Prep for Back-to-School Lunches with These 4 Credit Cards

backtoschool

[Disclosure: Cards from our partners are reviewed below.]

Sending your kid off to school every day with a packed lunch can feel quite rewarding. But it can also lighten your wallet, as the Snack Pack puddings and Capri Suns needed for daily lunches really add to your grocery bill over the course of the school year.

Some credit cards can make packed lunches more affordable, putting cash back in your pocket whenever you buy groceries.

Here are four of our favorite credit cards for packing school lunches.

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express 

Rewards: 6% cash back on up to $6,000 in US supermarket purchases per year (and 1% on purchases beyond that threshold); 3% cash back at US gas stations and eligible department stores; and 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: $150 bonus cash back in the form of a statement credit if you spend $1,000 in the first three months.
Annual Fee:
$0 for the first year, then $95.
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): Variable 13.99% to 24.99% APR on balance transfers and purchases.
Why We Picked It: This card offers the best supermarket cash back rate we’ve seen.
For Packing Lunches: All supermarket purchases earn 6% cash back (up to a $6,000 annual limit, at which point the rate drops to 1%), which will go a long way toward slashing your lunch expenses. Plus, 3% cash back at US gas stations and select department stores can help you afford trips to the store and any back-to-school clothes.
Drawbacks: There’s a $95 annual fee.

2. Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi

Rewards: 4% cash back on up to $7,000 in eligible gas purchases each year (and 1% cash back on gas purchases beyond that limit); 3% cash back on dining and eligible travel purchases; 2% cash back on Costco and Costco.com purchases; and 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee:
$0 with a paid Costco membership.
APR: 0% APR for seven months on purchases, then variable 16.24% APR; variable 16.24% APR on balance transfers.
Why We Picked It: You’ll earn a nice 2% cash back on all lunch supplies purchased at Costco.
For Packing Lunches: With 2% cash back in-store and online, Costco members can save on groceries and more. And that’s on top of the great deals on bulk food you’ll get with your membership, saving you even more as you pack those lunches. As a bonus, gas, dining, and travel purchases all earn special cash back rates.
Drawbacks: You have to be a Costco member to access this card.

3. Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas and 2% cash back on groceries and wholesale club purchases for up to $2,500 in combined spending each quarter; 1% cash back on other purchases.
Sign-Up Bonus: $150 online bonus cash reward if you spend $500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee:
$0
APR: 0% APR for 12 months on balance transfers (made within 60 days) and purchases, then variable 13.99% to 23.99% APR on balance transfers and purchases.
Why We Picked It: This card earns solid cash back for groceries at a wide range of merchants.
For Packing Lunches: Purchases at both supermarkets and wholesale clubs earn a respectable 2% cash back. You’ll also get 3% cash back on gas and score a 0% APR for 12 months.
Drawbacks: Special cash back rates are capped at $2,500 in purchases per quarter.

4. Citi Double Cash

Rewards: 1% cash back on purchases and an additional 1% upon payment.
Sign-Up Bonus: None
Annual Fee:
$0
APR: Variable 14.49% to 24.49% APR on purchases; 0% APR for 18 months on balance transfers, then variable 14.49% to 24.49% APR.
Why We Picked It: No matter what you buy, you’ll earn 2% cash back once you’ve paid it off.
For Packing Lunches: You can earn 2% cash back on groceries and everything else, with the full cash back awarded once purchases are paid off.
Drawbacks: The full value of this card is only available if you pay off balances promptly.

How to Choose a Card for Packing School Lunches

If you primarily use your credit card for groceries, choose the card with the best cash back rate at your merchant of choice.

If you tend to use your credit card for a variety of other purchases, on the other hand, you’ll need to take a closer look at your spending habits and the cash back offers on the market. Try to choose a card that rewards the purchases you most frequently make.

Remember that cash back cards are most valuable when the balance is paid off in full each month. Otherwise, interest can diminish the value of your cash back rewards.

What Credit Is Required for a Credit Card for Groceries?  

