13 Free holiday gift-list shopping apps

Our picks can help you get the most out of Black Friday and beyond

Published: November 05, 2014 08:00 AM

For the 2014 holiday season, 74 percent of U.S. adults say they'll spend the same or more as last year—up from 68% in 2013—according to the Consumer Electronics Association. But even the most eager shopper could easily get lost in the sea of circulars, blinded by advertised discounts, and stressed over budgets. We found some free apps to add to your gift-buying arsenal. 

Gift-list managers

Most apps in the "gift" category are Christmas-themed, but that doesn't mean you can't use them for any holiday you happen to celebrate.

Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List simplifies the process of managing your gift recipients, shopping, and budget lists. Quickly create gift profiles by selecting recipients from your phone's contacts or Facebook profile. You can save each recipient's favorite store and clothing size. And if simply checking an item off your to-do list isn’t specific enough, you can track the status of each gift: what you've bought, wrapped, and given. To ensure your gifts stay a surprise, you can password-protect the app. For iOS.

Christmas Gift List also lets you track gift ideas and budgets while password-protecting your plans. Add gift recipients, and set a budget per person or gift. If you’re giving abroad, this app supports multiple currencies. And it lets you share your lists via e-mail, social media, or thorugh the ever-handy Evernote. At the end of the year, you can archive your gift lists and start fresh. For Android.

For more tips and lots of deals, visit our guide to holiday shopping.

Shopping assistants

These apps offer deals directly, track prices, and keep you well supplied with coupons.
RetailMeNot Coupons lets you set alerts for local and online deals; you can set alerts for your favorite stores, search by category, and save your favorite offers, too. Just show a coupon on your phone when you check out to get the savings. For Android and iOS.
eBay Mobile lets you bring the auction with you. Use it to bid and shop, and a built-in barcode scanner lets you find specific items you've come across in the real world and compare prices. You can also use it to track your packages, and list your own stuff for sale in case you need a little more shopping money. For Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Groupon is the digital-deal site you know and love; this is the app version. For the gift-giving season, you can easily filter through electronics deals and bargains for the home, for him or for her, and by recent promotion, among other categories. For Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
ShopAdvisor tracks product prices and availability so you don't have to: You get an alert when the price drops down to what you’re willing to pay. In the interim, you can compare prices across retailers, and see what the average consumer ratings are. For Android and iOS.
Shopular Coupons let you leave the paper circulars at home and bookmark the deals from your favorite retailers right on your phone. Thanks to geo-locating, this app pushes relevant deals to your smart phone as soon as you walk into a store. And coupons are updated daily. For iOS and Android.
Smoopa Shopping is a price-checker app with a difference: Users submit prices of items they’ve just purchased, keeping things real-time. You can build collections of your favorite items: Just scan a barcode or search for an item, pin it to a collection, and post the price you paid. But if building collections isn’t your thing, you can still benefit: When a store has the best deal on a product, a green button appears. Otherwise, Smoopa shows you a yellow button and tells you where to score a better deal. For Android and iOS.

Parking-spot locators

Ever lose your car in a gigantic mall parking lot or unfamiliar neighborhood? These apps can help.
Find my car! Free and MyCar Locator Free use GPS to record when and where you've parked, and store the info in your smart phone. So when you leave the mall in a fog after that last-minute shopping marathon, these apps give you walking directions to find your vehicle again. For Android and iOS.

Finance helpers

Keep track of your spending and expenses with the help of these apps.
Discount Calculator (by InfoLife, LLC.) and Discount Calculator (by ChuChu Train Productions) can really help during your in-store shopping spree. Instead of guesstimating how much a product will cost you—plus tax, but after taking that extra 10 percent off at check-out—these calculators do the math for you. Create a shopping list and input all of the prices to learn the exact dollar amount you’ll be spending. For Android and iOS, respectively.
Mobile banking apps come in handy when you need to access your account on the go. Available from most major banks, they let you check your balance and also transfer funds, deposit checks, and pay bills with the tap of a finger. Ask your bank whether its app is supported by your mobile platform.

App safety tips

1. To protect your phone against apps that may not be as private or safe as you'd wish, check our story on mobile security apps.

2. How app-savvy are you? Take our quiz, "Would you download this app?" to find out. (Hint: Watch out for app permissions that seem unnecessary to the function of the app.)

3. Regularly check and install updates for your apps and your mobile OS, to ensure you're protected against the most current threats.

4. Download apps only from trusted sources.

5. Avoid using apps on unsecured Wi-Fi networks.

—Kaitlyn Wells

Editor's Note:

This story was updated in November 2014.

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