It’s almost Black Friday, and that means Christmas shopping season has begun. For the disorganized shopper, that might mean hassles, anxiety and last-second shopping. With an iPhone, though, you have a powerful tool for keeping your holiday shopping experience smooth, efficient and wallet-friendly.
Keep Track of the Basics
Organization is the key to a successful holiday shopping trip. Don’t lose your head diving into a dozen different productivity apps. Instead, take our tips for keeping your mobile shopping simple:
Use Reminders to keep a list of the gifts you want to buy. To make it even more straightforward, tap “Remind Me” and select the store or shopping center you want to buy the item from your contacts. This will pop up a reminder as soon as your phone detects that you’re at that location.
To quickly add a shop to your contacts, go into Maps and drop a pin at its location. Then you can tap that pin and select “Add to Contacts.” If you have a 4S, you can then ask Siri to remind you to buy your mother earrings at the mall, and your phone will handle the rest.
Use Camera to keep a visual record of the items you spot on the go. If you’re still shopping around, a quick snap of the item and its price tag will help you with comparison shopping while keeping the item fresh in your memory.
If you need to keep track of your gift ideas, Notes will do in a pinch. But if you’re going back and forth between desktop and mobile, you might want to consider a free app like Simplenote or Evernote that will sync with web services or desktop apps. Evernote is the more powerful of the two — you can include photos and voice notes to keep a thorough list of inspirations and ideas.
There are also plenty of services that will help you keep track of your holiday budget. I use Mint, a free service that automatically keeps track of your spending once you register with your account details.
Find The Deals
Like it or not, you should consider installing a barcode scanner on your phone before you head out shopping. QR codes are becoming incredibly popular with malls and retailers. Most are still using them as gimmicks, but you’ll find the occasional excellent offer tucked away behind a fancy barcode. There isn’t a stock reader from Apple yet, but we’ve used the free app RedLaser with good results.
Before you even leave the house, though, you can find the best deals to hunt down. There are a slew of Black Friday deal apps out there, and you might want to load up on a few of them for the best coverage. Fat Wallet’s Black Friday keeps track of every deal the site indexes, though the results can be messy. TGI Black Friday comes highly recommended by its users. RedFlagDeals is a similar app for Canadian deals, which will be especially handy come Boxing Day.
Make the Right Choice
If you’re not getting an amazing doorbuster deal, you should consider doing a bit of comparison shopping. Amazon Mobile and Google Shopper are both great options if you’re in the U.S. Both have barcode scanners and will offer you comparisons to their respective marketplaces. Amazon Mobile also ties in to the company’s Universal Wish List service, which is another handy way to keep track of gifts you want to purchase.
Don’t Get Lost
This one’s a bit trickier. There are plenty of apps out there for finding your way around malls, but you might need to experiment to find out which is best for your area. Two free apps cover most major malls in North America: FastMall and Point Inside. Both give you the best indoor geo-location they can, with full maps of shops and facilities. You’ll never be stuck without a washroom again. FastMall also lets you pin your car’s location, a godsend on a busy shopping day — though if you’re stuck deep underground, snap a photo of a nearby parking landmark instead, because GPS probably won’t save you.
But if you know which malls you’re planning to visit, take a few minutes to visit their websites and learn if they have their own apps. Big companies like General Growth Properties and Westfield have custom apps that offer the same features of the more general apps, but they also tend to have more deals, integration with loyalty programs, access to contests and giveaways and so on.
With these tools in hand, you should be more than ready to use your iPhone or iPod Touch to handle your holiday shopping. But these are just the tip of the iceberg, so if you have ideas of your own please share them in the comments.