The best cash back cards usually require good to excellent credit. Be sure to check your credit score before applying, as you’ll want to be confident in your ability to get approved. You can check your credit report free at Credit.com.

Image: istock

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, and Citi Double Cash cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees, and terms for credit cards, loans, and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees, and terms with credit card issuers, banks, or other financial institutions directly. 

The post Prep for Back-to-School Lunches with These 4 Credit Cards appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Save Big on Your Back-to-School Shopping

It's easy to overspend at World Market but with these ways to save, you can breathe a sigh of relief when checking your receipt.

Back-to-school season generally starts around two months before the beginning of school—so if you haven’t started yet, you’re already behind. What once required a few Dixon Ticonderoga pencils and a notebook now requires carts full of supplies. In 2016, the National Retail Federation estimated that families with children in grades K–12 would spend an average of $673 on clothes, accessories, school supplies, electronics, and shoes during the back-to-school season. Based on robust wage growth, I expect that number to increase for 2017.

While most parents will take advantage of some sales during the back-to-school season, you can save more by identifying the right time to buy. As an industry insider, I can give you the tips you need to save on back-to-school shopping.

Back-to-School Clothes

A lot of people are shocked to learn that clearance sales aren’t necessarily the best time to buy clothes. When the items go on clearance, the first markdown will generally be in the neighborhood of 20ؘ%–30%. On the other hand, retailers will regularly mark down items 40% during a one- to two-week sale.

The only clothes you want to buy on clearance are those that will go beyond a store’s first markdown. Unfortunately, markdown rates are set on a store-by-store basis according to inventory levels and can be difficult to predict. As a result, I don’t risk waiting for deep clearance discounts.

Instead, take advantage of seasonal sales for the best results. The deals vary by category, so I give some specific guidance of finding the best clothing deals.

Uniforms

Major clothing retailers will often advertise an annual “uniform sale.” This sale takes place a few weeks before private schools reopen in your area. Start watching weekly ads the week following the Fourth of July to be sure you catch the deals.

During their uniform sales, major retailers (especially Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, and Walmart) offer huge discounts on khakis, polos, and black pants. You’ll want to buy enough during the sale to last the whole year.

When I worked in retail, savvy parents with kids in private school would often buy two to three different sizes during uniform sales. That way, they didn’t have to pay full price when their kid inevitably grew during the school year.

By the way, public school parents should pay attention to these sales, too. They are the people who get caught paying full price for Dockers when their kid has to wear black pants for a holiday band performance.

Summer Styles

Summer styles typically go on sale in May and June, and they tend to go to clearance by early July. After the first day of school, your kids will probably spend weeks or even months going to school in shorts and T-shirts (depending on where you live), so you may want to supplement your school wardrobe with summer fashion choices that go on sale during those earlier months.

You won’t find sales on summer styles during back-to-school shopping, but you might find some decent clearance items. Remember, the first markdown on clearance is usually in the 20%–30% off bracket.

That’s not a great deal, and you’ll probably find fall fashion sales with lower-priced options. However, if you see an item for 50%–60% off the original price, it’s a good deal and worth buying if it fits your clothing needs. An item for 70%–75% off retail will generally be out of the store in a week or two, so snap that deal up immediately.

Steep discounts on clearance items don’t mean the product has quality issues. It just indicates that the product didn’t sell well at that particular store. Most stores have limited return policies on clearance items, however, so be sure you know the policy before you buy the item.

Fall Styles

Fall styles typically start to go on sale in mid-July. Kids and teens who like shopping at name-brand stores should watch out for “annual denim sales,” which typically happen in early August. Certain denim styles stay on the market year round, making this the best time of the year to buy jeans.

In general, it’s best to skip most other “fall style” pieces until winter. The most popular fall styles will stick around until November, when you can scoop them up at significant discounts during the holiday discount season. The exception to this rule would be any BOGO (buy one, get one) deals that make sense for your kids’ fashion needs.

Backpacks and Lunchboxes

The new school year means a new backpack and lunchbox, right?

If your kid is still young enough to want cartoon characters or superheroes on their backpack and lunchbox, then a back-to-school sale will yield the best prices. These backpacks usually won’t stick around after September.

