Consumers are bracing themselves and their wallets for the retail marathon known as Black Friday. According to a survey conducted by coupon site RetailMeNot, 54% of consumers plan to buy clothing and accessories that day, while 38% will snap up tech gifts for family and friends. Not surprisingly, a lot of those people will be shopping at work (86%) and spend at least four hours doing so.
While that translates to having a general plan, budget-minded shoppers should go one step further, loading their smartphones with useful apps, says Gerri Detweiller, an expert with Credit.com. Not only will they help you pounce on door busters when they’re announced, you’ll know how much you can safely spend, what you’ve purchased, and where it’s been shipped.
To help you make the most of the Black Friday craze without going overboard, we’ve compiled a stellar roundup of apps for iPhone and Droid smartphone users. We can’t promise they’ll help you avoid the long lines, but they’re sure to keep your spending in check long after the tryptophan has left your system.
Slice (Free on Droid): If you’re shipping a zillion things across the U.S., then Slice can help you stay organized. Use the app to track all your packages at once just by scanning the shipping barcode or punching in the tracking number. It’s also great for storing receipts to facilitate returns, exchanges and warranty claims, and daily deal obsessives can use it to keep track of vouchers from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.
Best feature: Slice’s Price Drop Alerts. The app automatically sends push notifications when an item you’ve bought has come down in price, so you can return it to the merchant and recoup the difference.
Black Friday by FatWallet (Free on iPhone/iPad): ConsumerSearch editor Molly McLaughlin swears by this app, which “lets you do advanced searches on deals, save favorites, receive alerts and share deals with friends,” she says. Issued by deals site Fatwallet.com, the popular app makes it easy to search gifts by subcategories such as brand, price, rebates, door busters, free shipping and so on.
Best feature: Save products as favorites and dig deeper in search when you register with the service.
Gifts HD ($4.99 on iPhone/iPad): Designed with families in mind, this app makes it easy to set a budget and stick to it. Share or hide lists from other family members, make to-do lists and count down to D-Day. Gifts HD’s budget tools also help you keep track of what you’ve bought, what’s left to purchase (and wrap) and how much it’s all going to cost once it’s been shipped.
Best feature: The “Person to buy for” budget tool shows when Grandma’s gone overboard.
Shopkick (Free on Droid/iPhone): Treating yourself is all the rage this season, so why not get rewarded for it? With Shopkick you can do it for free. Just pick a reward to work toward, like gift certificates from Fandango, then start earning “kicks” for just walking into a participating store, scanning an item or buying it.
Best feature: You don’t have to live near a Macy’s or Best Buy to earn kicks. Shopkick participates with local retailers, too.
The Find (Free on iPhone or Droid): The pitch says it all: The Find lets shoppers “Scan barcodes. Find the best price. Search for deals. Save money,” and “create a shopping list” to save. More specifically, the app digs for local deals, locates relevant coupon codes and sets alerts for items you scan and store on your wish list.
Best feature: The app automatically syncs deals from your phone with TheFind.com, so you can shop in your PJs as you please.
Bonus: Don’t forget to download your financial institution and credit issuer’s freely-offered app to stay on top of all your spending and account balances, says Detweiler. Check the app store or visit their mobile site.