useful in catching a deal—especially during holidays and sales.
As well as push alerts if there’s a price drop worth knowing about, the extension lets you track prices over time (up to a year in the past), helping you pick the right moment to pull the trigger on your purchase.
RetailMeNot (Android, iOS)
RetailMeNot works like an aggregator for online and in-store deals, so you can get all of your discount coupons and offer codes in one place for easy access. From fast food to garden chairs, you’ve got a comprehensive selection of stores to pick from.
The likes of Kohl’s, Amazon, JCPenney, Macy’s, Target, Papa John’s, and Domino’s are supported inside the app, and codes can be brought up on screen ready for scanning or printed out before you leave the house.
You can set up the app to alert you as soon as deals go live, in case you want to be first in line, and another neat trick is the way it can use your phone’s location to flag up special offers and sales in your current area on a map.
Wish (Android, iOS)
Wish brings together a ton of products and special deals in one app so you can jump straight to what you’re looking for more easily. That makes it a good antidote if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of your holiday shopping.
The app’s tagline is “shopping made fun”, and while that might be a bit of a stretch for some, it’s certainly got the potential to make the whole experience less frustrating. A host of categories are covered, from health and beauty to tech and clothing, and you can score discounts of between 50-80 percent across the board—though some categories have better deals than others.
There is a catch. Those discounts are often possible because you’re buying from lesser-known or international retailers—double-check the details inside the app, especially regarding shipping times and user reviews. You’ll also need to register an account (Wish is available on the web too) before you do any browsing.
BuyVia (Android, iOS)
Smart price comparisons are key to a smart shopping experience and few do this better than BuyVia: It’s essentially a slick deals aggregator, pulling in data from stores such as Amazon, Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and more.
Instead of crawling around each of those stores (or their respective apps), you can use BuyVia to stay on top of the offers you need to know about. In addition to claiming coupons through the app, it’s possible to compare prices on just about anything.
Set up your own personalized shopping wish lists and the app will ping you if there’s a price drop, or if there’s a special discount deal worth following up in your local area, so you can brave the crowds and head to the store.
Groupon (Android, iOS)
Of course it stretches beyond retail shopping to vacation offers, gym memberships, and so on, but if you’re in the market for something in particular then it’s worth firing up the Groupon app to see if any savings are available.
It certainly makes tracking and redeeming offers very straightforward, right from your phone, and you can configure push alerts if you want to be pinged whenever there’s a deal available in your areas of interest.
Hintd is basically an extended wish list manager—you set up lists of the stuff that you’re interested in buying, and then Hintd lets you compare prices and look up special offers available across the web.
The Chrome extension doesn’t do anything except let you bookmark items you want to save for later, so you do the actual list management and price comparisons through the Hintd website or the accompanying iOS app.
If you’re stuck for inspiration then Hintd also provides lists of desirable goods curated by the experts, as well as lists of what’s trending in particular categories, so you can see if the tastes of everyone else align with your own.
Honey (Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
Well-known for being one of the most comprehensive deal finders out there, Honey sits at the top of your browser and takes the hassle out of looking for coupons—you just click the extension button at checkout and any relevant discounts are applied.
That does mean you’re putting a lot of trust in Honey to find you the best special offers and cashback codes, but at the same time you’re going to save yourself a whole lot of searching and coupon clipping. If Honey can’t find anything applicable then the worst that can happen is you’re going to pay the same price you were anyways.
Piggy (Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
Piggy works along very similar lines to Honey, sitting quietly in your browser until you reach a particular checkout and then searching the internet to find whatever discount codes are relevant to your purchase.
Get both this and Honey installed and you should be sure of getting any available discounts applied before you part with your cash, and again it saves you the trouble of having to hunt around the web for offers yourself, or sift through your inbox for any relevant coupon codes.
A host of stores are supported, including Walmart, Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, and Walgreens, and as an added bonus, Piggy also works on Android and iOS, so you can still take advantage of the savings if you’re shopping on mobile.
InvisibleHand (Chrome, Firefox, Safari)
Know for sure if you’re about to overpay for a particular item with InvisibleHand, which tracks prices across more than 20,000 retailers and will warn you if there’s a cheaper price available on something you’re in the process of buying.
Just like Honey, InvisibleHand can also scour the web for coupon codes and discount offers on the site you’re currently shopping on, so you’ve got to ways of saving money as you do your browsing. The plug-in can’t apply codes automatically in the way that Honey does, but it’s still simple and intuitive to use.
InvisibleHand is also worth installing for tracking flights, hotels, and rental cars too, if you feel like spending all the money you’ve saved while shopping on a vacation.