Give your kids a super-fun experience this summer without leaving your backyard. This free app will act like an interactive field guide, coaching kids on the flora and fauna that can be found right outside their homes. Project Noah lets users upload photos of what they’ve found so they can learn even more about local plants and animals.
Nothing beats a day out on the waves, but if you don’t own your own boat it can get pricey fast. Enter GetMyBoat. The free app works just like Airbnb for boats, with more than 35,000 boats, from kayaks to yachts, available for rent in 135 countries around the world.
The back-to-school countdown takes on extra intensity this year with school being out of the classroom for nearly six months in most of the country. When your kids are driving you up the wall and it’s doubtful you’ll make it through the summer with your sanity intact, check out Back2SchoolCountdown. For just 99 cents, you can check how much time is left until the first day of school, down to the second. The app won’t magically get your kids to behave, but it’s the next best thing!
Turn an ordinary night into the extraordinary with this fantastic app. For a one-time fee of $1.99, you’ll have a complete guide to the inky night sky right inside your pocket. Learn how to spot constellations, planets and satellites by pointing your smartphone toward the sky. SkyGuide works well even in weak data signal zones, making it the perfect accessory for your camping trip.
Nothing kills a vacation like pulling open your suitcase only to find you’ve forgotten your cellphone charger. Or your toothbrush. Try the free PackPoint app and never forget an essential item again. You’ll plug in your trip details, whether it’s a family road trip, a business convention or a romantic beachside getaway. The app will use your itinerary and the forecast weather at your vacation destination to draw up a packing list, chargers and toothbrushes included. PackPoint will even save your packing list to make your next trip that much easier.
If you’ve ever been to a crowded amusement park or music festival and lost sight of your friends, you need to download GeoZilla. The app lets you track your friends or family members, and keep contact with them via group chat or a check-in feature. GeoZilla takes the stress out of a trip — without draining your phone’s battery.
If you have plans to hit the waves this summer, you may want to download this free app before grabbing your surfboard. With more than 100 live-streaming HD cameras at breaks all over the U.S., Surfline provides users with the most accurate surf reports and forecasts. Data is available for thousands of surf spots around the world, up to five days in advance. Surf’s up!
What’s your favorite summertime app? Tell us all about it in the comments!
When trying to trim a monthly budget, most people don’t consider their fixed expenses. These recurring costs, which include mortgage payments, insurance premiums and subscription payments, are easy to budget and plan for since they generally remain constant throughout the year. While people tend to think there’s no way to lower fixed expenses, with a bit of effort and research, most of these costs can be reduced.
Here are five ways to trim your fixed expenses.
1. Consider a refinance
Mortgage payments take the biggest bite out of most monthly budgets. Fortunately, you can lower those payments by refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate. The refinance will cost you, but you can roll the closing costs and other fees into your refinance loan. Plus, the money you save each month should more than offset these costs. A refinance is an especially smart move to make in a falling-rates environment or if your credit has improved a lot since you originally opened your mortgage.
2. Lower your property taxes
Taxes may be inevitable, but they aren’t set in stone. You may be able to lower your property taxes by challenging your town’s assessment of your home. Each town will have its own guidelines to follow for this process, but ultimately you will agree to have your home reappraised in hopes of proving its value is less than the town’s assessment. This move can drastically lower your property tax bill; however, if you have made improvements to your home, it may be appraised at a higher value, which could raise your taxes.
3. Change your auto insurance policy
The Geico gecko and Progressive’s Flo, who love disrupting your favorite TV shows, actually have a point: You may be overpaying for your auto insurance policy.
If you’ve had the same policy for several years, speak to a company representative about lowering your monthly premiums. By highlighting your loyalty and having an excellent driving record, you may be able to get a lower quote. You can also consider increasing your deductible to net a lower monthly premium.
If your insurance company is not willing to work with you, it might be time to shop around for a provider that will. A few minutes on the phone can provide you with a significant monthly savings for a similar level of coverage. Once you have a lower quote in hand, you can choose to go back to your original provider and tell them you’re seriously considering a switch; they may change their mind about their previous lowest offer.
