Editor’s note, Dec. 18, 2014: Since this post was written, ShopDiscover has become Discover Deals, which continues to offer Discover card customers special access to exclusive shopping deals.
It’s no secret that technology can make your life easier but it’s also tough to keep up with the latest tech trends when innovations seem to happen at light speed. However, with the help of technology, shoppers can save time and money this holiday season.
NerdWallet compiled a list of the best money-saving tech tips for the holidays. From tracking your return receipts on an app to sending personalized holiday cards from your phone, we have something for everyone.
1. Load coupons to Passbook
Passbook is an Apple app included in the company’s newest iOS 6 update. Included on the iPhone and iPod Touch, Passbook allows users to save and store boarding passes, digital tickets, store loyalty cards and coupons all in one place. Brands and retailers have already jumped on board, including big-name merchants.
Coupons.com, a major coupon website, has recently come out with a feature to make Passbook even more helpful for Apple users. Coupons.com has partnered with 34 major merchants, among them Sears, Macy’s, PetSmart, ULTA Beauty, Old Navy and Jo-Ann Fabric to offer Passbook coupons directly on the mobile site of the coupon giant. With a quick few taps of the screen, you’ll load coupons of your choice to Passbook and display the coupon barcode at checkout to the store clerk.
2. Buy holiday cards online
Sending holiday cards just got a lot easier. Forget about buying stamps and running to the post office. The iPhone Cards app allows you to create personalized greeting cards from your phone, using vacation photos or the kids’ school pictures. You’ll get the benefits and ease of digital design but the recipients of your card will receive a nice paper copy to put on the mantle. The cost could vary anywhere from $3 to $5 depending on where you send the card. Also, popular online humor card site someecards.com has a CafePress store where you can order physical versions of the cards.
3. Check out Black Friday leaks online
Every year Black Friday ad leaks hit the Internet weeks before Thanksgiving. Websites that leak the ads break down all the deals, email you with alerts, list out store Black Friday hours and more. Using these Black Friday sites will allow you to get your shopping plans in place well before Thanksgiving.
4. Buy boutique gifts for cheaper online
If you’re looking for a perfect gift this holiday season, a unique handmade item might fit your needs. Online independent retailers and Etsy sellers typically sell more creative gifts at cheaper prices. You can get deals and coupon online too.
Etsy has rolled out new gift cards for the holiday as well. These gift cards will be redeemable at over 100,000 Etsy shops, allowing shoppers another convenient way to shop at the wildly popular indie market. Don’t forget to use an Etsy coupon code too to whittle down that sticker price.
5. Let big data outsmart price volatility
Prices keep going up and down and you’re never quite sure if you’re getting the best deal possible. This is intentional on the part of retailers – they want to bombard you with ads about sales and discounts. The good news is that one website, Decide.com, is taking the enterprise-level data and turning it back against big box merchants.
Decide.com analyzes different price points across millions of data points on the web and gives each item a simple number recommendation that assesses how good the deal is. Even better might be Decide.com’s price guarantee – the site will pay you the difference if you buy an item and the price drops a few days later.
6. Use a rewards mall when you shop online
If you’re not sure what a rewards mall is you’ve been losing money when shopping online. Rewards malls are simple but underused online shopping portals that give you a reward for using the mall. This reward comes in the form of cash back, loyalty program points or miles depending on which rewards mall you choose to shop at – compare rewards across your programs to see where you can get the best deal.
All you have to do is start your online shopping trip at a rewards mall and click through to your desired retailer’s homepage – a cookie will be placed on your browser and the rewards mall will credit your account with the appropriate reward. Even better, most rewards malls offer special discounts and savings for the holiday season. Upgrading your online shopping habits will only take you seconds longer and will net you up to 40% cash back. Popular rewards malls include FatWallet, Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, ShopDiscover and eBates.
7. Put the shopping checklist, gift ideas and photos in one place
Evernote is a great app for keeping your hectic holiday life under control. You can use Evernote to scan in a paper lists or snap a photo, perfect when you’re going back and forth from retail stores. When you’re comparison shopping as well use Evernote to clip products and prices from the web. Forward gift lists from your email account to your Evernote account to keep everything under one umbrella.
8. Use card-linked offers
The card-linked offer is a fast-growing industry that’s just starting to make its mark in time for the holidays. Card-linked offer companies allow you to link coupons straight to your debit or credit card. You’ll get a discount or rebate on whatever qualifying purchase you make.
The highlights of card-linked offers? No cutting or printing coupons, no slowdown at the register, no confusion about stacking coupons. You’ll shop just as you always do and you’ll get your rewards back on your card account statement. iPhone apps for banks like American Express and Capital One have these offers built in, making it convenient for you to check your offers on the go and activate the ones you want to use.
9. Use QR codes to get the best prices
QR (Quick Response) codes are small black and white grids that are basically high tech barcodes. You can download a smartphone app and scan the code to receive more information about a product in-store.
While advertisers have been slow to get creative with QR codes, there’s a few ways these codes can save you money this holiday season. Amazon’s price comparison app will allow you to scan a bar code in-store and see if you can get it for a lower price online. Target, in response, has placed a QR code on all 20 of their top toys for the holidays. You can scan the toy code and ship the toy to anywhere in the U.S. for free. This is especially helpful if the toy is sold out, too, as you’ll be able to buy the item online but avoid shipping costs.
10. Organize returns on your smartphone
Returns might be the one of the most frustrating parts of the holidays, between the hassle of getting back to the store and the awkwardness of letting relatives know that their perfect gift was just one size too large. You probably can’t keep it all straight in your head – so that’s why there’s an app for that. ReturnGuru tracks your return receipts and alerts you before they expire. Simply get the app and take pictures of your receipts and make the technology work for you.
Laptop and gifts image courtesy of Shutterstock