Likewise, you can find deals on insulated lunchboxes (which are also appropriate for adults who brown-bag). Buy during the back-to-school sale, and you’ll thank yourself later. While most retailers will stock a few extra lunchbox styles during the peak season, you shouldn’t expect to find these on clearance. Most stores stock just enough lunchboxes to get through the back-to-school rush.

However, teen and adult backpacks are a totally different story. Sporting goods stores will put these on a steep discount during the November and December holiday season. You also may see deals on camping backpacks in April and May. This is one purchase that is worth putting off if you can.

Electronics

One thing I can’t stand is when I see parents buying new electronics for the upcoming school year. Yes, retailers will discount computers, calculators, and the like for the “back to college” rush, but waiting just a few months can save huge coin. So when should you buy?

Calculators

If you’ve got a middle or high school student, they will probably need a TI-83+ for their math class. This is something that you should buy used, preferably in May or June when college graduates are unloading theirs for rock-bottom prices.

If you must buy new, June is the time to do it. Some online retailers will try to compete with the used market by dropping their prices. Set up a notification on CamelCamelCamel.com, and you’ll find deals around $75.

Laptops

College students who want to buy Apple products should shop online or at the Apple Store for the best deals. Usually, Apple will provide student warranties, extra software, or other bonuses during late July and August. Apple doesn’t usually drop its prices, but the bonuses can be worthwhile. Netbooks and other lower-capacity laptops tend to see rock-bottom prices during Black Friday sales in late November.

Generic School Supplies

Ten-cent folders and crayons for a quarter? Deals like these will start rolling in about four to five weeks before schools start. Watch weekly ads to find the local loss leaders (a pricing strategy where a product is sold at a price below its market cost to stimulate other sales of more profitable goods or services), and buy them right away. If you’re feeling extra generous, stock up on generic school supplies and donate them to your local school. The teachers will thank you for saving their pocketbooks.

Back-to-school shopping doesn’t have to deplete your bank account. In fact, some credit cards will even offer rewards for back-to-school shopping. But before you apply for a card—which could ding your credit when the card provider checks your score—make sure you’ve got the requisite credit by checking your credit report for free at Credit.com.

Hannah L. Rounds is a contributor at CentSai, a financial wellness community for millennials and Gen Xers. She loves talking and writing about the counterintuitive intersections between marriage, family, money, and careers. In addition to “geeking” out over personal finance, she loves cooking, reading to her son, snowboarding, and watching superhero shows on Netflix.

Image: Eva-Katalin

The post How to Save Big on Your Back-to-School Shopping appeared first on Credit.com.

The Back-to-School Item That’s Becoming Less Popular

back_to_school_gadgets

Tablet sales have been shrinking for some time, but there’s fresh evidence that the market for the devices is in distress: Shoppers spending big on back-to-school gadgets expect to buy more external hard drives than new tablets, according to a new survey. And even while spending on back-to-school tech is expected to surge, spending on tablets for school is falling.

Back-to-school is the second-most important season for gadget sellers behind the end-of-year holidays. The survey, by the Consumer Technology Association, found that consumers expect to spend $18.5 billion this year on calculators, laptops, and other gadgets, outpacing last year by 6.2%.

Practicality seems to be the driving factor behind the most-desired gadgets, with 71% of consumers saying they will buy portable memory, and 55% saying they will buy a calculator.

Overall, the optimism bodes well for tech makers and sellers, the CTA says.

“Early back-to-school promotions are building interest and momentum for the second-largest shopping event of the year,” said Steve Koenig, senior director of market research for CTA, in a prepared statement. “Deals on the tech items for back-to-school including 2-1 laptops, Bluetooth speakers, headphones, tablets and more are creating excitement among consumers. This consumer enthusiasm also bodes well for tech sales across the second half of the year.”

On the other hand, while 44% say they’ll buy a new laptop, only half that number, 22%, will buy a tablet.

Here’s the CTA’s list of top 10 gadgets that back-to-school shoppers expect to buy.

