Shopping Apps–Friend or Foe? How do you know?


More than ever before, shopping related apps have been appearing like mushrooms after a rain, with promises of making our shopping experiences faster, easier, cheaper, and more satisfying.

Beware. You can find yourself spending more time, energy, and money than you ever intended. Alternatively, you can save, time, energy, and money.

In order to separate the wheat from the chaff, we’ve divided some of the most popular apps into three color-coded categories: green, for those which appear to be useful, direct, accessible tools for locating products and sales, comparing prices, conserving resources, saving money, and streamlining the entire shopping process, red, for those we found too recreational, time consuming, or too likely to reinforce compulsive buying, and orange, for those which may be ideal for certain users, but could potentially present unwanted distractions, obstacles, or reinforce overshopping tendencies in others.




  • Hukkster tracks items that users want to buy, but only at a discount. Hukkster alerts the user when the item is on sale. This allows for an easy way to save money on items which users may covet.
  • There is no push to buy impulsively, because there is a “Save” option so that users can revisit the item later if they are still interested. 
  • User can choose to be alerted when the price of an item drops at all, or can choose only to be alerted when the price of an item drops at least 25% or at least 50%, thus limiting the likelihood of overspending. 
  • It also keeps what you want to buy private.


  • At this time, Hukkster is only available as a web-based application, which is added as an icon on the computer’s brower. Also not available for Android at this time.
  • for use with online shopping, not for in-store transactions.
NYC Sample Sales
  • Available for iOS.
  • Alerts users to sample sales within the five boroughs which are displayed on a convenient map. Users can also filter by neighborhood, brand or date.
  • Location Awareness function can be activated to notify users when they are within one mile of a sale.
  • The app also allows users to share awareness of a sale via a direct link to multiple social networking tools.
  • Location Awareness feature may promote users to interrupt what they’re doing or what they’re planning to do to participate in a sale instead, and make shopping more important than these other activities. This could result in unexpected and excessive purchases.However, this function is optional, and does need to be activated.
  • Only available for NYC at this time.
  • Available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
  • Scans barcodes of items in stores to automatically bring up reviews and price comparisons for the item both online and at nearby stores, so that user can find the best deal for the item.
  • Products purchased frequently can be bookmarked as “favorite scans” so that product information can be accessed more easily, and the best prices can be regularly located for these items.
  • Though it is convenient and saves a lot of money, it may not help support local businesses, which need to charge more for the quality of customer service or simply to stay in business as small-scale enterprises.
Shopping by the Find
  • for iOS and Android.
  • Uses bar code scanning technology to search for best prices on an item. You can also manually enter the UPC code for a breakdown of local and online prices. 
  • After registering with the Find, a user can set up and activate a price watch function, which notifies user when item’s cost dips below user’s pre-set level.
  • None that we can see as of now.
  • Available for iOS. Allows users to buy, sell, or donate goods anywhere in the five boroughs ranging from clothing and furniture to housewares. 
  • It is designed to encourage recycling. The only one we’ve found!
  • Enables users to select whether they want to buy, sell, or donate, and then to find the closet locations to do that. Includes information about each location as well as store hours.
  • Doesn’t have as much detail about prices, and price alerts at each venue as some of the others.
  • Allows users to view the Pike Place Market in Seattle
  • Includes “What’s New” features for the market and uses a digital map