4. Consolidate your debts
If you’re carrying a number of outstanding debts, your minimum monthly payments can be a serious drain on your budget. Plus, thanks to the high interest rates you’re likely saddled with, you might be feeling like that debt is going nowhere.
Lucky for you, there is a way out. If you have multiple credit cards open, each with an outstanding balance, you might want to consider a balance transfer. This entails opening a new, no-interest credit card, and transferring all of your debts to this account. The no-interest period generally lasts up to 18 months. Going forward, you will only have one debt payment to make each month. Plus, the no-interest feature means you can make a serious dent in paying down that debt without half of your payment going toward interest.
Another way to consolidate debt is to take out a personal loan at Advantage One Credit Union. Our personal loans will allow you to pay off all of your credit card debt at once. You’ll only need to make a single, affordable monthly payment until your loan is paid off.
5. Cut out subscriptions you don’t need
Another fixed expense most people mindlessly pay each month are subscriptions. Take some time to review your monthly subscriptions and weed out those you don’t really need. Below, we’ve listed some of the most commonly underused monthly payments:
Gym membership Are you really getting your money’s worth out of your gym membership? It may be cheaper to just pay for the classes you attend instead of a full membership. Or, if you have a favorite workout machine at the gym, consider purchasing it to use at home for a one-time cost that lets you to drop your gym membership.
Cable Why are you still paying for cable when you can stream your shows for less through services like Netflix and Hulu? If you don’t want to cut out cable entirely, consider downgrading to a cheaper plan that drops some of the premium channels you don’t watch much.
Apps How many apps are you signed up for? You may not even remember signing up for an upgraded version of an app you rarely use. A quick perusal of your monthly checking account statement or credit card bill can help you determine how much these subscriptions are costing you. Drop the apps you’re not using for more wiggle room in your monthly budget.
Your fixed monthly expenses are actually not as “fixed” as you may have thought. By taking a careful look at some of these costs, you can free up more of your monthly income for the things that really matter.
How have you lowered your fixed monthly expenses? Share your best tips with us in the comments.
If you’re like most Americans, your New Year’s resolutions include cleaning up your finances, losing weight or getting into better shape and kicking some bad habits. It’s also likely, though, that your resolutions are almost identical every year.
Make 2019 the year those resolutions actually last by using one or all of these super-helpful apps to keep you on track.
Do you feel like you need ongoing motivation to keep you working toward your goals? Then look no further than Coach.me! This free app is just like having an inspirational speaker, life coach and personal trainer inside your phone. Coach.me lets you set any goal and then share your progress with an entire supportive community. You’ll be encouraged to stick to your resolutions, cheered on as you reach your targets and pushed to pick yourself up when you fall. The app also lets you hire an actual life coach if you want one-on-one motivation.
Try Coach.me. It’s the perfect tool for making those resolutions stick!
Shed those pounds for good this year with MyFitnessPal! The weight-loss app boasts a database of nutritional stats for more than 5 million foods and allows you to scan the barcodes of packaged foods to get the information, thus making calorie-counting a breeze. You can also track your energy output with MyFitnessPal’s step-counting feature or sync it with another exercise app like Fitbit or Jawbone. The massively popular app offers a free option, or you can choose to shell out $9.99 a month to unlock additional features.
3.) HabitBull Do you have a bad habit you need to kick? Let HabitBull help you make it happen! Whether your habit is harmless and annoying, like nail-biting, or dangerous and expensive, like smoking, the app will track your progress and celebrate your successes until you’ve shown that habit the door. If going cold turkey on a bad habit scares you, you can take it in small steps. The app isn’t limited to yes-or-no questions, and it also allows you to track data, like “number of drinks today,” so you can work at your own pace.
Download HabitBull today and get started shaking those habits for good!
Have you resolved to be happier and more positive in 2019? Download this app to make it happen! Happify will help you beat the winter doldrums, and lead a more joyous and optimistic life, by giving you a daily happiness boost. After signing up, you’ll be asked to fill out a short questionnaire about your personal stressors and downers. The app will then give you a daily list of science-based activities and tasks that are guaranteed to help you lose the stress for turning that frown upside down.