  1. Portable memory (71%)
  2. Basic calculator (55%)
  3. Headphones (52%)
  4. Scientific/graphing calculator (51%)
  5. Carrying or protective case (48%)
  6. Laptop (44%)
  7. Software for computer (39%)
  8. External hard drive (23%)
  9. Tablet (22%)
  10. Product subscription service (22%)

The poor tablet results square with sales figures from market researcher IDC, which has reported tablets falling out of favor for more than a year. In its latest research, IDC said that tablet shipments fell 12% compared to the same quarter last year. Only tablets that mimic laptops — sometimes called detachables — saw growth, but those still represent a small portion of the tablet market.

“The market has spoken as consumers and enterprises seek more productive form factors and operating systems — it’s the reason we’re seeing continued growth in detachables,” Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst with IDC, said in a report.

In the end, tablets have struggled to find a place as a third gadget in consumers’ lives, alongside personal computers and mobile phones. In addition, larger phones that can do almost everything tablets can have squeezed out tablets. Also, when tablet sales first started to slump back in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook explained that upgrade cycles for tablets had been longer than expected, and definitely longer than cell phones. Consumers who bought one tablet didn’t see the need to upgrade.

Still overall, both Synchrony Financial and the Consumer Technology Association predict brisk tech sales this August. Synchrony, which predicted an overall sales increase of 2.7%-3.7%, said spending on tech will rival spending on new clothes.

Remember, if you’re looking to buy new gadgets this school year, it’s important to stay on budget. High credit card balances and other debts can damage your credit. To see how your debts and spending habits are affecting your finances, you can view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com. And, if you’ve already overspent, you can read this guide for tips on getting out of debt.

Image: Massimo Merlini

The post The Back-to-School Item That’s Becoming Less Popular appeared first on Credit.com.

9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks

Heading back to college this fall? One of your biggest expenses (outside of tuition, of course) is likely to be textbooks. The College Board estimates that college students will spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,300 on books and supplies. That’s a big chunk of change, but there are plenty of ways you can save on textbooks.

1. Avoid the Bookstore, Except for Essentials

While the college bookstore is tempting in all its shiny, fully stocked glory, it’s also generally the last place you want to go to buy textbooks. Even used textbooks at the bookstore typically will be sold at a higher markup than you’ll see online. And the new books often are more expensive there than anywhere else.

One exception to this rule: custom-printed packets assigned by particular professors. Some professors will require custom-printed anthologies or companion books for their classes. These are printed and bound ahead of time, and you won’t be able to get them anywhere but the bookstore.

2. Wait Until After the First Class to Buy

Some college professors are just as fed up with the rising cost of textbooks as their students. Unfortunately, academic departments will sometimes strongarm professors into choosing more expensive books.

Still, some professors will work with students who simply can’t afford to pay $180 for a single textbook. While the expense may be unavoidable in some classes, in others, professors will tell you straight up that you’ll only use a few sections of the textbook over the course. Or they’ll offer supplementary options that are free or really cheap.

While not bringing books to class on the first day may seem like a huge risk, it’s typically not a big deal. That first class day is typically spent discussing the syllabus and course expectations. And you can use that information to gauge which of the following options you want to use to buy, rent, or borrow textbooks for each class.

3. Buy Used Whenever Possible

The market for used college textbooks is huge, since many students buy these books only to use them for a single semester. Chances are there are multiple used book stores near any major college campus, and you can also buy used online from bookselling marketplaces. New books are worth the investment only in limited circumstances, which we’ll discuss later. Otherwise, go for used versions of physical textbooks.

4. Check Out the Price of E-Books

More and more publishers are offering their textbooks in e-book format. This can make sense for most of your classes. Plus, purchasing a slim e-reader and most of your textbooks in e-book format can save you from having to haul loads of heavy textbooks all over campus.

E-books may not always be appropriate, especially if you’re an in-book highlighter or note-taker. But with today’s e-book technology, most books can be “highlighted” and bookmarked virtually, so you can still reference certain passages or sections as needed.

