Apps to Ease Your Holiday Planning
For parents with bulging schedules, it's naive to think a few apps will spare you all the stress associated with the holidays. Still, a well-equipped smartphone can help get at least some of the details under control. The apps listed here are free. Most work on multiple platforms and all seem especially likely to help parents.
Make a list. If Santa had Christmas Gift List Planner, he wouldn't have to check twice. This app, found at Google Play, helps Android users keep all their lists in one place. Better Christmas Gift List does something similar for iPhone users. Both apps let you make lists of recipients, gift ideas and price ranges, so they help you stay on track with your holiday spending. Download at play.google.com.
Find the best deal. Naturally, you want to get the most out of your holiday gift budget. Red Laser can help by giving you instant price information from local stores, as well as online vendors, just by scanning an item's barcode. There's also a timesaving "Buy It" feature that lets you prepay for an item so it will be ready to pick up when you get to the store. Download at redlaser.com
Blitz Black Friday. If you like to plunge into sales the day after Thanksgiving, download TGIBlackFriday, which shows you ads for 50 major retailers as soon as they are available. The app also lets you create a personal shopping list so you can compare prices on items you plan to buy. Available at tgiblackfriday.com.
Zero in on the best tech gifts. Gadgets of one kind or another are among the most popular holiday gifts to receive - and among the most stressful to give. The Decide app alerts you to products that are about to become obsolete. Although the full app requires a subscription, you can enjoy one month free. December is a great time to test-drive its product ratings. Available at decide.com.
Do it yourself. In many families, the best gifts are homemade. For inspiration, check out the free apps available from Michaels.com and Joann.com. (Go to the websites and search for App). Both apps make suggestions about kid-friendly projects and alert you to make-it-yourself sessions at the stores.
Zip through grocery shopping. Build and manage meal plans with Ziplist. In addition to the 400,000 recipes on the website, you can clip recipes you want to try from blogs and other sources. During the holidays, the best feature may be the shopping list generator which tells you exactly what you'll need to buy to make the cookies and other treats you want to serve. Go to ziplist.com.
Send great greetings. Convert photos into tangible cards and postcards for as little as 99 cents with apps at Sincerely.com. The app interfaces with your contact list making it easy to send personalized greetings to family, friends and colleagues. If you snap pictures of kids opening gifts, you can also send thank-you notes that really capture their excitement and gratitude.
Mellow out with music. When your to-do list threatens to extinguish your holiday spirit, turn on Christmas Radio. This app gives you access to 40 stations that play nothing but holiday music in every possible style, from religious to rock and jazz to country. Available at Bluemedialab.com.
Of course, downloading and fooling with apps can be a distraction. That's why it's important to remember that the purpose of each of these is to streamline your holiday chores. Used effectively, they will free up room for what really matters during the holidays - quality time with children, family and friends.
Carolyn Jabs raised three computer-savvy kids, including one with special needs. She has written a column about parenting and technology for 10 years.