By Melody Warnick
Technology not only makes life more fun (think iPods, Wii, Twitter), it makes it a whole lot easier too. Check out these high-tech solutions to low-tech problems like paper pile-ups, crazy schedules, financial chaos and more. They're safe, secure-and simpler than you may think.
1. See who's doing what. Swap your wall calendar for Google Calendar (Google.com/Calendar), which allows every member of the family, including teens and tweens, to enter new activities and events with a single log-in.
2. Pick a time. Planning a girl's night out can get as complicated as coordinating a space shuttle launch. Enter Doodle.com. Just create an online poll with possible days and times; invitees log in and mark which options work with their schedules. Goodbye, phone tag.
3. Make a reminder. Pick up a keychain memo recorder ($19.99; ImprovementsCatalog.com) so you'll no longer forget those important to-dos that suddenly leap to mind when you're at the grocery store, stuck in traffic-anywhere.
4. Manage your brood. For all-in-one ease, try Cozi.com, an online mission control system for families. Use the calendar to keep track of appointments, color-code them by family member, and send them to your phone so you're always in the right place at the right time.
Pare Down Paper
5. Remember everything. Tired of losing your umpteenth emergency contact sheet or travel checklist? Turn to Springpadit.com to manage all the lists in your life in one handy online place.
6. Snap a photo. Take a picture, it lasts longer-and cuts paper clutter too. After registering with Qipit.com, use your camera phone to snap a digital picture of hand-scrawled recipes, directions you want to save, just about anything. E-mail it to Qipit and they'll e-mail back a PDF that you can store on your hard drive. Then toss the original.
7. Trash the manual. Pitch appliance manuals when you get them. When you have a question, you can likely find the answer on the manufacturer's website or at sites like ManualsMania.com or TheUserManualSite.com.
8. Master your shopping list. Keep grocery lists from piling up in the bottom of your purse with the Grocery iQ iPhone or iPod Touch app (99¢; download at iTunes store). A database of more than 130,000 items lets you pinpoint exactly what you want (from Diet Coke to Del Monte peaches). You can drag and drop items to match the layout of your supermarket, so you'll avoid backtracking. Next time, your list will reorder itself.
9. Bank on bill-free payment. Stop the monthly tide of paper credit card statements and bills by paying online, either through your bank, your creditor's website or a budgeting site like Mvelopes.com. No matter where on the web you pay, you can keep your records tidy by downloading a free screen capture application like Jing (JingProject.com) to snap and save a digital image of your payment receipt. File it away on your hard drive-a whole lot easier than hauling out your accordion folder.
10. Shop smart. Ever wish all your favorite stores were under one roof? At iStorez.com, you can search more than 500 online stores and brands at once, including Talbots, Ann Taylor and Lands' End. Plus, you can assemble your regulars into a "mall" so you can see can't-miss sales at a glance.
11. Corral accounts. Make handling your money simpler with an online financial management system like Wesabe.com or Mint.com, which pulls in real-time info from all your accounts: IRAs, 401(k)s, 529s. "With Wesabe I can log on once a day and check all my balances, and even add future transactions," says Kelly Whalen of Exton, Pennsylvania.
12. Get a grip on bills. If you're racking up late fees, use Pageonce.com and get automatic e-mail reminders of your payment due dates. Bonus: The site's Cell Minute Tracker lets you keep an eye on your kids' pricey texting.
13. Stop the scraps. You dutifully track your spending. But when you're on the go, that often means jotting down what you paid for something on a slip of paper. No need for all those purse-clogging "notes to self." Instead, try the Spend iPhone application (99¢; download at iTunes store), which lets you instantly record what you spend and track how much you have left in your budget.
Organize Your Online Life
14. Protect passwords. Corral them with a free downloadable app like KeePass (KeePass.info). You only have to remember one password, not dozens. Or try a low-tech solution, like the Open Sesame! Password Reminder Log ($12; SeeJaneWork.com). Since the log is low-security, always keep it in a safe place!
15. Junk the junk mail. "I don't want my personal e-mail account loaded with spam, so I created another one just to sign up for coupons, websites and giveaways," says Courtney Foster of Raymore, Missouri. To register for sites like YouTube or most major newspapers' websites, use BugMeNot.com, which supplies existing log-ins and passwords so your e-mail address won't get spammed.
16. Unite your e-mail. Is it getting harder to track your messages? Gmail allows you to funnel up to five of your old e-mail accounts into a single inbox, so you don't have to check them individually. After registering at Mail.Google.com, click "Settings," then "Accounts," and plug in your other e-mail addresses.
Declutter Your Home
17. Create a gadget hangout. Give your PDA, cell phone and MP3 player their own sleek athome parking spaces with the Kangaroom Bamboo 3 Pod charging station ($45; KangaRoomStorage.com). Now you'll actually remember where you put them all.
18. Know what you have. Inventory your belongings at KnowYourStuff.org and you'll have a handy list in case of fire or theft, plus you'll finally know what's really up in the attic. The site will even generate a home maintenance calendar and e-mail you occasional upkeep reminders.
19. Plug it in. The LaCie Hub may look like an octopus, but its seven "arms" are really USB cables for connecting accessories to your computer: a printer, a scanner, a camera, an MP3 player and more. Just the thing for peripheral overload. ($79.99; LaCie.com)
20. Label it. An oldie but a goodie, a label maker helps you get stacks of stuff in order. Besides, it's just plain fun to make them. With the DYMO Personal Label Maker LetraTag Plus ($29.99; DYMO.com), you can customize with different fonts and text styles. You can even print on magnetic tape- perfect for filing cabinet drawers.
21. Contain cords. Undo the Medusa-like tangle behind your stereo, television, computer and other electronics with the new Corg ($9.99 for four; CordOrder.com). It's a compact, foam-padded clip that marshals cords and wires into separate rows, then attaches to the back of a desk or entertainment center to keep them off the floor and out of sight.
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