Great apps and sites for your holiday shopping

If you're planning to sit out Black Friday, that's OK -- it's not the sales bonanza it once was. Before the Internet, before social media, before a self-aware corporate culture that made "leaks" a new communication channel with consumers, Black Friday was one day of the year in which it made sense to wait in line for hours before a store opened in hopes of getting a "doorbuster" deal on a plasma TV or get some other bargain price on holiday inventory.

These days, you can think of every day as Black Friday because excellent deals can be had year-round, and you can do just as well in the weeks after Black Friday. That is, if you arm yourself with some essential tools for ferreting out the best deals.

Find the lowest prices by learning from history. Buy low, sell high. CamelCamelCamel helps you with the first half of that financial aphorism by showing you the historical pricing of any item you're looking for online. Check out the graph showing the price history, then enter a target price that you'd like to purchase the item for. If the item you're shopping for ever hits that price point, Camel will notify you so you can buy before it goes back up again. CamelCamelCamel monitors Amazon (AMZN) prices, while sister site CamelBuy does the same for Best Buy (BBY). And CamelEgg keeps you informed about prices at -- you probably guessed it -- NewEgg.

Find better prices nearby. Not shopping online? No problem, because ShopSavvy is an app for both iPhone and Android that takes the drudgery out of comparison shopping. Just scan the barcode on any product, and ShopSavvy tells you what the price is both locally (at stores near your location) and online, in case you're amenable to buying that way as well. Not only do you see what you'll pay at all the local and Internet locations the app can find for you, but ShopSavvy can display product details (including photos) and customer reviews.

Remember to check for price drops. Many retailers, online and bricks and mortar, offer price guarantees that refund the difference if the price drops within a short time after you make a purchase. That time period can range anywhere from seven to 30 days, depending on the store. Best Buy and Home Depot (HD), for example, have 15-day policies, while Costco (COST) and JCPenney (JCP) offer 30-day price adjustment policies. K Mart and Sears (SHLD) both make good on price drops for seven days. These just scratch the surface. You can find many more stores listed in a recent roundup at Lifehacker.

Get points for shopping. Shopkick is an app (for Android and iPhone) that rewards you just for visiting stores. Here's how it works: When you enter a participating store, such as Target (TGT), Best Buy, Old Navy (GAP) and JCPenney, open the app to get a reward just for going into the store. The app will also recommend featured items -- scan their barcode to get additional points -- and you don't need to make a purchase to earn them. Of course, yet more points are waiting for you if you do make a purchase. These points can be redeemed for gift cards, which is essentially like free money.