Wednesday, January 5, 2011

manage personal finances

We are mere days away from 2011, and still happily ensconced in the holiday madness of 2010. This jolly season, which usually kicks off at Halloween, is a fast-moving fog of candy, cookies, cards and frenzy at the malls. It is also hopefully full of joy, laughter and quality time with family.

After the season’s last hurrah on New Year’s, what emerges is a renewed sense of spirit for the coming year –- and sometimes a desire to undo everything that has just been done. This is precisely why most people hit the ground running on January 1 with a resolve to lose weight, get in shape, walk the dog more, and so on.

The following roundup contains apps that can serve as trusty sidekicks to help you keep those resolutions you swear you’ll actually follow through on this year. In addition to personal health, other common resolutions include managing finances more efficiently, quitting smoking, finding a better job and finding love. There are obviously many more apps out there for each category, but I’ve hand-picked twelve to help you get 2011 off to a good start. Happy New Year!

Losing Weight/>

Lose It!/>

Lose It is a great, easy-to-use app that provides users with features for managing and tracking their weight loss and fitness goals. With an extensive database of foods and nutritional information available, you can simply scroll through the options and log what you have consumed for the day to get a total calorie count. The app also tracks calories burned through fitness and shows where you’ve gone over or under your caloric requirements for weight loss each day.

Cost: FREE

Go Meals/>

A dieter’s dilemma: You’re eating out at a restaurant and have no idea what the best choices are that are still suitable for your dieting needs. Go Meals is a helpful app for those moments when you’re out at P.F. Chang’s and want to know if the Mongolian Beef is less caloric than the Orange Peel Beef (it’s not). This app also includes thousands of listings for grocery store foods and provides full nutritional information for foods you eat on a daily basis. When an item has been chosen, you can save them to “Today’s Plate” and keep a log of your caloric, fat and protein intake. A very handy tool.

Cost: FREE

Getting in Shape/>

Fitness Free/>

This is a great free app that provides photographs and detailed steps for each of its more than 320 exercises. Essentially every major muscle group is reflected and you can use this app to get good ideas for triceps, quads or any other body part that you want to improve. There is also a section offering a small selection of pre-bundled, three-day workouts, or you can select exercises of your choosing and create your own customized workout.

Cost: FREE


iPersonalTrainer prompts users to create a workout and select which muscle groups they want to work by pointing to them on a (very buff) illustrated man. The app then takes you to a page with instructional videos for each exercise along with tips for good technique. The app also includes a Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator, weight tracker and progress log so you can keep track of your workouts while you get that hard body.

Cost: $.99

Organizing Finances/>

Pay Off Debt/>

Pay Off Debt provides a good template for users to track and manage all current balances and debts. Using an intuitive interface and the debt snowball method, this app lets you prioritize debts and see estimated times left to pay off each one. You can plan monthly payments for each and view progress bars as you begin chipping away at what’s owed. Based on your payment schedule, the app will also provide you with a date for when you are completely debt-free.

Cost: $3.99


Mint is a free app that automatically syncs all of your financial information directly from your online banking accounts, eliminating the need to manually enter all information. You can set up budgets and categories with spending limits on each; track your incoming and outgoing income; track investment accounts and more. The app also alerts you to things like large purchases, when a check clears, or if you go over budget. In addition, security measures are in place to lock iPhoneclass="blippr-nobr">iPhone access if lost or stolen.

Cost: FREE

Quitting Smoking/>

MyQuit Coach/>

MyQuit Coach is a highly-personalizable plan to help smokers quit. Users can set the parameters for the plan and upload personal photos and inspirational motivators to stay on track, and the app awards users with achievement badges when quitting goals have been reached. The app also connects to Facebookclass="blippr-nobr">Facebook, Twitterclass="blippr-nobr">Twitter and LIVESTRONG for additional moral support and information for users.

