Want to do a little more than just survive the crazy holiday season this year? Here are a few clever tech-y tips and tricks to score, save, and shine your way through this — the most wonderful time of the year.
An app for ‘regifting’
We all know that re-gifting a fruitcake or hideous holiday sweater is a bad idea. But download the free Close 5 app (iOS, Android), and suddenly re-gifting — aka “upcycling” — is pretty cool. The app lets you buy and sell from people around you, anywhere from 5-50 miles away. You can find all kinds of great deals on pre-owned or gently used smartphones, tablets, laptops, gaming consoles, bicycles, skis, you name it.
You can also use Close 5 to sell stuff you don’t want or need anymore, and try to make more money than you spend this year. According to a recent survey, most people don’t mind getting a pre-owned gift, as long as it saved the giver money. (Re-sale sight Gazelle says it does typically save people an average of 40% off retail.)
One app to search local stores
Another way to shop locally is with an app called Goodzer (iOS). Type in what you’re looking for — anything from a turkey to a new laptop — and Goodzer will troll nearby stores large and small to find out who has it and how much they’re charging. You can sort the results by price, distance, and store name, and it even shows you if there’s a better deal online.
I’m sure you’ve heard of PayPal, and you’ve likely used it to buy something online at one point or another. But have you ever used PayPal’s mobile app? Download it to your smartphone (iOS, Android) to make shopping in-store, on-line, and on-the-go fast, simple and secure. It basically turns your smartphone into your entire wallet, and let’s you pay with one touch, protecting your purchases from checkout to delivery. It also lets you send money directly to other people, so you can split the cost of a teacher gift or chip-in on a big gifts for the grandparents together.
Test-drive a smartphone
Before you fork over a small fortune buying someone a gadget like a new fitness tracker, set of high end headphones, or an aerial drone, check out a service called Lumoid. It lets you take a handful of gadgets for a test-drive before you buy them. This is a great way to gift a gadget to someone else too. For example, I’m buying my mother-in-law a new fitness tracker, but I’m not sure which one is right for her. I’m giving her a Lumoid box with five different bands inside that she’ll wear, and play around with, for up to two weeks. At the end of the trial, she tells me which one she likes best, I buy it straight from Lumoid, and she sends the rest back in the box they came in. If she decides none of them are her cup of tea, I just pay $25 for the service and move on. (You only pay the trial fee if you don’t actually buy anything, otherwise the testing bill is on the house.)
Give tech support
The other somewhat unusual, yet brilliant, gift to give someone like your mom (or really anyone getting a new gadget) is the gift of tech support. Order a top gadget, such as a new laptop, digital camera, or streaming music player and a company called Enjoy (led by former Apple execs) will deliver it, set it up, and answer any questions you might have. Right now it’s only available in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York City, but hopefully it will expand and spread soon!
For all your entertainment needs, there’s Plex, a multimedia streaming player/server combo that lets you find, play and share your entire collection of movies, music, photos, home videos — all of it — on any device. That means you can take all of your favorite holiday movies and perfect music playlists with you no matter how far and wide you plan to travel this holiday season. And when you’re at your relative’s house, you can stream your thousands of cute-kid photos and family vacation videos right to any TV, PC, Roku, Apple TV, or even gaming consoles like PlayStation or XBox. The other thing I really like about it is that it makes your media beautiful by automatically adding movie posters, plot summaries, cover art, and descriptions. (This is a great gift to give someone who has a lot of media too.)
If your dog is the one part of your family that cannot go on vacation with you, or if you get caught out at the mall later than you expected, check out DogVacay. It’s a free app and website that pairs your beloved pet with one of more than 20 thousand pre-screened and insured pet sitters across the U.S and Canada. All reservations include 24/7 emergency support, vet insurance and daily photo updates so your dog can still feel at home, and you can stop worrying about him, even when you’re miles away.
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