Whether it’s flows (work or otherwise) finances or food, we all have areas in our lives we’d like to make easier to execute. Few of us can afford to hire the village of personal chefs, trainers, advisors and assistants it would take to unburden ourselves of these activities entirely, but fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there aimed at making our lives work smarter not harder. Recently, we’ve been sharing some of our favorite smartphone apps amongst ourselves, testing their abilities to up our productivity levels and take care of things we’d never get around to doing ourselves. Here are the four apps we’re finding most helpful at the moment, all cheaper than an Apple Watch.
I’m not entirely proud of the fact that it’s taken me until the cusp of my 30s to start considering financial investments, but then I read this CNN piece highlighting the fact that the vast majority of people my age—93%—share my hesitations about the stock market. Coming of age in the financial upheaval of the 2008 recession has had the residual effect of making most millennials incredulous about financial investing. Fortunately for us, the designers of the new app Acorns have come up with a pretty foolproof way to ease into it. The app allows you to take the spare change from electronic/debit card purchases and invest it into a diversified stock portfolio picked for you by a Nobel-Prize-winning economist based on your spending habits, annual income and long-term goals. It’s an easy way to dip your toe into an investment pool without needing to throw down serious cash with a financial advisor in order to do so. I’ve been using Acorns since February and will say it’s super simple, secure and so user friendly that it’s alleviated a lot of the fear I had about financial investment. Acorns is free and available through iTunes, Amazon Apps and Google Play.—Jordan Galloway
Brooklyn foodies tend to lead two different lives—when we’re out on the town, we dine on some of the most acclaimed, cutting-edge New American fare in the world. But when we’re at home on the couch, it’s usually greasy Chinese food or standard pizza. Caviar combines the best of both worlds: high-end, cool Brooklyn cooking and…well—laziness. Download the app and choose from a curated selection of spots like Talde, Franny’s, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, Prospect and No. 7—many of which don’t otherwise deliver. There’s a $4.99 delivery charge, but come on, that’s worth it when you can even get a milkshake or a pint from OddFellows ice cream delivered without taking off your pajamas. Caviar is free and available through iTunes and Google Play.—Brendan Spiegel
List apps are like digital backpacks–if you’re going to carry around all your things to do everywhere you go, you want it to feel as light as possible. For a spell I considered Evernote, but found it so complicated I’d actually need to add “Learn how to use Evernote” to my to-do list. I don’t need check boxes, or features so fancy I need a webinar on how to use them, and I certainly don’t want to pay anyone to stay organized (like Todoist wants its users to do). Just give me one blank page on which to unload all my deadlines and things I want to do, and I’m happy, if perhaps a little burdened by the thought of all the tasks I still haven’t crossed off. WorkFlowy offers this–it’s just a white page that orders your tasks in simple list form, and you delete items as you accomplish them. (You can also keep items on there indefinitely, as a note for later use, or a reminder of something you’d like to do.) It auto updates whether I use it on my desktop or my iPhone, and sends me daily emails each morning to show what has changed on my virtual pad since I last visited it–something that I never open because I already do a fine job beating myself up for unfinished work. It’s also free up for the first 250 items on your list, a feat I hope to never reach. Workflowy is free and available through iTunes and Google Play—Nicole Davis
When a friend first told me to download a free period tracking app called Clue that she was obsessed with, I was a little skeptical about why I needed it. My monthly friend, after all, has always been pretty predictable about the time it chooses to darken my doorstep, and the pizza face and emotional turmoil leading up to it are a sufficient reminder of the fun times that await, but I signed up anyway and now I totally get it. As long as you remember to enter the first day of your cycle for a few months in a row, Clue starts aggregating the data and picking up on patterns, so you can see your “fertile window” and the date your next period will start and end. You can also manually add all kinds of data and attach it to specific days (like cramping, bloating, “I cried for an hour today at that commercial for Zillow where the dad comes home from a tour in Iraq and surprises the family in their new house,” etc.) to increase the app’s functionality. I have to say, it’s pretty cool to see hard data on how organized and consistent my body is at accomplishing this mysterious and amazing thing it is tasked with every month, even if it just means learning that I can bet on a cystic zit on day 16 or a screaming match with my boyfriend on day 22. And every month, just when the really crazy “maybe it’s time to sell my belongings and move to a yurt and never talk to anyone I know again” thoughts start overwhelming me, there is some comfort in getting the alert that pops up on my phone to remind me that my cycle starts the next day. Clue is free and available through iTunes and Google Play.—Kate Hooker