Grocery shopping is an inevitable part of life. Whether you choose to do your shopping at the corner grocery, Whole Foods or your local Walmart, remembering what you need and trying to stick to your budget can be a hassle. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this chore was a little easier?
That’s the goal of the dozens of grocery apps currently available. But with so many out there, how can you choose the one that best suits your needs?
Advantage One to the rescue! We’re proud to bring you a review of the best grocery apps. All to make your life a little easier.
This one has the word “IQ” in it for a reason; it’s built smartly! Grocery iQ also wants to make you a smarter shopper. This free app is one of the most full-featured grocery list apps available. It allows you to create shopping lists, scan barcodes and perform searches via voice recognition.
Grocery iQ allows you to scan an item’s barcode and then store it in the app’s memory to add to future grocery lists. It’s also equipped with the super-convenient ability to clip and print coupons – it’ll even show you which coupons are available for the products on your list! Best of all, when you create a Grocery iQ account, you can sync it with your store’s loyalty card and add your coupons directly to your store account.
Glaring glitches While Grocery iQ will show you coupons for the items you’re searching for, it won’t tell you what’s on sale in other stores or offer any help with creating your menu for the week.
Out of Milk
Everyone hates running out of milk. This free app wants to make sure you never have to experience that inconvenience again! Out of Milk allows you to create a fun, interactive grocery list that makes shopping super-easy. It also lets you design to-do lists for other areas of your life outside grocery shopping.
Out of Milk’s defining feature is its Pantry List. Aptly named, this feature allows you to keep stock of what’s in your pantry and alert you when you’re running low on a food item or staple so you know when it’s time to restock. It’s like shopping with your pantry in your back pocket!
Out of Milk shines at pantry-tracking but has no added features for menu-planning, coupon-clipping or even comparison shopping.
Grocery Pal is the bargain shopper’s dream. The free app was designed to help you browse the latest sales and deals at your favorite supersized and midsized stores, allowing you to add on-sale items to your existing grocery list with an easy click. Grocery Pal is also adept at organizing your recipes and tracking the items in your pantry. It’s truly an all-in-one app!
No more messy coupon-clipping! Grocery Pal not only allows you to browse the local sales, it will search for deals on the items on your list on its own, with no input or effort on your part.
Grocery Pal will not allow you to scan a barcode and store an item in its memory for future lists.
How they stack up
Your Turn: What’s your favorite grocery-list app? Tell us all about it in the comments!
Send money easily with these convenient phone apps In the modern economy, most financial transactions are entirely digital, which makes sharing money between individuals something of a dilemma. Luckily, there are a number of convenient phone apps available that facilitate this process with no physical cash required.
Facebook Messenger One of the most prolific mediums of communication available is social media. Digital Trends and Quicken point out that Facebook Messenger allows its users to send money by simply asking users to link a debit card. To complete a transaction, the money sender just needs to tap the dollar sign and enter the amount being sent, which turns into a hyperlink that the receiver can click. Payments can take up to five days to process, but the app makes up for that time with its convenience compared to other methods like finding an ATM.
Recommended by both Digital Trends and Quicken, Google Wallet acts, as the name implies, as a virtual wallet. Money can be sent and received within the United States via an email or a phone number. Once the money is in the Google Wallet account, it can then be used at retail stores that accept tap-to-pay or debit Mastercards.
PayPal As one of the oldest names in the digital financial industry, PayPal offers the ability to transfer funds to other users. PayPal is one of the few apps to allow transfer of funds to people outside of the United States. While PayPal tends to take between five and 10 days to process, it also offers the ability to pay for purchases at a variety of establishments.
Square Cash Gizmodo recommends Square Cash as one of the easiest-to-use money-transfer apps available. Square Cash doesn’t require the recipient have an account; instead, users just need an email address. It is free to use for most individuals, though businesses and those using a credit card must pay a fee. Standard deposits typically appear the next day; same-day deposits are available with Square Cash, but require a small fee.
Venmo Venmo is recommended unanimously by Quicken, Digital Trends and Gizmodo, with Digital Trends even calling it the best money-sending app on the market. This app is intended for easy money transfers to and from friends and family, and although it requires that both parties have the app, debit transactions are free. Venmo is structured like a social media network for payments (including the ability to like and comment on specific payments) and is becoming well-known enough to have created the phrase, “Venmo me.”
