12.10.19

5 effective apps for better budgeting

BY DOUG AAMOTH 2 MINUTE READ

These useful apps and services will make managing your money far less difficult than it usually is:

1. BILLS TO BLAST, MONEY TO BURN
If you sense that you’re spending too much but you’re not really sure where it’s all going, then PocketGuard (AndroidApple) is a good place to start. You feed your various accounts into it—banking, credit cards, loans, savings—and it’ll crunch all the numbers for you. Once the dust settles, you’ll be presented with your “In My Pocket” number: a straightforward figure representing how much you have left to spend on stuff. The app can also look for potential savings across your recurring bills, even going as far as trying to negotiate lower rates on your behalf for some accounts. The app is free to use, with premium features starting at $3.99 per month.


2. PROACTIVE PLANNING WITH A PARTNER
Grandma used to put cash in envelopes, each one earmarked for a specific expense. That’s the premise behind Goodbudget (AndroidAppleWeb), except you create virtual envelopes for groceries, utilities, entertainment, and the like, and then pre-allocate dollar amounts to each. It’s a good, albeit manual way to save for large purchases or pay off existing debts, and a big focus of the service is the ability to sync and share between other people so that you can chip away at common goals together. Goodbudget is free for limited envelopes and synced devices, with monthly plans starting at $5.99 for unlimited envelopes and additional devices.


3. SIMPLE SAVINGS
Basically a modern day loose-change jar on steroids, Acorns (AndroidAppleWeb) automatically rounds your everyday purchases up to the nearest whole dollar and then deposits the difference into an investment account for you. You link it up to your bank account, so it can grab the difference initially and, in turn, transfer it back over to you once you’re ready to spend it. Basic service starts at a buck a month, all the way up to a $3-a-month option that gives you an Acorn-branded debit card, reimbursed ATM fees, and additional cash back from participating merchants.


4. POWER THROUGH PAYMENTS
At a time when just about everything’s a subscription service of some type, it’s handy to keep tabs on what you owe and when. For that, look no further than Prism (Android, Apple) a free app that can pull in due dates and balances for more than 11,000 billers, helps you keep an eye on when they’re due to be paid, and makes it easy to pay them. See all your bills on a calendar or as a list, schedule payments, and even review your own checking and savings accounts to make sure you have enough dough to cover your payments.


5. BUCK BY BUCK BUDGETING
If you’re really getting serious, check out the powerful You Need a Budget (AndroidAppleWeb). Link up your accounts, and when you get paid, the idea is to “give every dollar a job” so that you become more thoughtful about how you’re spending your money. If you overspend in one category, you’ll need to adjust by taking dollars away from a different category. You can then set long-term goals like saving for a vacation or paying off credit cards, the idea being that if you put fewer dollars to work than you’d initially planned, you’ll have more left over to allocate to the big-picture stuff.

The service costs $12 a month or $84 a year after a 30-day trial. Sounds hefty, but YNAB claims to save people an average of $600 in the first month and more than $6,000 over the course of their first year.


Article originally appeared in fastcompany.com

11.04.19

5 iPhone shortcuts you didn’t know you needed

BY DOUG AAMOTH 3 MINUTE READ

Like just about every iPhone owner, you probably opened the box, peeled the plastic from your new phone, and started using it—nonexistent user manual be damned. And like just about every other iPhone user, you’re probably not using said device as smartly as you could be. In that spirit, here are some tips and tricks that’ll help you use your iPhone more efficiently.

First, a little housekeeping: We’re dealing with an iPhone 11 here running version 13.1.3 of the iOS software. These tips should work for most modern iPhones running most versions of iOS 13, though.

1. FASTER PHOTOS
We’ve all been there: a perfectly photogenic moment gets thwarted by the extra seconds it takes to find the Camera app, fire it up, and take the shot. There’s got to be a better way! (Spoiler: there is indeed a better way.)

From the Lock screen, you’ll notice a little camera icon in the lower-right corner. But it’s in an awkward spot unless you have both hands on the phone. And there’s an even faster way to reel off a quick shot anyway: simply swipe to the left. That quick-launches the Camera app instantly, with one hand and zero fumbling. While you’re at it, check out additional Lock screen tricks here.

2. SQUASH THE SWIPES
Ever since Apple unceremoniously killed the Home button, it’s been all swipes, all the time. If you long for simpler days, you’ll be happy to know that there is a way by which to get a reasonable facsimile of the Home button back. Head into Settings > Accessibility > Touch > AssistiveTouch, and then toggle the feature on. From there, select Single-Tap, and from the menu that follows, select Home.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll notice a little on-screen Home button that you can move around to various parts of the screen. Position it how you like it, and when you’re in an app and want to go back out to the Home screen, well . . . you know what to do. More on the AssistiveTouch feature can be found here.

