5 Useful Apps for Post-Consumers

Please excuse the post title. The “How to Write a Better Blog Post” gurus say lists like that make better titles. Supposedly people search for that kind of thing. Seems kinda silly to me.

So with tongue securely in cheek, here are the Top 5 Apps that have made my life more efficient and minimalist. Hey, Post-Consumer doesn’t mean Post-Technology. I’m all about technology that elegantly solves a problem, as evidenced by my high-speed internet dish attached to the manzanita and our solar light in the Shouthouse.

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1. You Need a Budget. We’ve kept a budget and tracked our expenses for years now. We’ve use Mint to track our investments since 2008, and still do. But in the past year, I was turned on to YNAB, which is by far the best personal budgeting software around.

YNAB’s differentiating factor is that as money comes in, you assign it a job, whether that be for groceries, fuel, birthday gift, savings, whatever. In other words, instead of predicting what you will take in and spend in the coming month, you input what you actually have and decide where that’s going to go. No dollar gets left unassigned and waiting for you to frivolously spend. It totally changes how you view your money. Plus, with the app, Mauricio and I can each immediately see how much we’ve allocated to, say, groceries, and then input an expense right there at the grocery checkout, so our budget is always synched and real time. The app is free, but the software is $60, which hurts when you’re hyper-vigilant about every penny you spend. But the free trial period showed us that it would pay off. It has.

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2. GasBuddy. I love this free app for finding the cheapest gas anywhere I need to fill up. It’s crowd-sourced info, with people constantly reporting and updating each station’s prices, and I’ve always found it accurate. Within a five mile radius of gas stations, I often see differences of .40 or .50 per gallon!

I used to go to whichever gas station was closest and easiest. I now see how wasteful of our income that was. Another high price paid for convenience. We easily save a couple hundred bucks a year just by going to the cheapest gas station, thanks to GasBuddy.

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3. Waze. This is my go-to navigation app. Also crowd-sourced, you get the fastest driving route to your destination based on real-time information. This beats your dealer-installed navi.

Accident ahead? Waze updates your route automatically to find a faster detour. Cop hiding? Waze alerts you in case your lead foot has inadvertently taken over. This app saves both time and money that would otherwise be spent stuck in traffic, or worse, getting a speeding ticket. You can also text a link of your route, so somebody impatiently waiting for you knows exactly where you are and when you’ll be there. No need to name names here. It’s free.

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4. CamScanner. When we moved and unloaded most of our stuff, one of the things to go was our behemoth of a printer/scanner. I kept my tiny travel printer, in case I really need to print something, which is almost never. And instead of scanning things with a big machine, I use CamScanner to get hi-res scans of documents and photos with my handy-dandy phone. I also used it on-the-spot to scan the driver’s license of the guy who bought our minivan from Craigslist. It has helped me go almost completely paperless. I upload my stuff to Google docs. Way less paper. Way less ink. Way less physical stuff to put in manila folders.

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5. SignNow. When we sold our fancy house, we did all the “paperwork” without paper. It was all signed through Docusign, and then we got it all on a disc for our records. That was really cool, because if you’ve ever bought a home, then you know how ridiculous the amount of paperwork is. Now I use a personal app that lets me sign documents with an esignature and return them without ever printing them out.

I get purchase orders for my writing work that I have to return signed. Before, I would print it out, sign it, scan it back in, then fax or email it. Way too many steps. With SignNow, I get the PO emailed to me, open it in SignNow, put in my stored signature signed with my finger on my phone, insert the auto-date, create a pdf, and email back, all in the SignNow app. Love this thing. No printing or paper involved.

Disclaimer: I made a conscious decision not to ever do advertising or promote products to buy here. Not that I’d ever get big enough for anyone to want to advertise here. But just sayin’. My one exception is when I find local people doing really great work that reflects my post-consumer values, like the soap we use in our Shouthouse and the consignment boutique where we get our used kids’ clothes. In that spirit, the apps here are all free. I’ve not been invited to test or promote them. I’m just sharing what I’ve found useful to a more post-consumer life.