Using these apps, sending money digitally has become easier and more accessible than ever before.
Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.
For pros or beginners, the best ways to manage investing on the go
Thinking about becoming an investor, or want to make investing easier? There’s an app for that. There’s several, actually, and if used wisely, they can help anyone from big brokerages to small start-ups find success in their investing endeavors.
The following apps are available for Apple and Android devices (or both) and best of all, it won’t cost you a thing! Check out these five best apps for investors:
Investors can link their credit and debit cards, so that whenever they make a purchase, the app rounds up the change and invests the difference into a diversified portfolio of index funds. The best part about Acorns is that no matter how much money you have, you can still make small-dollar investments in a fast, stress-free way.
“Acorns is designed for new and experienced investors who want a quick, easy, and automatic way to invest their money,” said Jeff Cruttenden, co-founder and COO of Acorns. “People can get started in seconds; then set it and forget it.”
Note: While the app itself is free, Acorns charges $1 a month for accounts under $5,000 and 0.25 percent of your annual assets for accounts over $5,000.
Don’t you wish you can buy and sell stocks for free? Now you can. As one of the easiest ways to invest in stocks, Robinhood allows users to view real-time market data and quotes, create their own personalized watch list and perform trades, all with just a click of your fingers. It’s also very secure, requiring users to create a Touch ID or custom PIN code for their account.
Share your portfolios’ holdings with your followers, which can be anyone from your friends to colleagues and financial professionals. The holdings are given in a percentage instead of a dollar amount, so no one knows your actual worth. Sharing holding information can help you take note from other investors’ portfolios, especially the people you admire and trust (not to compare and judge each other!).
“If surrounding yourself with a network of smart investors makes you a more confident investor, maybe that’s a good thing,” says Grant Easterbrook, a former financial analyst at Corporate Insight. “But you probably shouldn’t be trying to copy hedge fund strategies.”
Wondering where you stand in the grand scheme of things? One of the best ways to manage your brokerage accounts, the SigFig Investing app links all of your existing investing accounts and tells you where you are in terms of breaking industry news. View your stocks’ performance, allocation, risk and more with a simple tap of a button.
This is a great app to keep you updated on the latest financial news, as well as real-time stock tickers for major and minor stock exchanges. You can even get personalized news on the companies that you’re watching to help you make smart financial decisions. In addition, Bloomberg allows you to customize your own stocks and see where you stand in the market.
Check out these, and tons of other awesome apps, and be on your way to better investing. After all, isn’t getting you to invest more what’s important?
Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.
Smartphone payment apps allow you to leave your card at home
For years, consumers have had the capabilities to use apps on their smartphones to pay for items in the modern-day marketplace. Recently, this technology has begun catching on, with Internet start-ups and financial institutions scrambling to capitalize on this revolution.
“Every device will become a commerce device,” said Gary Flood, president of global products and solutions for MasterCard, to the Boston Globe. “Technology is opening up the potential to do things in a different way around the world.”
A recent survey found that more than 60 percent of people expect that mobile devices will soon replace cash and credit cards. There are many different smartphone apps that offer the abilities:
Google Wallet This app allows you to e-mail money via gmail and link your phone to your credit and debit cards and checking account to use anywhere contactless payments are accepted. Positive aspects of Google Wallet are the ease of set-up — it takes about five minutes to create a secure PIN number and enter your personal information, including account info — and the inclusion of Google Offers, which informs you of deals and coupons at nearby places at which you may be shopping. The PIN safeguards your account from breaches, and the software’s cloud connection allows you to shut down your Wallet from a computer if your smartphone is lost or stolen. There is a fee for using credit and debit cards through Google Wallet, but checking account payments are free.
Square Cash This app only works with debit cards, with no fee involved, and you don’t even need an account with Square to accept money this way. This makes it ideal for splitting a bill with friends, for example, or chipping in for rent. Pay with Square is an app that allows you to pay simply by saying your name. Through the app, you can find Square-enabled businesses nearby, which utilizes your phone’s GPS, and before you head into one of those stores, you hit “Open a Tab.” From there, you go into the store, grab what you want, and tell the cashier your name. The only problem is that you’re often identified by pictures in this case, and online photos can be blurry which can lead to potentially costly confusion.
