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Save money this holiday season with tech-smart tips

Apps, websites can help you track lower prices instantly.

First Published Dec 19 2012 11:30 am • Last Updated Apr 08 2013 11:33 pm

With these strategies and secrets from Good Housekeeping financial guru Carmen Wong Ulrich, you’ll be able to spread more joy this holiday season, with less cash.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a techie, you owe it to yourself to check out three tech-savvy helpers. As you’ll see, your computer and smartphone can help save you time, hassle and money during this jolly season:

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Springpad • Keep track of your holiday lists and get the best possible prices with a little help from Springpad (springpad.com; available on iPhone and Android, free). Using the app or the website, you can drag items into however many virtual gift lists you decide to create. Springpad sends you alerts to tell you when and exactly where prices for your selected items have been lowered, or if coupons or other special offers have become available.

Ulrich decided to check it out by tracking a toy for her daughter, the Crayola Color Wonder Sound Studio. It was first listed at $35, but she received an alert a day later that she could nab it for $17.38 through the end of the month.

Amazon Wish List • This tool enables you to make gift lists and monitor price reductions on amazon.com’s mega-marketplace. Your friends and family can share links to the lists of presents they hope to receive. You can click on whatever gifts you’re thinking about getting them, easily creating your own list. Amazon will rack the items on your master list and tell you when their prices drop.

Ulrich followed a new Keurig Special Edition B60 Brewing System. At first the lowest price was $135, which was already almost 50 percent off the suggested retail price. Then, two days later, the price dropped another $5 — not a huge amount, but saving that much on every single gift on your list could add up to one very merry holiday.

RedLaser and ShopSavvy • These helpful apps, (redlaser.com and shopsavvy.com; available on iPhone and Android, free) allow smartphone users to scan bar codes while trolling the aisles at a store; then they magically track down lower prices — whether online, at other retailers, or even at the very same store, thanks to special discount codes and the like. It’s a brilliant way to avoid endless shopping around (plus the cost of gas) or the hours of Web surfing when you’re looking for that special gift.

On another matter • Avoid this sneaky retail trick. Retail stores have a clever way to get you to spend more through the "decoy effect." Behavioral research conducted by Dan Ariely at Duke University has shown that when customers are given a choice between two products, one of which is priced lower and is of lower quality, they’ll often choose the cheaper one. But when a third (decoy) item is introduced at an even higher price, shoppers are more likely to opt for the mid-priced one — that is, adding another product nudges shoppers up the price scale instead of making them stick with the bargain buy. So think carefully when you see a display of products at varied prices, and hold steady at the price you can afford.




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