  • Only for use with I Phone
  • Only for use with Pike Place Market in Seattle. Will likely include other cities eventually.
Shopkick, Gamify, and Viggle (Shopping Rewards Incentive Apps)
  • Shopkick is a Shopping Rewards Incentive app that allows user to accumulate “kicks” by entering participating stores and snapping images of the barcodes of items using the phone’s camera, turning shopping into even more of a recreational activity akin to a scavenger hunt.
  • While Shopkick may save some people money, it provides a huge incentive for the activity of “window shopping”.  The more the user goes out to “browse” or to shop in stores, the more points the user will accumulate.
  • Gamify, still in Beta mode, is literally a game. It is a virtual shopping incentive program which allows the user to create a shopping avatar, and while this may feel like fun, it is ultimately a waste of time. It trivializes the significance of shopping and saving. Stay away from this!
  • Viggle is an app which allows the user to watch TV shows with the app activated, and once the app has identified the show, the user can potentially acquire points to trade in for “real life rewards.” This encourages watching TV in excess and is a waste of time.
Scratch Hard
  • User can search for items by category, or by stores located in the area of their choice. Once the search is performed, A “Scratch off” offer will appear which the user manually dissolves with a sweeping motion across the surface of the phone to reveal a “surprise” sale or discount relevant to the results of the user’s search, which can be shown at the register during time of purchase.
  • This process seems both user-friendly and thorough.
  • Described as a Smartphone App, but does not seem to be available for Android. So new, that there are not enough customer ratings for a customer rating average.
  • While the convenience of this app is apparent, the resemblance to a Scratch & Win lottery ticket seems questionable at best and habit-forming at worst.
  • The incentive system fueled by dependence on social networking, seems to be a potentially habit-forming distraction, designed primarily to promote the app itself, instead of benefitting the user. The video promoting the App states that the more the app is used and experiences with it shared, “the more savings, ‘Scratch Hard’ exclusives, and bonuses” the user will receive.
  • Some smaller businesses may be overlooked, encouraging shoppers to focus on larger companies.
  • Available for iOS and Android.
  • Makes the window-shopping experience a virtual one. users subscribe with email or Facebook to follow posts and pics by fashion writers and to visit store profiles to see new arrivals and featured merchandise.
  • Features a section which offers exclusive coupons to redeem at local designer boutiques or in stores.
  • Girly, pink and white design of app caters toward teenage girls who already spend huge amounts of time on their phones.
  • Makes the “window shopping experience” a solo at-home activity instead of an opportunity for shopping with friends which is less likely result in overspending.
  • This app supports a sedentary lifestyle and encourages teens and women to passively follow the virtual fashion world, instead of actively experimenting with their own personal style to build on their identity and self-understanding.
Coupon Sherpa
  • Available for iOS and Android.
  • Aggregates discounts and coupons from around the web with New Coupons daily. A barcode can be scanned by the cashier from the phone screen, or a discount code can be redeemed at time of online purchase.
  • Coupons can be viewed in category-format, or by creating a “favorites” list of frequently visited retailers.
  • The App includes about 80 mostly mass-marketed retailers, leaving the user without awareness of discounts provided by many smaller, less well-known or popular retailers.
  • New discounts daily may encourage the user to buy more than intended or needed.
  • Available for iOS and Android.
  • snap image of  the receipt of a purchased item, or manually enter the information for the item to save in Eyeona, so that if the purchased item goes on sale, the user can return to the store to receive the difference in cost. This could potentially save large amounts of money for users.
  • The user can create a watch list of items to be monitored, so that the user will be alerted when the item goes on sale.
  • The Deal Maker feature allows a user to scan the barcode of an item and enter a desired price. Eyeona will then notify the user when the item’s cost decreased below that number.
  • This app seems reminiscent of a site like, Ebay, which could save money if used in moderation, but could all too easily take up more time than it’s worth.
Gilt City
  • Promotes exposure for local businesses and could save money for users that may need the goods and services being advertised, but don’t have the funds. Caters to a high-end, corporate, or professional/luxury lifestyle.
  • May encourage people to desire items which are excessive, which may have never ocurred to them to purchase in the first place, causing them to spend beyond their means (even with the discounts) in order to attain the image of a idealized lifestyle.
  • Available for iOS and Android. Much like a high fashion-oriented craigslist, members can post pictures, descriptions and prices for the items they are selling, ranging from clothing to furniture and antiques. Drop down menu allows user to browse virtual closets of trend-setting celebrities, or to search items by category. Local items can be delivered for five dollars, and a time can be pre-scheduled for delivery.
  • Benefits only those who can afford to shop for these more trendy or expensive items.
Everything we’ve said up til now notwithstanding, it’s very hard to say definitively if any given app is going to be useful for you, because so much depends on a person’s capacity to stay focused, his or her propensity to overshop, and a given individual’s ability to resist creating an overstimulating experience. It’s also important to stay mindful of your specific goals when selecting an app.  It’s important to choose an app that will enable you to achieve that goal without your being sidetracked by excessive, distracting, and unnecessary features. These considerations are what will determine whether having these tools will make the shopping experience easier or exponentially more difficult.
Let yourself be guided by the following: Might this app lead to mishap? If “yes” is your call, then just don’t install!

By Carrie Rattle

Carrie Rattle is a Principal at, a website for women focused on mind and money behaviors. She has worked in the financial services industry for 20+ years and hopes to inspire women to better prepare themselves for financial independence. Read More