5. Split Costs With a Friend

If you and a friend are taking the same class at different times or between semesters, consider splitting the costs of a used book. This can be tricky to work out, as you need to be sure you each have access to the books when working on homework and going to class. But if you’re taking the same introductory course on different days, textbook sharing can be a viable option.

6. Buy Older Editions

One reason textbooks are so expensive is that they’re constantly “updated,” even when the update involves only very minor edits. For classes with course content that’s stable from year to year, you probably don’t really need the latest edition. And used versions of out-of-date editions can be even cheaper.

Just be aware that page numbers and figures don’t always line up from one edition to the next, so you’ll need to be extra careful that you’re completing the correct coursework. Also, older editions may not work as well for classes like math and science if the professor relies on homework from the book, as questions can change from edition to edition.

7. Try the Library

The campus library or the local public library are both great options for finding copies of more-common books. Libraries may not have a copy of a $175 quantum physics textbook. But they are likely to have copies of many texts used in liberal arts courses. English majors and the like are at a particular advantage here. Many literature classes are built around easy-to-rent classics that are simple to pick up from the library.

One potential caveat to this strategy: availability. If others in your course also borrow their texts from the library, you may be unable to find a copy when you need it. Your best bet is to look well ahead on the syllabus, and to reserve copies of the books you need at least two or three weeks ahead of time.

8. Rent Your Textbooks Online

Textbook rental services are becoming more common these days, and they’re another good option for saving on your overall costs. You can sometimes even rent e-book versions of your textbooks, which are cheaper since you’re not purchasing a lifetime license.

Just be careful if you decide to rent physical textbooks, as they’ll have to be in excellent condition when you return them, or you’ll pay extra fees.

9. Buy Certain New Books Online

Sometimes it does make sense to buy books new. For instance, if your math professor will use the specific homework questions in the latest edition of a book that just released, you’ll have to spring for the new version. Or if you need to purchase workbooks, which some lower-level math courses still use, you’ll need new versions of those.

Also, if you’re an upperclassman, you might consider purchasing new, or used that are in excellent condition, versions of books from some of your senior-level courses. These could be texts that you’ll reference after college once you’re in career-related courses, so having nice versions that will hold up over time can make sense.

[Editor’s Note: While you’re in college, you might not be thinking too much about your credit, but bad credit can be even more costly than your textbooks. That’s why it’s a good idea to check it every now and then so you can make sure your financial future is on track. You can get two free credit scores, updated monthly, at Credit.com. You also can get your free credit reports ever year at AnnualCreditReport.com.]

Image: skynesher

The post 9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks appeared first on Credit.com.

9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks

Heading back to college this fall? One of your biggest expenses (outside of tuition, of course) is likely to be textbooks. The College Board estimates that college students will spend anywhere from $1,200 to $1,300 on books and supplies. That’s a big chunk of change, but there are plenty of ways you can save on textbooks.

1. Avoid the Bookstore, Except for Essentials

While the college bookstore is tempting in all its shiny, fully stocked glory, it’s also generally the last place you want to go to buy textbooks. Even used textbooks at the bookstore typically will be sold at a higher markup than you’ll see online. And the new books often are more expensive there than anywhere else.

One exception to this rule: custom-printed packets assigned by particular professors. Some professors will require custom-printed anthologies or companion books for their classes. These are printed and bound ahead of time, and you won’t be able to get them anywhere but the bookstore.

2. Wait Until After the First Class to Buy

Some college professors are just as fed up with the rising cost of textbooks as their students. Unfortunately, academic departments will sometimes strongarm professors into choosing more expensive books.

Still, some professors will work with students who simply can’t afford to pay $180 for a single textbook. While the expense may be unavoidable in some classes, in others, professors will tell you straight up that you’ll only use a few sections of the textbook over the course. Or they’ll offer supplementary options that are free or really cheap.

While not bringing books to class on the first day may seem like a huge risk, it’s typically not a big deal. That first class day is typically spent discussing the syllabus and course expectations. And you can use that information to gauge which of the following options you want to use to buy, rent, or borrow textbooks for each class.

