Have Coupon, Will Travel: Apps to Save on the Go

by Jennifer Holder on 27 April 2012 3 comments
Photo: Garry Knight

I never pay full price for my clothes, but I hate clipping coupons (yes, like Ellen, I’m a big fan of JCP’s rebranding). And while I like the idea of Groupon and LivingSocial type websites, my terrible memory never reminds me to print them or use them when the time comes. So instead of having crumbled pieces of paper at the bottom of my purse, I’ve recently rejoined the world of smartphones (aka “society at large”) and am putting my unnecessarily expensive data plan to good use.

We’ve already brought you the best places to get coupons online (for those who like to clip) and the best apps to use to get discounts at restaurants (for those who like to dine out). Now I'm bringing you the best apps to use to save instantly while shopping — from movie tickets to new clothes to makeup. Some you might be familiar with, but hopefully some of these suggestions are unfamiliar territory to your saving sensibilities. (See also: The 50 Best Deals and Coupon Sites)

1. Coupon Sherpa

It may not carry your belongings up the Himalayas, but Coupon Sherpa will make that price tag go down. On the app, there is one side for retail stores and a whole other (new!) world for grocery stores. On the retail side, there are coupons for everything from auto stores and hardware stores to clothing shops and hair salons. As for the grocery side, let’s just say if your grandmother had a smart phone, she’d have no use for the Sunday paper.

Similarly, check out the Coupon App, which also stores tons of coupons for your disposal. If you have both of these apps going at the same time, you’ll never pay full price again.

2. Foursquare

Sharing where I am has never been enticing to me until now. When my friend and I recently went to New Orleans for the weekend, we ran up and down Magazine Street discovering Foursquare deals on everything from coffee to pizza to souvenirs. Simply open the app, click Explore, then Specials, and get to shopping. It’s definitely worth a check to see if you can unlock more than just a “Crunk badge” after pulling an all-nighter. The cool thing about Foursquare is that the deals are on local stores, rather than just big corporations. In fact, I recently discovered a 10% off coupon at my favorite local outdoor store, and I can't wait to go use it!

3. Facebook

Face it — Facebook is already installed on most of your phones, so now use it for something more than liking your friend’s baby pictures and links to cat videos. Go to Facebook’s very own check-in and deals website on your phone to see what’s available in your area — there are lots of check-ins that will save you money. Also, keep your eyes peeled for signs in stores saying “Follow us on Facebook and we’ll take such and such percent off your purchase!” You can also follow your favorite stores on Facebook and take part in weekend sales and special discounts through events and more.

4. Yelp

Yelp is less invasive than Foursquare but just as easy to use. Download it on your phone, and when you are out shopping, open it up and hit Deals. The app will show you all the discounts close to you. You can also click on Nearby and then Deals or Check-In Offers. You don’t have to check in at every place, but it doesn’t hurt to look and see if you can save a little bit of dough (speaking of dough — this works for restaurants as well!).

5. Key Ring Reward Cards

Instead of having scores and scores of cards on your key ring, scan them into your phone with the Key Ring app. That way, next time you check out, you won’t have to rifle through your keys for the right card, just through your phone. The app also lets you sign up for cards in the store and instantly and offers occasional coupons as well.

Please note — memorizing your phone number works too.

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6. Movie Theater Apps

Nowadays, I mostly resort to waiting for a movie to come out on DVD before I bother to watch it. But if you’re a continual patron at Regal Cinemas, there’s an app for that. And included in the app are specials (only one I found was free refills, unfortunately), promotions, and sweepstakes. Fandango’s app is only really good for showtimes and trailers, but you can save your loyalty cards and credit cards in the app for faster check out. I didn’t find one for Carmike Cinemas, but I’d say it’s only a matter of time before they jump on the app bandwagon.

7. Entertainment Coupons

The Entertainment Coupons app is free, but the savings aren’t…necessarily. Memberships run around $30 per year (depending on your area). This is the app for those thick coupon books you may have seen floating around in certain cities. In fact, these books are global — my flatmate in New Zealand had one, and I can attest to the fact that they are an excellent deal if you like to go out and about. But if you’re more of a grocery store shopping/rent a movie type of person, this app wouldn’t be for you.

8. Individual Store Apps

True, having a billion apps on your phone can be somewhat annoying (and after playing with all of these my phone isn’t quite functioning as an actual…phone), but if you happen to frequent a particular store often (like the CVS Pharmacy on your corner or the Publix down the road), then having a store-specific app on your phone will save you money. Target ’s app offers daily deals and the weekly ads, and while somewhat ironically, so does JCP’s. Simply Google your favorite store and “app” afterward, and there’s bound to be something out there!

9. Price-Comparison Apps

There are a lot of apps that offer the chance to compare prices online while in the store. It’s actually how I saved a lot of money on my camera. I went to Best Buy, played with a few cameras, and picked out which one I wanted. Then I hopped on Amazon Mobile, found it $50 cheaper, and purchased it on the spot. And if you’re a lucky Android user (or, okay, fine it works for the iPhone now as well), you can use Google Offers on the Google Shopper app to take advantage of some great deals from 30 different sites, all on your phone.

10. Shopkick

Treat yo self 2011 (er, 2012)! The makers of Shopkick have partnered with thousands of retailers across the U.S. to offer points (or “kicks”) for just walking into a store. Then, while you’re searching for the perfect purchase, the app shows you in-store deals, and you can get more kicks for scanning certain items. Once you link your Visa credit or debit card to the app, you get more points for purchases. After you collect a certain amount of points, you can redeem them for movie tickets, Starbucks coffee, donations to charity, and more! Hey, maybe even some fine leather goods…

What are some apps that you use to save money while shopping?

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Carl Lassegue

I've had Facebook on my phone for about two years now and I did not know about the Check-In deals. I can't wait to get the free appetizer from Chilli's next time I check in there!

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Samantha H

I would say I reap the benefits using apps like any coupon driven app. I travel frequently on business related to my job at Dish, which means I need apps that will keep me ready for anything like Yelp. I would like to add two of my favorite apps to the mix, trip advisor and dish remote access. Both are fantastic; trip advisor works like a personal travel assistant, and dish remote access allows me to access movies from my home DVR on my tablet. I can relax if I should run into a stressful situation.

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These are wonderful apps and one of the reasons I want to change my Blackberry into an Android or Iphone.