I was recently asked to speak at an event by a friend of mine who was hosting a dinner for his best clients. He wanted me to talk about something that would resonate with his clients. Since he works as a financial advisor, this was no simple task. It seemed the only common characteristic between his clients is they all had decided they eventually want to retire. After a great deal of thought, it occurred to me that most people who plan on retiring have families. After all, if you didn’t have a family, you probably wouldn’t be too concerned with retirement, and so today’s topic was born: five tools to simplify your life. Each tool presented below is one that I personally use to keep my family from spiraling into anarchy, and I hope that they will help you as well.
Dropbox was originally created to allow the sharing of large files over the internet, which I found incredibly useful at work. However, it was my wife who found it even more useful at home. Ever since the birth of our daughter, we’ve been constantly barraged with requests for pictures from her six (yes, six) grandparents. Emailing photos quickly became an issue. Finally, my wife had me set up a shared folder in Dropbox, and then she had me send a link to each grandparent. Now we just upload all of our photos to the shared folder, and they can pick and choose whichever they want. My parents even have a screensaver on their desktop PC that is linked to the folder, giving them a regularly-updated slideshow.
Keeping up with bills and a budget is not my strong suit. Luckily, I discovered Check.me, a service that keeps track of all of your bills and accounts in one place. Credit cards, bank accounts, utility bills, investments, everything can be tracked as long as it can be viewed online. All you have to do is enter your account information, and Check.me will do the rest. It can even send you notification texts and emails when bills are due. If you are tired of having to log in to multiple websites every time you do the budget, you need to take a look at Check.me.
3. Google Drive
Google Drive is similar to Dropbox in the sense that it is also designed to share files over the web. However, Google Drive offers a feature that sets it apart: the ability to share and edit files simultaneously. With Google Drive you can upload documents, spreadsheets, and presentations and then edit them from anywhere, even on your mobile device. You can also grant access to others and let them edit the file as well. And any changes they make will be visible in real time. This is a powerful tool that I use in my work, but it can also be a powerful tool at home. My wife uses it to store our family budget spreadsheet, which she can edit from her phone or laptop, and we also store important lists like the grocery list. So now when I go to the store, I can pull up the file on my phone and delete items as I purchase them. At the same time, my wife can add items as they come to mind.
4. Google Calendar
Another powerful tool from Google is the Google Calendar. If you’re not familiar with this one, you have a lot of catching up to do. Google Calendar lets you share your calendars across multiple devices, as well as with other people. You can create a calendar for your household, your work, even one for each of your kids. You can also control whether or not others can add events to your calendar, so if you want your wife to see your appointments, but you don’t want her to delete your tee times, you can just grant her read only access.
Have you ever wanted to learn another language, but just can’t seem to motivate yourself? Or maybe you saw the price tag on Rosetta Stone and shrieked? Duolingo might be for you. It’s a free service that can teach you French, Spanish, Italian, German, or Portuguese. And the learning method is more like a game than a class. You can level up as you complete lessons, unlocking new ones and earning achievements. Duolingo can be very addictive, and works great on mobile devices.