Stories & features

9 smartphone apps to help you manage your busy life

Image of man grocery shopping and carrying smart phone
Going shopping? There's an app for that - actually several, including one that helps you organize and use coupons, one that organizes your loyalty cards, another that specializes in shopping lists, and another that helps you plan your meals and shop.

Make that mobile device work for you

Blaine Kyllo

If there's a time of year to think about getting organized, it's September. Many of us are returning from a summer of holidays and kids camps. Suddenly we're working on coordinating carpools, drop-offs at school, after-school activities and basketball, hockey, soccer. Not to mention the all-important meals that keep our families going.

Re-entry can be a bumpy ride.

But these smartphones that we're all carrying around with us can make it easier.

Smartphones are popular and useful

A recent Team Power Smart poll indicated that many of you are already using your mobile to stay organized. While 23% of respondents said they were using a paper calendar, 34% are using a smartphone (another 8% are using a different electronic device, which I'd guess is an iPad).

And the latest StatsCan numbers, from 2014, show that 93% of B.C. households were subscribed to a wireless phone service. Most of us had smartphones (68%) and 48% had tablets, which adds up to a capacity to do a whole lot more on the go.

You already know that you can track your electricity use online. Connected homes include thermostats and smoke detectors, but here are nine ideas for using your mobile devices to get organized. You will save time (and perhaps a few bucks) along the way.

All of these have apps for Android and iOS devices (except for Coupon Find Canada, which is iPhone-only at the moment). Some of the apps also have programs that run on Mac and Windows computers, so you can use a keyboard to enter in all of the information, and the data will sync across all of the platforms.

While you're on the SkyTrain or bus, use the time to not only plan your day on the smartphone, but to check on your home electricity use at MyHydro. And if you haven't already, start a 10% electricity reduction Challenge. You could earn $50 if you hit your target over a 12-month period.

Not a Team Power Smart member? Join today.

Get around the city faster

You may have a GPS or maps function on your smartphone, but Waze is more than just a map. This app provides you with real-time traffic information that's collected from many sources, including drivers already on the road, who can report accidents and incidents with only a couple of taps. So you can find out about the accident up ahead just after it happens, instead of sitting in traffic and waiting for the news to circulate through the regular channels.

Waze will also recalculate your route accordingly, and if you know a shortcut, it will adjust to match. All this as well as community-edited maps and gas price information. Just remember to be safe when you use your smartphone in the car. Use a hands-free solution.

Keep track of those loyalty cards

Every retail franchise has a loyalty program, and with Key Ring you don't have to worry about carrying them around with you anymore. This app stores your membership numbers and creates scannable barcodes for your smartphone.

Manage your to-do list

The more things you have to keep track of, the greater the likelihood something will get forgotten. Remember the Milk helps you track all of your lists, including he one you use for shopping. You can share your lists with others in case you need to divide-and-conquer to get it all done, and if you've got multiple devices, everything syncs up nicely.

Plan your meals (and the resulting shopping list)

We all end up at the end of September shuddering at the thought of making mac and cheese for the tenth time because it's already dinnertime and we didn't think of anything else. Big Oven is going to help with that. It will help you find delicious, nutritious recipes that are tasty without being Epicurean.

You can sort through recipes based on category (after-school snacks, for example, or stews and chilis), key ingredient (chicken, pork, beef, cheese), or even equipment (slow cooker or barbecue). Big Oven will also help you plan your meals in advance and generates a shopping list for you. You'll never be without an idea again.

Manage your passwords

Now that we all have supercomputers in our pockets, we've got dozens of accounts. Social media, banking sites, communications tools, and utility services are only a few that you've got. And each of them has a password. You know not to use the same password for all your accounts, but how else will you keep track of them all? With 1Password.

This service, which was developed in Toronto, works with your browsers – even on your mobile devices – and purchasing the software (or subscribing) gives you unlimited storage of logins, passwords, and credit card information that you can access from anywhere. There's also a subscription account for families, which extends the plan for a family of five, with permission control so the kids can see the Netflix password but not your credit card PIN.

Keep track of your classes and assignments

Time management is one of the most important lessons to be learned while in school. It's easier with myHomework, an app you can use to track classes and schedules, including professional days, as well as manage homework and assignments.

Access your local library's digital collection

You may not even know that most libraries have collections of digital media, including audiobooks, television and movies, music, and, of course, e-books. Hoopla makes it easy to access your local library's collection so you can borrow anything currently available. All you need is a library card.

Manage your home lighting from your mobile

With a set of LED bulbs from Phiips Hue, you can stage spontaneous dance parties, and you can also get control over your home's lighting.

You can program the bulbs to turn on and off at certain times, and you can even control them when you are away from home. Belkin's WEMO home automation system includes programmable LED bulbs, too, as well as connected power outlets and switches.

Find and collect coupons for your favourite stores

Coupon Find Canada iPhone app (Note: app download temporarily unavailable) leverages the coupons posted at Grocery Alerts, a Victoria-based website that collects coupons for all manner of retail operations, from grocery stores to online outlets. You can also find manufacturer coupons to use at any participating retailer.

Blaine Kyllo is a North Vancouver based writer and regular contributor to