3. TWINKLE-TOED TYPING
Forget hunting and pecking for each individual letter while you’re trying to type something. With iOS 13, Apple has finally infused the default keyboard with some slick sliding action. Called QuickPath, the feature lets you swipe from letter to letter without lifting your finger and guesses your desired word along the way based on the letters you’re stringing together.

There’s also a cool feature whereby if you hold down the space bar for a moment, the whole keyboard will turn into a big trackpad that lets you quickly move the cursor elsewhere—great editing for long emails or notes. Additional keyboard tricks can be found here.

4. BETTER YOUR BATTERY
Despite numerous smartphone advances over the years, the lowly battery remains a constant buzzkill after a full day’s use. The iPhone has a couple settings you can use to not only lengthen the amount of time you can squeeze out of the battery each day but how much longevity you can eke out of the battery over its lifetime.The first, Low Power Mode, is found under the Settings > Battery menu and scrimps on nonessential tasks such as the frequency with which your phone checks for new emails, app updates, and the like. This mode will kick on automatically once your battery gets too low. But if you find yourself constantly searching for an outlet, it might not hurt to try using Low Power Mode all the time to see if it can help.

The second, Optimized Battery Charging, is found under the Settings > Battery > Battery Health menu and leverages artificial intelligence to try to make sense of your daily charging routine so that it doesn’t overcharge the battery. Instead, it’ll hang out around 80% until it thinks you need to top the phone up to 100%—such as right before you unplug and leave the home or office for the day.

Learn more about the battery here.

5. SILENCE STRANGE CALLERS
It’s 2019. Let’s face it: nobody talks on the phone nowadays anyway. But when we do, it’s probably to someone we know really well. As such, why should we even field calls from unknown callers, some of whom are bound to be spammers? If this sounds like a credo you can live by, then check out the Silence Unknown Callers feature found in the Settings > Phone menu. The feature works just like it sounds: calls from unknown callers won’t cause your phone to audibly ring. They will, however, appear in your recent calls list and have the option of leaving voicemails just in case it’s someone you actually want to hear from.

Learn more about the feature here, along with some additional information about dealing with spam calls.


09.09.19

5 free websites to help boost your business

BY DOUG AAMOTH 2 MINUTE READ

Fortunately, it’s never been easier to start a business. Unfortunately, it’s never been harder to get people to pay attention to it. Here are some low-impact and—even better—free sites and services you can leverage in order get your company looking its best and get the word out that you’re ready to work.

1. SHAPE UP YOUR SITE
Your website is your best salesperson: it works 24/7 for little to no pay, delivers consistent marketing messaging, and doesn’t stop to eat, drink, or use the facilities. So make sure you put your site’s best virtual foot forward by ensuring it’s loading quickly, looks good on mobile, has all its SEO ducks in a row, and more. HubSpot’s free Website Grader tool does just that: plug in your site, and it’ll return a numeric score out of 100, along with tips on fixing any nettlesome issues.

2. SOCIALIZE SYSTEMATICALLY
You know you should be on social media in order to build your brand, but posting to platform after platform all day long can quickly become a rabbit hole that yanks you away from doing, you know, actual work. Post-everywhere powerhouse Hootsuite has a free plan that’s half hidden on its pricing page underneath the paid tiers. It’ll let you blast out updates to three social profiles at once and schedule a generous 30 messages to go out while you’re working, sleeping, or otherwise indisposed. Not too shabby.

3. FEED YOUR FANS
There’s nothing quite like a good, old-fashioned email newsletter to keep your clients, customers, and followers coming back. Mail-blast specialist Mailchimp has a great, easy-to-use and free newsletter platform called TinyLetter that’s worth checking out. It provides you with simple sign-up forms for your site and social profiles, sports a clean editor for tapping out your updates, and allows for up to 5,000 subscribers—which should be more than enough to get you going.

4. MUSE TO THE MASSES
If typing’s not your thing, how about putting together a podcast? Give it a shot: it’s not as hard as you might think. Podcast purveyor PodBean offers a free tier that lets you store up to five hours of audio and stream 100GB to your listeners. Your aural masterpieces can be ingested via PodBean’s Android and iOS players, as well as via an embedded player you can share around the web. There’s built-in RSS and iTunes support as well, so you can make sure to reach as many people as possible.

5. PREVENT LOCATION FRUSTRATION
If your business has a physical presence, it’s probably being indexed by hundreds of disparate sites, services, and platforms. See how the big ones see you with Yext’s free online business appearance scanner, which is located in the middle of the front page of the Yext.com site. Simply type in your business’s name and phone number to see how it’s listed at a bunch of popular online services. More importantly, you can update the errant ones with the correct information.

AND DON’T FORGET
If you’re lucky, Google has already noticed your business has a website and shows it in results. If not, list your site for free with the search giant to give yourself the best shot at being found.


Article originally published on fastcompany.com.