Venmo This popular app helps friends to pay each other, but it is a pay-by-text service. Checking and debit options are free with this app, but there is a fee for credit card transactions. Set-up is quick and easy, with a text confirmation for extra security, and you can connect to the service through your Facebook account as well. This will help you find friends that are also signed up for the service. Venmo’s connections with Facebook don’t end there. The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern explained the service’s fun social qualities.
“As soon as you open the app, there is a Facebook-like newsfeed of your friends’ transactions — hotel rooms, Indian food and cab rides are just a few things my friends seem to be paying for with Venmo,” she said. “You can then comment or ‘like’ the update. Fortunately, the amount paid isn’t public and you can disable the sharing features on each transaction.”
To use Venmo, you just enter the amount you want to pay, identify the recipient by name, phone number or e-mail, and click “Pay.” There is a limit, however, on much you can send per week and per month.
LevelUp This app allows you to link to your debit or credit card, while also linking to various stores’ loyalty cards. The app offers built in discounts and says its users save around $25 a month by using its service. Like many of the above options, set-up is simple by just entering your card number. Scanning your card with your phone’s camera doesn’t always work, said CNN Money’s Laurie Segall, who tried out all of these applications for a 2012 story.
To pay, on participating merchants’ LevelUp-provided devices, you just scan a code displayed on your phone after you hit “Pay.” It all works within seconds.
Paypal This is probably the most well-known of all of these, allows you to completely scrap your phone altogether and pay with just a phone number and PIN. You must remember to first go into your Paypal account and enter your mobile number. Even if there is already a number on file, the mobile number needs to be specified. Then, at the payment device, all you have to do is enter your number and the PIN. For extra safeguards, Paypal texts you after every transaction to let you know there was a purchase. Paypal is great because it is a commonly used service that most people already have for shopping online or for international transfers. But beware of the fees, they are charged for every service (credit and debit) except for the checking account.
Store loyalty cards are a widely used option among retailers that allows you to prepay money or attach an account to them while also accumulating points or perks. Over a quarter of Starbucks customers either pay with a digital or plastic loyalty card, the company disclosed. That also means that Starbucks has reduced its cost of processing purchases by 25 percent. Typical merchant fees for a regular debit card transaction are around 4 percent, while use through loyalty cards and apps like those above can reduce the fees to 2 percent or even make them disappear altogether.
A similar option to those mentioned previously includes the Tango Card, which allows consumers to securely store gift cards and then generate a barcode for their use at the register. Also, Uber is an app that enables a user to pay for a town car or a taxi through its technology linked to credit or debit accounts. Many parking garages, parking meters and vending machines across the country have gone the “touchless payment” route as well.
Going forward, technology will be making even greater strides. NXT-ID, Inc. is developing a means to replace all the cards in your wallet with no smartphone required. The Wocket™ is its own device; it will work anywhere credit cards are accepted, and only with your biometric consent. See an official presentation about the Wocket here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2zPNB5i9CA.
All of these technological advancements are not without their problems, however. Security really is not a concern, as most of the aforementioned services are more protected than your own actual wallet! The main issue with digitized payments is that the systems are not synchronized. One app doesn’t work everywhere, or with every point-of-sale device. But that, too, may be a problem of the past. Scvngr, the operator of LevelUp, is working on a single POS that will allow merchants to accept any mobile payment app.
“Until you solve that particular problem, you can’t really drive much widespread consumption,” said Will Graylin, founder of ROAM Data, a premier mobile application and payment services company.
As Graylin indicated, it will be a while before there is extensive adoption of the mobile wallet, but be aware of increased spending when this future is upon us. These apps and devices certainly increase convenience, as software can track spending and balances with the push of a button, but they also increase sales, with GPS tracking helping to notify you of sales and discounts near you. Individually, these technologies have their own pros and cons; each is best used in different places and under varying circumstances. Therefore, it’s solely up to your discretion if next time you go shopping, you want to leave your wallet at home.
Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.