8 Online Services To Improve Your Life

Because coming up with 10 was too hard.

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Despite the balmy temperatures last weekend (I hope you raked all your leaves and put up your Christmas lights), when I look at the weather app on my phone it seems that our beautiful fall will be fading faster than daylight at 5 p.m.

As we buckle down for a discontented winter, I thought I would offer a roundup of apps/websites/etc. that I have found in my online travels that improve my existence in some small way.

Please note: Several of these suggestions include affiliate links that mean we would both get something if you take advantage of the link. Dad’s gotta eat.

What to Surf

Product Hunt

Hello, my name is Dad, and I’m a smartphone app addict. I know that I have a problem, but the problem is also that I’m always looking for a solution. I love finding new apps that might make me more productive, engage my interests or add something fun to my life. I’ll try anything once, and I have way too many apps on which I’ve started an account only to uninstall when I realize it’s not my thing.

So how do I go about finding the latest and greatest apps? I signed up for the week-daily newsletter at Product Hunt, which fills my inbox with suggestions for new phone apps, web services, podcasts and books. It’s a very “founder”-heavy community of people who are making apps themselves, but even if you are not a technical person, you’ll still find value in all the suggestions. Maybe one of them will change your life. Like this website they recently featured that tells you which McDonald’s locations have a broken ice cream machine before you drive all the way out there.

Parabo Press

This app/photo printing service is perfect for getting or gifting a hard copy of your best Instagram shots. Their striking 4” or 5.5” square prints adorn a couple walls in our house, and the price is pretty great when you use one of their oft-run coupon codes or free shipping specials. They continue to increase their variety of printed photo offerings and recently moved into stretched canvas territory. If you use my referral code of SVEWVJ, we both get $10 off our next order.

Google Fi

I think I mentioned this one in a previous issue, but we made the switch from AT&T to Google Fi as our wireless carrier a few years ago, and we haven’t looked back. You pay for the amount of data you use ($10/GB and no charge past 10 GB), so it’s definitely not for data hogs, but it will significantly decrease your phone bill if you can manage to make the jump. And let’s face it, you’re not going anywhere any time soon, so you probably don’t need that unlimited data plan anymore. Use my referral link and we both get $20 off our next bill.

Buy Nothing Groups

This is the newest innovation to improve our lives. My wife happened upon our local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook, which is an ingenious way for people to get rid of nice (or nicely used) possessions they no longer need and give them to their neighbors who could actually use them. The pre-COVID idea was that by swapping stuff, you would also get to know your neighbors. It’s pretty much porch pickups at this point, but we have scored some wonderful puzzles to keep us busy during the pandemic and then paid them forward yet again upon completion. Search Facebook for a group in your neighborhood, and consider starting one if it doesn’t exist!

Google Rewards

Android App - iPhone App

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been relying on Google products for so long that they officially know you better than your own mother. If you are secure in that knowledge, you might as well get paid for it! This app allows you to answer usually-one-question surveys about places you’ve been, YouTube videos you’ve watched and other interest-based questions in exchange for Google Play store money. The funds can be used to buy apps, make in-app purchases, rent/buy movies, and buy e-books and audio books. I have been doing this for a couple years and have earned more than $60 by taking more than 200 surveys. Fair warning: They will inadvertently insult you, as with this recent question I received:

Rakuten and Honey

Speaking of money, how would you like to save some without having to tell Google anything about yourself and the stupid videos you’ve watched? Sign up for Rakuten and Honey, and you will have two browser extensions that instantly put coupon codes at your fingertips and offer cashback incentives of varying amounts for various online retailers.

Honey will tell you when it’s a good time to buy something on Amazon by showing you how the price has changed over time. Rakuten will cut you a check when your monthly cashback savings reach a certain threshold. Both of them are completely free and well worth adding to your online shopping experience, especially with Black Friday and the holiday season approaching.

Amazon Smile

You might already know about this, but I always forget to use it and figured a reminder would help! Pick a non-profit and 0.5% of your eligible Amazon purchases will go toward the good cause of your choice. I always kick myself when I forget to simply navigate to smile.amazon.com instead of the regular amazon.com when I’m buying something, so maybe you should bookmark it.

Hoopla and OverDrive

My last suggestion is two apps that will allow you to access a diverse digital array of ebooks, audiobooks, music, movies and magazines on your phone through the power of your library card. I’ll be honest: I have been disappointed by some things that are not on these services, but also pleasantly surprised by some of the things that are. In any case, it’s a great way to get some more content on your phone when you’re fresh out of new podcast episodes from your old subscriptions. It’s also been great for downloading children’s audiobooks for our kids to listen to at naptime, bedtime or in the car. The apps have improved a lot, and OverDrive recently launched Libby, a new app that improves the ebook reading experience on your phone or tablet.

OK, now it’s your turn. What online services do you use that I should know about? Thanks for reading and please forward this newsletter to anyone who might enjoy it!