3. Buy Used Whenever Possible

The market for used college textbooks is huge, since many students buy these books only to use them for a single semester. Chances are there are multiple used book stores near any major college campus, and you can also buy used online from bookselling marketplaces. New books are worth the investment only in limited circumstances, which we’ll discuss later. Otherwise, go for used versions of physical textbooks.

4. Check Out the Price of E-Books

More and more publishers are offering their textbooks in e-book format. This can make sense for most of your classes. Plus, purchasing a slim e-reader and most of your textbooks in e-book format can save you from having to haul loads of heavy textbooks all over campus.

E-books may not always be appropriate, especially if you’re an in-book highlighter or note-taker. But with today’s e-book technology, most books can be “highlighted” and bookmarked virtually, so you can still reference certain passages or sections as needed.

5. Split Costs With a Friend

If you and a friend are taking the same class at different times or between semesters, consider splitting the costs of a used book. This can be tricky to work out, as you need to be sure you each have access to the books when working on homework and going to class. But if you’re taking the same introductory course on different days, textbook sharing can be a viable option.

6. Buy Older Editions

One reason textbooks are so expensive is that they’re constantly “updated,” even when the update involves only very minor edits. For classes with course content that’s stable from year to year, you probably don’t really need the latest edition. And used versions of out-of-date editions can be even cheaper.

Just be aware that page numbers and figures don’t always line up from one edition to the next, so you’ll need to be extra careful that you’re completing the correct coursework. Also, older editions may not work as well for classes like math and science if the professor relies on homework from the book, as questions can change from edition to edition.

7. Try the Library

The campus library or the local public library are both great options for finding copies of more-common books. Libraries may not have a copy of a $175 quantum physics textbook. But they are likely to have copies of many texts used in liberal arts courses. English majors and the like are at a particular advantage here. Many literature classes are built around easy-to-rent classics that are simple to pick up from the library.

One potential caveat to this strategy: availability. If others in your course also borrow their texts from the library, you may be unable to find a copy when you need it. Your best bet is to look well ahead on the syllabus, and to reserve copies of the books you need at least two or three weeks ahead of time.

8. Rent Your Textbooks Online

Textbook rental services are becoming more common these days, and they’re another good option for saving on your overall costs. You can sometimes even rent e-book versions of your textbooks, which are cheaper since you’re not purchasing a lifetime license.

Just be careful if you decide to rent physical textbooks, as they’ll have to be in excellent condition when you return them, or you’ll pay extra fees.

9. Buy Certain New Books Online

Sometimes it does make sense to buy books new. For instance, if your math professor will use the specific homework questions in the latest edition of a book that just released, you’ll have to spring for the new version. Or if you need to purchase workbooks, which some lower-level math courses still use, you’ll need new versions of those.

Also, if you’re an upperclassman, you might consider purchasing new, or used that are in excellent condition, versions of books from some of your senior-level courses. These could be texts that you’ll reference after college once you’re in career-related courses, so having nice versions that will hold up over time can make sense.

[Editor’s Note: While you’re in college, you might not be thinking too much about your credit, but bad credit can be even more costly than your textbooks. That’s why it’s a good idea to check it every now and then so you can make sure your financial future is on track. You can get two free credit scores, updated monthly, at Credit.com. You also can get your free credit reports ever year at AnnualCreditReport.com.]

Image: skynesher

The post 9 Ways to Save on College Textbooks appeared first on Credit.com.

17 States That Have a Tax Holiday for Back-to-School Shopping

tax-holiday-01

Image: Cathy Yeulet

The post 17 States That Have a Tax Holiday for Back-to-School Shopping appeared first on Credit.com.

7 Free Tools to Help Calm the Back-to-School Chaos

back-to-school-apps-for-iphone

Whether you’re working or a stay-at-home parent, back-to-school season can get rough. Between strict schedules, meal planning, homework, and maybe even extracurriculars, life just gets a bit chaotic.

Luckily, technology can make things a bit easier on parents. With all the apps available today, there are loads of great free tools that can help you handle everything from schedules to meal planning. Here are seven of the best free — and really cheap — tools to try this back-to-school season.

