Favorite Things Friday: Apps!

In continuing with tradition (or just that last Friday I posted about a favorite) here’s some more: my absolute favorite apps. The days of using your phone to call people are over, people. You can successfully run most aspects of your life from your phone. One day I want to log every action I do on my phone just so I can sit and be amazed at how awesome it is to live in the future. In keeping with my summer theme of growing up, being healthy, living well, etc. here are my favorite apps that help make my daily life easier (as technology should), and their old favorite counterpart. 

old: Ease Into 5k (formerly known as Couch to 5k) 

new: Nike+ or Nike Running

I decided in Januaryish that I was going to run a 5k this year, although I downloaded the, then, Couch25k app back in December of 2010. I started the 8 week training program over maybe three times in 2011, and then started it seriously, seriously in January of 2012. The app is brilliant, it teaches you how to run, literally, starting from scratch. I never was a runner, but with this app I was able to run 1, 2, and 3 minutes without stopping. This sounds pitiful, I’m sure, to you marathoners out here, or you naturally athletic folk that have been doing the mile run like a champ since 2nd grade, but for me running for longer than 30 seconds was a big deal. A personal “best”, if you’d prefer I use runner lingo. 

Anywho, the app is great, but I seriously was upset when week 3 rolled around and I went from running 3 minute increments to SIX minute increments. I had never even dreamed of running for six whole minutes. So I stopped using the app. Ha. I showed them. 

Fast forward maybe 2 months, we moved to our new neighborhood, I quit the gym and decided to start running again, this time using distance as a motivator instead of time. I wanted to run 5 kilometers, I never said I wanted to do it quickly. I Google mapped our neighborhood and discovered we were strategically located .5 miles from the entrance to our neighborhood, and the loop we are part of is .5 miles around the loop and back to our house. I began running .5 miles no problem and have now worked up to 1.25 miles (small distance, big feat– especially with two huskies). My sister recommended the Nike app, which uses the built in GPS to map out your distance and you can log all your runs. It has some seriously awesome quirks as well, like logging your emotion post-run and tagging a pair of shoes. Also, when I finished my run today Tim Tebow told me I did such a good job he’d let me hold his Heisman. I told him I was married.

old: Mint.com companion app

new: You Need a Budget companion app

So, single finances and married finances are pretty different. When I was single, I used Mint pretty religiously, and found it to be perfect for my lifestyle. I could see where my money was going, check my account balance and see fun charts and stuff. I never quite figured out the goals and all those features, but I really liked how it helped me set a budget for where my money was going. After we got married we went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University  which is probably the best thing we could have done to save our marriage before it really even got started. I’ve always been pretty irresponsible with money, especially in terms of long term savings. I always paid my bills on time and made sure I had gas in my car, but once those big expenses were paid for you could find me at Target buying something else I probably didn’t need.  I’ll do an in depth look at FPU later on sometime on this here blog (and hopefully get Marshall to post one from his point of view) but Dave’s big philosophy is giving each dollar a job on paper before you even get paid, so that you know exactly where every single cent of your money is going. This is such a simple concept that never occurred to me before this course. I would get to the end of the month, eating cereal, waiting for my next paycheck to come wondering where all my money had gone. You Need a Budget (YNAB) is (not a free) budgeting software, and now we have kind of moved from using cash envelopes to digital envelopes and using our debit cards. The program allows you to set up all the different categories (envelopes, using Dave terminology) and when you make a purchase you put it in manually (different from Mint), but you can immediately see how much is left in each envelope without waiting for the bank to process the transaction and seeing it show up on your statement. We are proud to be spending only money we have (paid off credit cards in January!)  and have been able to do unbelievable things on our extremely modest salaries in a very short time, just by being disciplined. Also, Marshall has changed me and I don’t like to spend money anymore. There’s not an app for that. 

old: LoseIt

New: Fooducate, ShopWell

Okay, it’s about to get real. Senior year of college, I realized I had gained nearly 16 pounds since my freshman year. That may not sound like a lot to you guys, but it was a big deal for me as I had been wearing the same clothes since roughly 2004 and all of a sudden I wasn’t so little anymore. That is when I began using LoseIt to, gasp, count calories. Something I swore I would never, ever do. Turns out, it’s a lot easier now than it was before, when math and measurements were involved. You select meal, select your food, estimate the quantity and TA DA, your caloric intake.  The app has undergone some SERIOUS improvement since I began using it. You can log your meals, exercise, set goals, etc. and it logs calories, how much you need to meet your goals, how much you’ve eaten, how much you’ve burned in exercise, etc. Of course these are all approximations, but give you a good idea of where you are, should be, etc. Now it has a very wide variety of restaurant and supermarket foods in their database and you can even put in a recipe and it figures out the caloric intake per serving for you. What a smart little phone. Anywho, I realized after a few years of logging my meals that there are some really junky foods out there that are low calorie. They carry sugars and preservatives and grossness that makes me feel gross. A friend of mine turned me on to the Fooducate app, which when you scan the barcode gives you a ‘grade’ for the food item, based on its ingredients. Pretty nifty. I definitely scanned every single peanut butter at Target, turns out the only good one contains peanuts, water, and flax seed. All others got a C. I recently found ShopWell, which does similar things but you can customize your results based on health issues, allergies, your goals (weight loss, energy, etc.). Anywho, I still weigh more than I did when I was 19, which is probably good,  but I am way more concerned about being healthy and putting REAL food in my body than how much I weigh. Therefore, I recommend the other two apps, although I still use LoseIt on occasion as a food journal. 

old: Pandora

new: Songza

I really only used Pandora in the classroom because my demographic of students all have a liking for Kenny Chesney and I do not own any Kenny Chesney songs on my iPhone, so on rare occasions when I was feeling nice (or guilty for being mean earlier) I’d offer up a Kenny Chesney Pandora station radio to earn back being the favorite teacher. Works every time. I will probably still use Pandora at school, but Songza has assumed a lovely role in my personal life. It has some of the most hilarious names for playlists and you can pick music for the time of day and activity you are doing and it is great. There are also no anti-Obama commericals or any advertisements for some music festival in Las Vegas that I will never go to. Download it. Now. 

old: Holy Bible e-book in iBooks

new: YouVersion Bible app

I am American and I live in North Carolina and I have like 10 Bibles, one for each stage of my life. I have my ‘first’ Bible, my first ‘real’ Bible, my ‘you’re in youth group Bible’, my ‘you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior" Bible, my Spanish-English Bible, my ‘I’m a teenager and want a pocket Bible’ Bible, and the most recent, my “I graduated from college and I want a grown-up Bible” Bible. Enter iPhone. The Bible iBook was free so I downloaded it. I even used it at church sometimes (and switched between The Bible and Twitter). Then I downloaded the YouVersion app. I love it and I love our generation, creating such cool apps that make reading the Bible SO EASY AND FUN. It sorts the books alphabetically (because who can remember the order after they graduate from AWANAs in 5th grade?) if you want, you can tweet directly from it, you can download different translations and switch back and forth without any problems (I really love The Message) and the BEST part (in my opinion) is that it has reading plans built in. Topical, devotional, whole Bible, for teens… whatever genre you want or are looking for in a reading plan they are built in, and you can set it to remind you to read. It is truly an App for the 21st century Christ-lover that wants to study and read with the utmost ease. I am so amazed at how far that lil’ book has come… pieces of parchment copied by hand, to an app in my hand. Amazing, word of God.

There they are! My favorite life apps these days. I plan to do this again, but teacher edition, there are so many great apps for teachers! Stay tuned and have a happy weekend! 

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