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North Hills Monthly

Holiday Shopping: Some hAPPy Solutions to Gift Buying Woes

Oct 31, 2017 05:16PM ● By Jennifer Monahan

It is the best of times. It is the worst of times. With apologies to Charles Dickens, if the prospect of holiday shopping gets you down, it may be time to make use of smartphone apps that mitigate the purchasing process and let you focus on baking cookies and singing carols instead. An array of apps can help shoppers find nifty items, search for the best deals and even avoid the crowds altogether.

Shop Savvy lets customers scan barcodes to find the best price available on that product. The app pulls data from a host of major stores such as Amazon, Target, Walmart and Best Buy to search for sales and better deals. One cool feature is the ability to create shopping lists; the app will track prices on each item and let users know when the price drops. For anyone organized enough to have a holiday shopping list prepared ahead of time, Shop Savvy can result in significant savings for holiday purchases. Last-minute shoppers will still save money by getting the best deal possible on a given day.

Rebate apps like E-bates, Ibotta, Shopkick and Berry Cart allow consumers to receive cash back from their purchases. Among the contenders, Checkout 51 emerges as a fan favorite. Most useful for rebates on groceries and household items, Checkout 51 helps users take advantage of deals and then receive an actual check in the mail. Instead of filling out paper forms and mailing off copies of receipts, shoppers make their purchases in local stores, snap a photo of each receipt and earn money. Users may cash out once they reach $20 in rebates. Stocking up on all the fixings for a Thanksgiving feast might actually result in some extra cash to cover pending holiday gift purchases.

Shoppers who want to avoid bringing more stuff into the house should consider Groupon for gift ideas. The app features significantly discounted admission for waterparks, laser tag, Gateway Clipper cruises and rounds of golf, plus spa packages and Segway tours through downtown Pittsburgh. Instead of another lacrosse stick or techie gadget to take up closet space or gather dust on a shelf, Groupon’s selection of fun family experiences—or romantic dating adventures—might be the perfect way to give and enjoy the gift of time with the people you love most. Added bonus: redeeming the Groupon in January or February can help extend the joy of Christmas or Hanukkah celebrations beyond the holiday itself. 

Sophisticated shoppers looking for unique gift items from around the world should consider the Tictail app. Similar to Etsy’s model of connecting makers to shoppers, Tictail gives users access to small businesses in the global marketplace. An array of clothing, art, shoes, jewelry and décor provides shoppers with an abundance of choices not likely to be found in the local mall. Tictail has everything from a Beatles wall clock fashioned from a vinyl record album ($39.99) to an Italian leather bucket backpack ($346) to a Lassikopp vase from Norway ($37).

Though not technically a smart-phone app, e-gift cards constitute some of the best technology around for last-minute shoppers. Anyone who realizes on December 23 that she forgot someone on her gift list will appreciate the ability to get online, purchase an e-gift card, and have it arrive in the recipient’s email inbox within 24 hours—and often faster. Recipients can redeem the credit either by printing the barcode or having the store scan it right from a smartphone. Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Macy’s, Best Buy and a host of other retailers offer e-gift cards via their websites. In addition to avoiding postage and saving time, shoppers can feel good about helping the environment—no plastic required! 

Wanderlist’s capability of making a list for just about anything comes in handy over the holidays. Keeping track of ideas for holiday gift shopping as they pop into your head throughout the year mitigates the mid-December panic over what to buy for each person on your list. Having a list of family member’s clothing and shoe sizes can also be convenient when standing helplessly in front of a massive display of men’s shirts on sale at Costco on a crowded Saturday afternoon in December.

Whether you are a spendthrift who relishes braving the masses to find a great deal or a crowd-averse introvert who would rather complete all gift purchases via smartphone apps from the privacy and comfort of a cozy couch at home…say it with me…there’s an app for that.