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Moms Talk: Mommy Apps

We've all heard the adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Today’s tech-savvy moms have new tools at their fingertips to help.

Hello. My name is Raven, and I’m addicted to my iPhone.

“Hello, Raven.”

Whether you’re an iPhone gal like me or prefer Android, creative minds all over the world have been hard at work designing little gems to make daily life and household management a lot easier for us all. Those gems? Apps.

“There’s an app for that” is a common phrase nowadays-- and for good reason. There really seems to be an app for everything. My kids’ pediatric office has its own app for scheduling appointments!

The variety boggles the mind, but this week I’d like to focus on a few that have made my life easier, and then I’d like to ask you to share your favorites in the comment section.

  • Waze is a free app currently available for both iPhone and Android users. The Blackberry version is in the Beta phase.  Waze is a free mobile social app that enables drivers to build and use live maps, see real-time traffic updates and enjoy turn-by-turn navigation.

How does it help moms? Um, do we not spend most of our day driving our offspring hither and yonder? With Waze, you always know about traffic hotspots and speed traps, and the GPS is the best I’ve used.

This past weekend I was driving home from dropping my kids off with my mother for a visit. I was tooling along Interstate 85 North when my Waze app alerted me to a traffic standstill up ahead. Several Waze users caught in the jam were sending updates and alerts (“I can see a transfer truck cab on fire… we’re moving now, but slowly”) for other drivers. These popped up on my phone in real-time.

Pre-Waze, these circumstances would have forced me to pull to the side of the road to use my GPS and maps to plan an emergency detour. With Waze it was a non-issue. A pleasant voice said, “Watch out! There’s a traffic jam up ahead! There’s a better way to go. Turn right here.” It then proceeded to guide me via backroads right around the hotspot and deposited me on the interstate just past the incident.  I didn’t have to do any frantic map reading, and it saved me loads of time. Time that is critical when you’re a busy mom rushing kids to a dentist appointment or cello lesson or a school performance.

  • A major facet of managing a household is managing its finances. Enter, Mint. Mint (or mint.com) is a financial organization and tracking tool with a free app for iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets. I should disclose that my husband works for Intuit, the company that offers Mint and its services. But even if he didn’t, I’d still swear by this app. It has made managing our family budget and keeping an eye on spending as easy as swiping my finger across the screen.

I check my Mint app nearly every day. I used the mint.com website to set up monthly budgets for our family’s expenses, and I linked all our checking, savings and credit card accounts to our profile. With one touch, I can see an overview of our family’s financial situation, including net worth, account balances and credit card debt. I can also see how we’re doing sticking to our budget and make changes on the fly if needed. It’s multi-user friendly, so both my husband, and I can check it whenever we want. Mint also sends us alerts when our checking account balance dips below a certain amount or when we’ve been hit with a finance charge or other fee.

  • Buckaroo is a cashless allowance tracker app for parents. Talk about life changing for our family! We tried for years to implement some sort of award system. We did ticket jars, cash payment allowances, the Hogwarts House Points system (Sailor was Ravenclaw, Jack claimed Gryffindor). They all failed miserably because we didn’t stick to them. We weren’t always home when someone was awarded House Points, for example, and so we forgot to stamp their owl card. Or we didn’t have cash on hand for allowance payday. Then I discovered Buckaroo.

Buckaroo is currently .99 in the iPhone app store, as it’s a recent launch. What it does is beautiful. My husband and I have the synchronized apps on our iPhones. Our two kids, Sailor and Jack, each have an account. We set up automatic payments for every Friday. You can choose when your child is paid and how much to give each child. Sailor earns more each week than Jack because she’s older and has more responsibilities.

Their money is deposited every week, and we chose to include the end-of-the-month interest option. Our kids earn 10% interest on whatever is left in their accounts at the end of the month, thus encouraging saving. You can also set up spending goals for them.

A recurring problem for us before Buckaroo came into our lives was this: We’d be out shopping, and Sailor would see something she wanted. She was earning allowance, but it was cash, and she never had it with her. She’d say, “But I have money at home! I’ll pay you back!” Of course, that never happened.

Now when Sailor wants to buy something, we grab my iPhone and see if she has enough money. Then I purchase it for her and right then and there I can subtract that purchase from her total. See? Beautiful.

We also love being able to award the kids on the fly. Just last week Watson awarded fifty cents for being exceptionally well-behaved at a restaurant. I constantly add money to Sailor’s account for helping out above and beyond with housework. She scrubbed the tub last week without being asked, and I picked up my phone and gave her a bonus. 

Now that Buckaroo's in our lives, my children frequently ask what they can do to help me. If that's not a rockin' app for a mom, I don't know what is.

  • Grocery Gadget is an app that makes those major trips to the grocery store much easier to manage. It’s available for pretty much every mobile device out there. There’s a free version, but I paid .99 for a version with more perks.

With Grocery Gadget I don’t have to make a new shopping list every time I head out for a massive grocery haul. I store them and reuse them. It’s synced to my husband’s app, so he can add things he needs to the list, eliminating those last-minute phone calls that make us all crazy.

I enter items I need into the app, and it saves them for me in an ever-present list (with free cloud backup). Items I don’t need for a particular trip I mark as 0, and the app will automatically show me only those products I’ve marked as essential for a particular trip.

I can also use my phone to scan bar codes on products at home and have product pictures, descriptions and locations inside the store pop up on my list. The app also allows me to upload coupons and recipe ingredients to my main shopping list. It is, in a word, fantastic for moms who manage the daily bread.

  • Life360 is pretty swell—because who hasn’t wanted to put a LoJack on a teenager? Basically, Life360 is a family tracking and safety app.

Life360 enables families to see where their loved ones are located via a GPS Map, when they need help and what the threats might be around them. It creates a private family "channel" that allows real-time "Check Ins" with the tap of a button from any family member. 

For example, instead of me needing to constantly call my kids to ask where they are, I can request a Check In and get peace of mind from knowing they’re OK (and keeping a little of their street cred intact).

It also works in other ways. For example, if I’m out running errands and a mealtime is approaching, my family will call or text me asking where I am and when I’m coming home. Often. If I’ve got my tracking turned on, they can see that I’m still at the grocery store and leave me alone.

Of course, if I were at the nail salon I’d just turn the tracking off.

The free version of Life360 offers family GPS location, safety status alerts, safety point displays no matter where you are in the country (police stations, hospitals, etc.) and Family Channel Group Messaging.

Life360’s free version for iPhone and Android also offers a panic button. If someone in your group presses the panic button, it sends an alert to everyone in the group and utilizes all available communication channels, including data and SMS, until the family has been contacted.

It’s a great app for moms with older kids who have their own active social lives. 

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I’ve shared the apps that make my world go ‘round. Please share yours in the comment section. What’s your favorite family app? “Keep-the-kids-busy” app? Moms use their phones to take pictures of their families all the time. Maybe you have a favorite phone app? 

I look forward to hearing from you and maybe adding to my app stash. Tech moms, unite!

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