1. Google Calendar


While there are plenty of great calendar apps on the market, Google’s still takes the cake. Available for iOS and Android, the interface is great on just about any screen. It lets you choose different views, from one month to a daily agenda, or a custom view like two or three weeks. Plus, you can easily share Google Calendars with a spouse or your older kids, so that everyone syncs up seamlessly.

One of the best things about Google Calendars, though, is the ability to set up multiple calendars. Use one for work events, one for personal appointments and one for the kids’ school schedule. You could even keep a separate calendar for each member of the family. Each calendar will be color-coded, so you can get an at-a-glance idea of what’s coming in any given week.

Two other great Google Calendar features: reminders and repeating events. With reminders, you can set up alerts on your phone for repeating or one-off events. You can even make sure Google keeps reminding you until you check the reminder as complete, so you don’t accidentally blow off making that important appointment. And with repeating events, you can quickly add regular events to your calendar.

2. Google Keep

Again, there are multiple note-taking apps on the market, but Google Keep is definitely worth checking out. This simple app lets you take notes or create to-do lists that look like sticky notes. You can organize them by category, and you can even color-code the notes to match your calendar colors.

The best thing about Keep is that you can share notes with others. You can, for instance, keep a running grocery list in a Keep note that you share with your spouse. That way whoever has time to stop by the store on a given weeknight has the list ready to go.

3. Cozi


Cozi combines some of the functionality of Google Keep and Google Calendar. It comes in a free and paid version. The free version runs ads. The paid version comes with additional features, including a birthday calendar and contact list.

If you want to keep just a single shared family calendar, Cozi is a great option. Like Google Calendar, it lets you share your calendar with a spouse or multiple family members. The calendar app is slightly less user-friendly than Google’s — but only slightly. It does include the additional feature of a meal planner, which is great for busy parents. Plus, Cozi lets you keep categorized shopping and to-do lists, making it a good all-around organization app.

4. Pepperplate

This meal-planning app can take some time to set up because you’ll need to build or import your own recipes. But you can import recipes from a web link, making it an easy option for organizing all those Pinterest recipes you’ve been meaning to try. Once you get your recipes into your recipe box, you can tell the app which recipes you’re shopping for this week. Then, it’ll automatically generate a shopping list to use at the grocery store.

As far as meal-planning apps go, this one has great reviews. It doesn’t do the planning for you, but it’s a good option if you already have a go-to bank of recipes you use on busy weeknights.

5. Asana

This free to-do app is great for busy parents who want to track both work and home tasks. As with many of the apps featured here, you can share this one with a spouse or older kids. Asana lets you assign tasks by person and give tasks a due date. You can also organize tasks by category or project, making it easy to work on the most important projects first.

One of Asana’s biggest strengths is ease-of-use in a mobile format, though you can also access it by desktop. Plus, it allows you to sort your to-do list in a variety of ways, from tasks by due date to tasks by assignee to tasks by project.

6. Chore Monster


Want to get your kids doing more chores this school year? Try Chore Monster. This easy-to-use app lets you as the parent assign and create point values for various chores. You can have certain chores your kids must do, and certain chores they can choose to do. When the child completes the chore, you check it off, and they earn points.

What do they do with all those points? It’s up to you! Add rewards that kids can purchase with their points. Rewards could be physical or monetary, or you could just give kids extra screen time. The cool thing is that you can assign some rewards with a low-point value, so kids can pick them up often. But you can also help kids grasp the idea of saving by giving them a few high-point-value options, like a big weekend camping trip or an expensive new toy.

7. Evernote


This app has been around a while, and it’s a classic. Many moms swear by it, and it does have a bunch of functions to try. You might use it for keeping track of online articles you want to read while waiting in the school pickup line. Or you can use it to get rid of all that paper-based clutter kids bring home from school.

With Evernote, you can store scans or photos of paper items, so you can easily upload the school calendar and menu to an online format. You could also use Evernote to store scans of special projects or papers your kids bring home, so that you’ll hang on to them without having to find a place for thousands of pieces of paper every single school week.

Image: Erik Khalitov

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