Cost: $.99


Quitter is an app that takes a slightly different approach. This lets users track progress by reminding them how long they’ve been smoke-free and how much money they have saved thus far. Users can refer to the app on a daily basis and keep track of how long they’ve gone without smoking and what they would have spent if they had continued.

Cost: FREE

Getting a Better Job/> Jobs/>

As one of the largest job search sites available, the app is a great complement for anyone with a Monster account (which is free to register) and gives users access to the same listings they’d find online. The app automatically syncs with your web-based account and enables you to access saved job listings, resumes, saved searches and more from your iPhone. You can also use the iPhone’s built-in GPS system to locate jobs near you.

Cost: FREE

What Color is Your Parachute?/>

You’ve found the job you want, but the next step is the interview. The expression, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” couldn’t be truer when it comes to this opportunity, which is likely the only time you have to sell yourself and demonstrate why you are a fit for the job. The What Color is Your Parachute? app is a complement to the eponymous job-seekers’ “bible” and walks users through the job interview process and how to nail it. Tips on interview questions and questions to ask are featured, as well as top 10 mistakes to avoid. It’s a good read for anyone who is preparing for a big interview.

Cost: FREE

Finding Love/>

Dating DNA/>

Unlike other dating apps that require you to have an existing subscription to its web-based site, or are sketchier and only use GPS-navigation to track “singles near you,” Dating DNA is a free app and service that matches people based on compatibility scores. When you are deemed compatible by the app, based on both your ratings, you are then able to view each other’s profiles and connect. The app also provides “at-a-glance” compatibility scoring and dating potential indicators to help you determine if your potential mate is worth pursuing.

Cost: FREE

Love Survival Kit/>

If you need help in the love department and are looking for advice on what to do in certain situations, wikiHow’s Love Survival Kit is a good resource to have. There is plenty of information and dating advice for categories like “Awkward Situations” (ex. Escape Cuddling in Bed); “Breaking Up” (ex. Keep a Friendship After a Breakup) or “Relationship Skills” (ex. Stop Being Needy). Some of articles can be more funny than useful, but then again, sometimes with dating, people need all the help they can get.

Cost: FREE

Which apps did you find most useful? How do you plan to jumpstart your New Year’s resolutions? Let us know in the comments below.

More iPhone Resources from Mashable:

- 10 iPhone Apps for the Global Foodie/> - 10 Useful iPhone Keyboard Shortcuts, Tips and Tricks/> - 10 Incredible iPhone Portrait Photographs/> - 10 Incredible iPhone Photographs/> - 10 Ridiculous iPhone Accessories [PICS]

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The theory is simple: "If you don't have the money, don't charge it. Try to leave your credit card at home and only use it to pay bills," advises April Lewis, director of education for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services. Then immediately pay off your credit-card balance. As for old credit-card debt, sit down and commit to paper a plan for paying them off. Go for a quick hit, like paying off the smallest balance first, or decide to take on the highest rate card first. Get the job done.

Here's a second tip: Be proactive about managing your credit. Call up your lender and ask it to lower your interest rate. Usually, lenders will lower callers' rates by 2% to 3%, says Scott Gamm, founder of Also check your credit report. You can check your credit for free at, for example. If you see mistakes, contact the credit agencies and get those mistakes corrected. If errors are dragging down your score, eliminating them can boost it to where it belongs and make you eligible for better rates.

2. Think automation

Free online banking tools can make it easier to manage your finances with less work. To help grow your savings, for example, you can schedule regular transfers from your checking account. Manisha Thakor, author of Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money With Your Honey, suggests setting up the transfer of a set amount of money into your savings account every pay day.

Also automate recurring bill payments so you never miss a due date or pay a late fee, which sends money down the drain. Even without late fees, timely payments are key: 35% of your credit score is based on your ability to make payments on time. If you sign up for automatic payments, however, make sure to check your monthly bills for errors. One other caveat: "Make sure you have enough cushion in your checking account to avoid any overdrafts" before setting up auto-payments, money coach Lora Sasiela says.

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