Discover a selection of add-on applications that can help to convert a smartphone into a powerful financial, lifestyle, and organizing machine.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Barry Maher is a motivational speaker who considers his smartphone a vital tool. Constantly on the go, he relies on it more than almost any other communication device. With smartphones exploding in popularity and add-on applications now available by the thousands, full-time RVers likely will find themselves relying on them more and more.
Apps usually cost no more than a few dollars, and hundreds of them are available for free. Even the most costly premium services charge only a few dollars up front or per month. Nevertheless, there’s a limit as to how many apps full-timers realistically can load, learn, and incorporate into their financial, social, and personal lives.
“The apps I use most frequently,” reported Mr. Maher, “are Dropbox [a site for storing and sharing data of all kinds, including photos], Safari for browsing, Google to do searches, SignEasy to get documents signed, Skype for phoning overseas, Translate when I don’t know the language, GoogleMaps and Waze for finding the route, Trailhead for finding hikes, and iTunes for music.”
The following apps appear to have features of use to full-timers. No endorsement is implied by this magazine, FMCA, or the author; all information is subject to change. To find each app, enter its name in your search engine. Then see whether it’s available for your type of phone. Finally, thoroughly research the app to make sure it protects your data and your privacy no matter where you are.
Personal Capital is a free app that can be used to view all of your investment and financial accounts in one place in order to help you monitor the big picture. Financial advice is available at an extra cost. Another app, SigFig , scans your portfolio every week for hidden fees or underperforming assets and then suggests changes. Motif is an iPhone-only app for those who invest in only one sector of the market. A minimum portfolio of $250 is required, and commissions are charged.
GoBank is a mobile banking service with an app designed for Android and iPhone users. To make a deposit to a GoBank account, snap a photo of the check; use a debit card to transfer money; or set up direct deposit. The powerful app also helps with money management, building a budget, and anticipating future income or expenses.
Mint and HelloWallet apps gather all your accounts in one place. Mint is a free app that allows users to track outlays with a few clicks and will send reminders when bills are due. Hello Wallet is provided free by some employers; otherwise, it costs $8.95 a month after the first 30 days. Both are available for iPhone and Android devices, and from each company’s Web site. Mint is also available as a browser add-on for iPhone and Android devices.
Wallaby is a handy guide for those with multiple credit cards who want help in maximizing their rewards and cash-back options. It’s free. The Manilla app assists folks on the go with keeping track of when bills are due. The BillGuard app can be a plus for full-timers, because it monitors credit and debit cards and lets cardholders know if it finds suspect charges. It can be used on Apple devices that include Passbook but not on the iPad. It’s free for up to three credit cards.
Most major banks now have free apps designed specifically for their customers. So do most brokers and the Bloomberg investment advisory service.
RV writer Pamela Wright recommends Gas Buddy, her favorite app for finding the best fuel prices in a particular location. Both gasoline and diesel fuel prices are included.
Hukkster is a browser add-on, not an app, that lets users bookmark an item that is for sale online and then receive notification if the price dips 25 or 50 percent (your choice). Honey, another browser add-on, finds discount codes for online shoppers. It currently works only with Google Chrome or Firefox.
To the dismay of many retailers, some in-store shoppers now scan bar codes and use an app to see whether the item is available for less at another store or online. When confronted with this information, many merchants will match the price on the spot. If this approach is for you, look into RedLaser and InvisibleHand.
Square Wallet makes it possible to use a smartphone to pay at the cash register at more than 250,000 (and growing) stores and fast-food outlets. It’s free. Google Wallet, available for Android only, is another automatic payment system that uses smartphones. PayPal’s app is free, although other charges may apply, and it can be used only where PayPal is accepted. However, it works on the most devices: computer, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone.
Skype is a familiar favorite among people who use the free service (or $4.99 for premium service) to make free phone calls or send video or text messages. A similar app, Viber, is free, but it doesn’t support video, and if you call someone who is not on Viber, the minutes are charged to your cell phone.
On The Go
Waze is a traffic information app that provides updates about accident sites and other traffic jams, plus fuel prices. Information is supplied by other drivers, so it works best in big cities and other high-traffic situations. It’s available for iPhone and Android devices.
RepairPal is an app that can be used to keep track of maintenance schedules for your RV, generator, and towed vehicle.
Decide is a free app (or $30 annually for premium service) that helps shoppers narrow down choices when purchasing electronics, appliances, or home and garden items. It provides reviews from experts and retailers as well as from other consumers.
The Chimani National Parks app helps travelers to find parks and related details, to receive daily updates from the National Park Service, and to create lists of parks they plan to visit.
Private WiFi may be an ideal app for full-timers who access the Internet from public hot spots, as it encrypts data that moves to and from an iPhone.
Social And Personal
React Mobile turns a cell phone into an SOS device, using the best-available GPS information from the user’s present or last-known location. Preselect the contacts you want to receive notification if you get into trouble — not just 911, but people you want to reach via text message, Facebook, or Twitter. Then press one button to contact them all at once. Similarly, GWEN Alert is a free app that allows a smartphone user to preset up to five contacts to be notified if the user is in danger. It also relays the user’s GPS location.
Many apps provide personal reminders of birthdays and anniversaries, but ThankYouPro sends real paper cards. Order from your iPhone and the company will send out the card with a first-class stamp. Customize it with photos, a personal message, and signatures.
If you’re a golfer, use the Golf’s Greatest Destinations app to find golf courses in the United States and their descriptions, plus local information for each destination. Destinations also break down into categories, such as Best for Low Handicappers or Best for Golf and Beach.
One app can serve as your personal trainer no matter where you are. Enter your GPS location and the Endomondo app will show route maps for fitness runs or walks. It also puts you in touch with like-minded fitness buffs in the area and encourages your routine if you get bogged down. One version is free.
The Ultimate Link
For those who spend time in the 90 percent of the Earth that does not have cell phone coverage, DeLorme has launched a new generation of its inReach Satellite Communicator with GPS. Now with a color screen and virtual keyboard, the device has adjustable tracking intervals and stand-alone send-and-receive text-messaging capability. It pairs with DeLorme’s Earthmate app to work with iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Android devices. Its SOS feature creates follow-me and find-me locating information. The SE (Screen Edition) unit costs less than $300 and requires a monthly fee.
Looks At Books
Nancy Collamer, creator of www.mylifestylecareer.com, is a career coach with a master’s degree in career development. As an expert and author of Second-Act Careers: 50+Ways to Profit From Your Passions During Semi-Retirement ($14.99, Ten Speed Press), she has invaluable advice for motorhome travelers who want to become full-timers but need income.
First, decide whether you want to stay in your present field or start from scratch in a new profession. Ms. Collamer’s five-step plan includes many worksheets that snap you back to reality about what you really want and what you are capable of handling. She suggests 50 ways to earn an income and gives inspiring case histories of people who went into successful semi-retirement. The book is available in bookstores and through online booksellers.