10 Terrific Online Tools for Mom
For busy moms struggling to manage both the household and their own lives, help is within reach -- if you have the right tools bookmarked. We've all been dragged off course by Google's gravitational pull: You start out with a simple search for the perfect digital assistant and wind up reading about baby pandas in China. To help keep you on track, we've outlined 10 online resources that will keep you and your family organized and in sync, on time and under budget.
PearBudget: Overseeing a family budget can be a daunting task (even without an aversion to Excel spreadsheets). Get over your fears with this budgeting tool, created by a husband-and-wife team, which is perfect for those who have trouble keeping track of their bills, not to mention getting ahead of them. Simply enter your monthly expenses and income to get started; you can customize with your own category names, enter receipts in minutes and review and update securely. The process is so quick (you can set up your account in less than 10 minutes), you won't have time to give up. Free trial; $3 per month.
Shoeboxed: This receipt-scanning service lets you do things the old way (mail your paper receipts, business cards or other documents in pre-paid postage envelopes) or the new way (take digital photos with a camera or iPhone and email them). Either route saves time and eliminates the clutter of paper just waiting to be filed. Once Shoeboxed receives your documents, the service scans and organizes them in your online account. From there, you can view, print, email and download the content in a variety of formats. Excellent for tax reporting, small businesses, and bill archiving -- the IRS even accepts Shoeboxed receipt scans. Free trial, with tiered pricing plans starting at $9.95.
Cozi: There are days when any busy mom might consider swapping her first born for a personal assistant. Cozi, a free online organizer, won't drive to the drycleaner for you, but it will provide a streamlined way to manage schedules, update shopping and to-do lists and keep everyone in touch. A color-coded calendar, appointment reminder and easy mobile access allow the whole family to check on and update important events. Forget the special ingredient for a recipe on your shopping list? Simply access your Cozi list on your smart phone or call them toll-free from a mobile phone to have lists read to you, or sent by text. And, once you all make it to the school play on time, you can use the family journal to record and share the memories online. Free.
Evernote: Nothing's more frustrating than collecting articles, phone numbers and recommendations you'd like to remember, then forgetting where you saved them! Evernote is a free online filing system that lets you access the bits of information you accumulate but can't seem to keep track of -- think snapshots of wine labels, clips of web pages, recipes -- all in one place. Gathering the content is easy; just hit the site's "Print Screen" button and drag the Evernote clipper across the area you want to select. Notes on your laptop, mobile photos of business cards, text from Word documents, emails or web pages can all be available on your own personal Evernote site. From there you can search, email, edit or print. Free.
Wishpot: Wishpot is part discount shopping portal, part online list organizer, and part social networking site. Here, you can easily make gift wish lists for birthdays, holidays and more by simply clicking the items you like from a web browser, then sharing them with friends and family. If your sister wants to buy the "big present" for your child's next birthday, for example, simply reserve that item on your list for her. Auntie is then redirected to the vendor site, or the one with the lowest price, and you won't have to call your other relatives to remind them not to buy that one. Plus, your fellow purchasers provide insight on deals and cool stuff. Free.
Like: Google recently scooped up Like.com, a free online shopping site that makes finding what you covet so much easier by allowing you to search visually by color, detail, shape or pattern. This means if you love a certain look or saw clothing or accessories on T.V. or around town but have no idea who makes it, you can find it easily without having to use keywords in searches or sift through a bunch of links. It's a huge time-saver when you want to find that special something and don't have hours to search online -- or off. There's also merchandise for men and children. Free.
Grovo: Do you wonder what Tumblr is but are too embarrassed to ask? Or do you just want to join the rest of the world on Facebook and Twitter? Become a digital diva with a little help from Grovo, a free video-based training site specializing in two-minute tutorial videos organized into 15-minute courses, which include the sites mentioned above as well as Yelp, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, LinkedIn and more. Grovo offers free lessons for users of all skill-levels, from beginners who want to learn online basics (searches and security) to more experienced types looking to learn advanced features. Free.
RetailMeNot: Everyone loves a bargain, and this online coupon site delivers deals and steals in a comprehensive, easy-to-use interface. You can search through big-name stores, such as Target, JCPenny and Old Navy, and even find promotions for smaller, indie boutiques. With 65,000 online stores to choose from, there are digital discounts –- plus old-school coupons you can print -- on everything from groceries, restaurants, electronics and furnishings. Free.
SlimComputer: If you still have a pack of preloaded programs taking up room on your computer and bogging down performance, help just arrived. This new, free tool from SlimWare Utilities is designed to optimize the performance of your PC and erase the slew of pre-loaded -- and unwanted -- promotional programs known as "bloatware" that come on new computers. SlimComputer is garnering rave reviews, and for good reason. With a few clicks, you can delete the preloaded trial apps, games, installers, advertising links and toolbars that drain your computer's resources by taking up storage space and slow down your boot up. Free.
Skype: You know something has gone mainstream when you see Oprah using it on her show, and Skype is no exception. But just because almost everyone has likely heard of the Internet video calling service, that doesn't mean everyone is using it ... and you should be. All you need to start making free video calls to relatives, friends or children in college who are also set up for the service is an Internet connection, a microphone and a web cam or built-in camera on your computer. There are many options available, too, for calling landlines. Skype-to-Skype calls are free; rates vary for other services.
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