In spite of the global pandemic – or perhaps because of it – we're likely to treat our family and friends to some great gifts over the holidays.
Given the challenging year we’ve just endured, you shouldn't pay more than you need to. There are a handful of apps, websites and browser extensions, each designed to sniff out the best deals over the coming weeks.
That is, while Black Friday may look a little different this month, these services help find deep discounts at retail on Nov. 27 – and online, of course – followed by Cyber Monday on Nov. 30.
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In fact, brick-and-mortar stores and online marketplaces probably won't be too picky about specific dates this year, so you can expect many of these sales will be available leading up to and perhaps after these days – though it's smarter to shop earlier than later for fear of sold-out items.
To help identify the best deals, here are five fantastic freebies to download at the App Store (for iPhone, iPad) or Google Play (for Android devices), or to access in a web browser.
Focusing on your local retailers, Flipp not only aggregates all those paper store circulars we get delivered to our door, but it also highlights the best deals – including Black Friday sales.
Simply browse by store (such as Walmart or Dollar General) or type a word in the search window, to begin flipping through ads. Tap and hold to learn more about a product, or quickly tap to virtually clip it into your shopping list.
In fact, it’s a "smart" shopping list that also lets you type in a word, like "laptop," and it will show you the best related deals nearby. Or take advantage of the new Watch List feature that tracks deals based on what you have your eye on.
Flipp is ideal for consumer electronics, household items, clothing and even your weekly groceries shopping. It also will let you load coupons to your digitized loyalty cards so you can save instantly at checkout.
Dubbed the largest online deal-sharing community with about 12 million users, Slickdeals is a popular app designed to spread the word on the best deals found on products, services, travel and more.
Every online or retail deal discussed on forums is voted on by the community, and the hottest ones move up to the Popular Deals section (such as 40% off a new 75-inch 4K LG TV). The best of the Popular Deals is then screened by the company’s Deal Editors to see if the deal is good enough to graduate to the coveted Frontpage of the app or website. There is also a dedicated Black Friday section.
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If you want to price-watch an item, you can sign up for "deal alerts" and be notified if such a bargain is posted. In fact, a new Slickdeals browser extension – available for Chrome, Edge and Firefox – gives you early access to Slickdeals best-of-web deals.
Slickdeals also offers coupons, promo codes, weekly ads and freebies.
It’s one thing to save money while shopping smartly, but what about apps that can earn you money?
As you might have seen advertised in several TV commercials, Rakuten (formerly eBates) pays members cash back every time you shop online through participating retailers – and there more than 2,500, the company says.
Here's how it works: Sign up for a free account and launch the app or website whenever you want to start shopping. Now you can tap on the logo of a supported store to search for products – such as Best Buy, Kohl’s, Nike, Macy’s, Sephora or QVC – or type in a keyword in the search bar at the top. Once you buy the item at the store you'll start earning cash that can be sent to you via check or deposited into a PayPal account (as often as every three months). Currently, new members get a $10 welcome bonus.
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There is also a free browser extension, should you prefer Rakuten to automatically find and apply coupons (and compares prices), so you get the best deal.
The percentage you get back varies from retailer to retailer, but Rakuten says you can get up to 40% cash back.
With about 17 million members, Honey is another "sweet" way to save money on purchases.
This popular browser extension tool searches the Internet to bring you the best prices, including coupon codes across more than 30,000 websites, Honey says. Users save an average of $177 a year, with an average discount of 17.9% (based on the company’s internal spring 2020 data).
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To get going, click to add Honey to your favorite web browser – be it Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox or Opera – and shop online like you normally would. Honey will sense where and what you’re shopping for and let you know if it finds the best price elsewhere. Or, if there are promo codes available, it will apply them to your cart, as well.
There is also the Honey Gold rewards program, where you can earn gift cards, and a $1 million giveaway tied to Honey’s Droplist feature (more info at joinhoney.com/holidays).
While many like shopping at a store (or store's website or app), don't forget about online marketplace apps, because you may find a great deal over Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Contrary to popular belief, not all goods on eBay are "previously enjoyed" – most are brand-new, in fact, the company says – and if you don't want to bid for something in an auction, most items can be purchased outright.
You can find some great deals at ebay.com/deals, including many exclusive, hard-to-find and out-of-country items, that could be shipped to your door – or a loved one’s residence or place of business.
The app is also easy to use and lets you chat with the seller right from within the app. Just make sure you factor in shipping time if you'd like it under the tree this holiday season (no one wants a holiday gift in January).
Local classifieds apps – like Craigslist, letgo, Netxdoor and Facebook Marketplace – are also a good way to get a local deal (and not wait or pay for shipping). Be sure to meet the seller in a public place (and maybe bring a friend along) and inspect the items before you hand over the cash to ensure it’s as advertised.
Compare prices on tens of thousands of items – including electronics, clothes, collectibles and video games – with the eBay app. The massive online marketplace lets you message with sellers through the app, too.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Black Friday deals: Find sales, clip coupons with these apps