Tech tools to help your holiday shopping

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The hectic holiday season seems like a perfect time to use technology to make your life simpler. Here are some tech tips to get you through:

1. Put all your returns on your smartphone. Ever been to a retail store on Dec. 26? Returns can be a small nightmare during the holidays. Luckily, there's an app to alleviate your frustrations. Snap a picture of your receipt with ReturnGuru and the free app will track your returns, allow easy access and alert you before your return window is over.

2. Buy indie gifts for less online. Online independent retailers often sell more interesting and unique gifts for lower prices. A handmade gift is sure to be one-of-a-kind, so take advantage of Etsy coupon codes to shop at the giant online marketplace. Use Etsy gift cards to treat someone to a gift at one of more than 100,000 participating Etsy shops.

3. Use a rewards mall when you shop online. One simple step could save you up to 45 percent on your online purchases. All you need to do is start your shopping trip at a rewards mall (popular ones include Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall, Hilton HHonors Shop-to-Earn Mall, eBates, FatWallet and ShopDiscover), then click through to your favorite retailer's website. You'll earn a reward on what you buy -- usually cash back, loyalty program points or miles.

4. Be sure your deal is a good one. With all sorts of coupons and discounts available, you're never quite sure if what you're buying is really a good deal or if a retailer is just promoting its sale as a steal. Take the guesswork out of deal-hunting with Decide.com, which analyzes enterprise-level retail data and spits out a number ranking for Decide's data-driven assessment of the deal.

5. Organize your photos, gift ideas and holiday checklists. Evernote, the free list-making app, will help you do so much more than simply write items down this holiday season. Evernote allows you to clip products and prices from the Internet when you're comparison-shopping, snapping a photo, scanning in paper lists and more.

6. Turn your credit card into a coupon with card-linked offers. Card-linked offers are coupons linked right to your debit, credit or store loyalty card. Banks like American Express, Capital One and Bank of America have these offers built into their iPhone apps, so it's easy to view your discounts when you're out and about.

7. Let your phone be your personal finance assistant. Every year you promise to spend smarter during the holiday season, and every year it doesn't quite turn out the way you wanted. Holiday expenses can really add up, so keep yourself on track with Toshl, a free personal finance app.

Matthew Ong is a strategy analyst for NerdWallet, a consumer finance website that provides tools for people to save money.

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