Give yourself a gift this Mother's Day: more time. These tools can help.
I don't know about you, but this year for Mother's Day, I know what I'd appreciate more than anything is a little help.
These tools can deliver just that—though you don't need to be a mom to use them.
VolunteerSpot is a free online coordination tool used by busy moms, teachers, or anyone who needs to coordinate participation from others for activities like help in the classroom, parent-teacher conferences, service projects, donations for silent auctions, or staffing for sporting events or races.
The site was born out of one mother's frustration with reply-all email chains. On a 35-minute plane ride from Austin to Dallas to meet with a client for her consulting business Karen Bantuveris received 45 reply-all messages about whose turn it was to help in her child's kindergarten classroom.
"This to me was a systems problem," she says. "People wanted to help, but over-communication was getting in the way."
With its easy-to-use interface VolunteerSpot has garnered more than 1.5 million users since launching in 2009. I was able to register on the site and set up a volunteering event in less than 10 minutes. It also sends automatic reminders to volunteers so they don't forget about their committment to help and there are premium versions available for $5-$30 that add features such as participant hours tracking, custom volunteer registration fields and multiple organizers.
Mothers are keen on keeping their kids safe online. While Net Nanny isn't new, it's definitely one of the leaders in its space. Parents use it, but schools have also implemented it and there's even a business version. It's a software application that gives parents control over how their kids use the Internet and is designed to protect them from pornography and other adult-themed sites, violence, profanity, cyberbullying and stalking.
Net Nanny has some great features. It doesn't allow peer-to-peer sharing, lets parents set time limits for how long kids can use the Web as well as vary rules based on children's ages. It also lets them set ratings limits for games.
Probably its most differentiating feature, however, is its Dynamic Content Analysis, which looks at a webpage in real-time for inappropriate content before it opens and blocks it; it doesn't just rely on predetermined websites or pages for filtering.
In January, Net Nanny release a mobile version for Android devices that provides the same protection for kids on the go; it runs $19.99 a year. The desktop version is $39.99 per year.
This learning program for the iPad is a library of mobile apps that provide digital storybooks, narrated video books, as well as other literary activities for kids. Moms (and dads) like it because Ruckus Reader gives them feedback on their child's reading experience through weekly "Reader Meter" email reports and an online dashboard that communicates details about how a child is progressing in terms of in-app reading skills such as phonics and word recognition, print awareness, fluency, alphabet knowledge, sequencing, and story comprehension.
Ruckus Reader was created by Ruckus Media Group Founder and CEO Rick Richter, a father and the former president and publisher of Simon & Schuster's children's division.
"What I like most about the Ruckus Reader is that a parent can list up to four people to receive the Ruckus Reader Meter. This means a teacher, a parent who doesn't live in the home, a favorite grandparent or aunt can all receive updates on a child's progress," Richter says. "Essentially, we can build a community around the child actively engaged in the child's progress."
Manilla is a free online and mobile household account and bill organizer that helps consumers manage their accounts like credit cards, utilities and phone bills, subscriptions, daily deals, and travel rewards programs.
To set it up, you give Manilla the login credentials for your various accounts and afterward you'll be able to access them all with one password. The dashboard shows you all your balances at once, when payments are due, as well as a repository of account statements that you can download, print, or email. You can also configure it to shoot you email or text message reminders so you know when to pay bills, or in my case, flags to know when automatic payments are getting paid and funds are leaving my bank account.
Manilla is backed by the giant media company Hearst Corporation.
This free location-based discovery service app for iPhone and Android is great for mothers who want to find family-friendly things to do during the summer months while the kids are out of school.
Its strength and utility lies in its personalization and intelligence. It filters out things that a real person wouldn't probably want, such as outdoor spaces in the winter. Picksie also has some handy features such as integrated museum schedules, a quick-click ticketing feature, and thousands of on-app menus and restaurant reviews.
Picksie also gets smarter the more you use it in terms of the kinds of places and venues it will serve you. It takes into account weather, time of day, day of the week, and location when recommending things to do.
One caveat—for now it only works in the New York City and San Francisco Bay areas, but national rollout is coming soon.
Moms are incessantly buying teachers gifts on behalf of their kids. But just how many trinkets or bottles of lotion can one teacher appreciate?
Tango Card is a way for groups of people to easily chip in for a collective gift. It's as simple as this: One organizing parent visits the Tango Card website, establishes the parameters of the gift, and invites other families that can contribute funds and share messages and photos.
Teachers, for their part, receive the gift value with a digital greeting card and can redeem their balance at retailers like Amazon, Target, or Starbucks, donate to a non-profit or even redeem it for cash.
Tango Card is free to use.
Many moms are into saving money but who's got time to clip paper coupons anymore?
Supposedly the the largest online coupon site in the United States, second only to Groupon, RetailMeNot gets 400 million site visits each year and works with more than 100,000 retailers. At the site you can redeem coupons to use during checkout at an online retailer, or print them to take with to brick-and-mortar stores.
What's really unique about RetailMeNot is half of the 500,000 coupons on the site at any given time are submitted by community members. And there's no sign-up necessary whatsoever--the site doesn't ask for any of your personal information.
Since many mothers double as the IT administrator in the home, PC Tools' Windows utilities product, Performance Toolkit, is a good one, especially if you're thinking about selling or offloading your computer.
The software, available as a $39.99 download for a 1-year subscription on up to three PCs, works to maintain the overall health of your PC while also protecting your personal information and files. For example, you might not know that emptying your Recycle Bin doesn't completely remove the files from your machine; even a moderately skilled hacker can retrieve them.
Performance Toolkit removes browsing history, deletes cookies, bleaches the hard drive, and shreds digital files. And it just makes computers work better.
The eMeals team constructs and publishes more than 30 meal plans and corresponding grocery lists every week based on food style preferences, family size, and what's on sale at your preferred grocery stores (including Whole Foods). Dinner menu plans include classic family meals, low-fat, portion control, low-carb, gluten-free, vegetarian dishes and organic.
The site's founder, a mother of four, created it after struggling with meal planning herself and finding her reality to be drastically different from that of her mother, who had no problem feeding her large family on a small grocery budget with a weekly meal plan of her own creation.
This one comes recommended by personal finance guru Dave Ramsey and a membership with weekly emails costs $5 a month. Coming soon to mobile.
Put this one on your "Apps to Watch" list. It's an app for iPhone and Android that pays multitasking mothers (or anyone) for engaging with brands.
After downloading Stringfly, you can browse various assignments and choose one to do while you're shopping or running errands.
For example, an offer might give users coupons and cash for simply finding a product in a particular store, checking it out, uploading a photo of it, and giving some feedback to the brand. Any coupons are emailed to users and cash is sent out via PayPal or in the mail.
Stringfly is still building up its partner brands so for now most assignments are only in places like New York and Miami.
What apps for moms did I miss? Leave your favorites in the comments.
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