The end of the year is a time for taking stock. We set goals for the year ahead. We look back at what we did well and what we could improve. And, above all, we wonder how to make life easier next year. There is no all-encompassing answer to that question, but there are ways that technology can help you with everything from diet to finance, and maybe even expand your mind. Here are seven apps that will help you have a better 2019.
After the inevitable expenses of the holiday season, the start of the new year usually brings the feeling that it’s time to get back to the budget. That’s not always easy, but Mint can help. The app allows you to view and manage various financial accounts, but the best thing about it is the ability to keep tabs on expenses. Think of it as a fitness tracker for your wallet. Mint allows you to set and manage financial goals, divided into categories, so you can deal with anything from paying off debts and saving for a home to keeping your grocery bills manageable.
Speaking of fitness trackers, it’s time to recover from holiday overconsumption and start the year off right. Good health depends greatly on what you eat, and Myfitnesspal enables you to manage that. At its core, the app is a food diary which, in addition to providing a detailed record of what you eat, tells you the nutritional and caloric value of your food. Myfitnesspal’s benefits include a searchable food database featuring millions of different items, quite a few surprises (avocados and almonds are more fattening than you think), and support for a range of diets, from Atkins to Zone. You can interact with real-life fitness pals when the going gets tough on included discussion forums.
As our culture becomes increasingly cashless, it can be difficult to handle some of the simple tasks we used to do with paper money: split the bill at a restaurant, lend money to friends (and get paid back), buy random things at flea markets. Venmo is the easiest platform for transferring money, and its growing popularity (payment volume is increasing over 70% year-on-year) means the person you want to transact with probably has it too. Venmo is an app that makes life less hard. It may even be becoming an app that will make life harder if you don’t have it. One thing to note: the app’s default settings make your transactions public. While this feature is part of Venmo’s popularity among college-age users, others may wish to change their settings to private.
Taking photographs is easier than it has ever been, but taking good ones can still be challenging. Photo editing apps are almost as ubiquitous as photos themselves, but many professional photographers use Snapseed for their non-work pictures. It’s powerful enough for serious users and radical retouching, but the interface is simple enough for the neophyte who just wants the colors of the sunset to actually look as beautiful as he thought they were.
If you menstruate, you want this app. There’s a dizzying array of period tracker apps on the market, but the consensus among organizations as diverse as Oxford University and Elle magazine is that Clue is one of the best. Beyond highly accurate period tracking (which is rarer in the field than one might hope), Clue also provides a huge amount of sexual health information, and can correctly answer a wide variety of period-related questions thanks to its large pool of data and working relationships with numerous universities and medical research centers. The app also has a simple interface and a refreshingly straightforward, no-nonsense tone.
It would be irresponsible to say that alcohol is the way to make 2019 easier, but let’s agree that if you are going to drink, it should be easy to figure out what to get. When it comes to wine, however, that can be tricky, which is why Vivino is useful. The app includes a wine and grape guide, tasting notes, food pairing suggestions and price comparisons for different vintages. It also includes a diary of what you’ve tried in the past and how you felt about it, and it allows you to follow others (including sommeliers) so you can learn from them. Think of it as a tech-driven kind of social drinking.
Inevitably, one of the hardest things about next year will be the same as what we struggled with last year — trying not to waste time on your smartphone. You already know you’ll be reaching for it during commutes and other downtimes, so instead of bouncing between games, Instagram and not-actually-urgent emails, why not use your trusty device to learn a new language? The Duolingo app can teach you various languages, including the major European ones, and the gamified interface and bite-sized lessons make it both fun and practical for smartphone users. Learning a new language may not make 2019 any easier, but at least you’ll be able to discuss the year’s challenges with more people.
Michael Davis is a freelance writer and editor who has covered everything from fashion and music to parenting, work, and finance. He has been a chef, restaurateur and record label owner.