I distinctly remember when my kindergarten teacher asked us to consider what we wanted to be when we grew up. Answers ranged from firefighter and veterinarian to banker, artist and athlete.
Unsurprisingly, none of my classmates listed parent as their dream career.
Yet as adults, it’s one of the most dynamic jobs we can do. Whether we have careers outside the home or not, raising kids requires us to be part chef, teacher, nurse, entertainer, mediator and schedule coordinator in addition to full-on financial benefactor.
Luckily, there’s an app for almost all of that. Whether you’re a new parent or a seasoned pro, check out some of the best digital tools to help balance all these responsibilities.
Purpose: Track finances
Since I’m an obsessive budgeter, Mint is one of my most-opened apps. In my opinion, it’s one of the best organization apps because I use it to streamline my bill deadlines and cash flow, so I know exactly how much I can spend each month. As a newly full-time freelancer, it’s especially helpful. And as a parent thinking about retirement and saving for college, it’s invaluable.
It does take some time to link all your accounts, set your financial priorities and create monthly budgets for each spending category, but having everything in one place with an easy-to-understand interface (colors! graphs!) can change the way you think about your finances. You’ll never wonder where your money is going again.
Purpose: Find restaurant deals
Eating out is expensive for anyone. Add kids to the equation and it can be extra burdensome and even more costly. It can be sticker shock for new parents, especially. That’s where this app comes in, highlighting dining establishments that offer free and discounted meals for children. In my experience, some of the best mom hacks involve free food.
If you enable GPS access, you can find deals near you, or enter a city or zip code manually to plan affordable eats for out-of-town trips.
When I searched in Rockland County, New York (where I live), a range of local spots and national chains like Sonic and Jersey Mike’s Subs appeared. Since it’s a crowdsourced app, the power of Kids Eat Free is subject to participants in your geographic area. To pay it forward, you should probably also enter specials you discover, and verify or flag deals based on your experience.
Purpose: Connect to childcare providers
UrbanSitter is like Tinder for sitters and nannies. I first used the platform back in college, when I was looking for work. Now, there are over one million registered users spread throughout metropolitan areas and around colleges in all 50 states and DC.
The app makes it easy for new parents to find, interview, book and pay caregivers for full-time, part-time, occasional and regular jobs.
CEO and co-founder Lynn Perkins told me that UrbanSitter differentiates itself from competitors like Care.com by leveraging your personal network, linking you to sitters that friends, coworkers and other parents you know have used before.
To further instill confidence, sitter profiles include reviews, background checks, special skills, introductory videos and data about repeat bookings. Plus, you can save by sorting according to pay and sharing a sitter with another family. Perhaps best of all, average response times are under three minutes, so UrbanSitter can be a real lifesaver in a pinch.
Purpose: Research medical information
WebMD gets a bad rap as a hypochondriac’s best friend, but the website is actually a very powerful tool filled with objective, up-to-date, physician-reviewed healthcare information, especially for nervous new parents. The app version streamlines services even further, making it super simple to research symptoms, conditions and treatments no matter how far you may be from your pediatrician’s office.
You can save conditions, drugs, doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and articles to access easily later. This is great for parents who don’t always have time to do repeat investigative research. My favorite part, though, is the medication reminder. Unlike the alarm feature that comes with my phone, it aligns specifically with my prescriptions so I never miss a dose.
Purpose: Access parent reviews
Sites like Yelp, Angie’s List and TripAdvisor can be incredibly helpful when you’re looking for honest opinions about stores, restaurants and local tradesmen. Winnie provides that same service for new parents, pointing you to a directory of over 2 million parks, libraries, museums, camps, eateries and other businesses and activities.
Winnie also connects you to an authentic, supportive community where you can share stories, exchange mom hacks, search for advice and receive real-time answers to pressing parenting questions.
“There are so many moments as a parent where you can feel completely alone … being able to find other parents who have the same experiences as you can be incredibly helpful,” says CEO, co-founder and mother of two, Sara Mauskopf. She thinks of Winnie “as a one-stop parenting resource right in your pocket.”
Price: Free to download and $29.99 to upgrade to premium service
Purpose: Keep the whole family organized
20 million families use Cozi to stay organized, so they must be doing something right. Accessible via mobile device or computer, the digital calendar combines different activities and appointments into a color-coded joint agenda, making it easier to attend every PTA conference, work meeting and soccer game.
I consider this one of the best organization apps because it also features shared grocery and to-do list builders (differentiating it from something like Google Calendar) so every member of the family can contribute to meal planning, chores and vacation packing.
There’s even a space to store recipes and a journal for memorializing special moments. To remove ads and add a shared address book and birthday tracker, parents can upgrade to
Cozi Gold for $30 a year.
Price: Free to download, services from $49 per week
Purpose: Connect to licensed therapists
In the words of Dr. Rachel O’Neil, Ohio-area counselor and mom to a 3-year-old boy, “Life as a parent can be stressful.” Often, parents are so busy caring for their children that they don’t address their own needs. Trips to the gym, relaxing baths, and other coping mechanisms just aren’t as easy to execute when you have kids to take care of.
“Over time,” O’Neil warns, “this can lead to larger concerns, like depression and anxiety.” Talking to a trained mental health professional can make a big difference. For only $49 per month, Talkspace members gain unlimited text, audio or video access to a therapist who matches their needs. That’s up to 80 percent cheaper than one-hour therapy sessions in major cities.
Many of my friends have turned to online marriage counseling and online therapy as a flexible, affordable option to get the support they need.
Price: $1 to $3, depending on the services you use; free for college students
Purpose: Invest without the stress
Acorns is trying to make investing simple. The original feature links your debit and credit card to a brokerage account. Every time you spend, the program rounds your bill to the next dollar amount and invests the difference.
3.8 million users save an average of about $36 a month through this rounding-up. Acorns has also added an IRA investment tool and a partner program with brands like Buy Buy Baby and Amazon.
According to Chief Education Officer Jennifer Barrett, the app “makes it seamless to do the right thing.” As a mother of two sons, she understands how much more expensive life gets after you have kids. If nothing else, Barrett encourages parents to use starting a family as motivation to get their financial act together.
They say raising a child takes a village. In the digital age, some of that village lives in the App Store. So, go ahead and start downloading. The better prepared you are, the better – and happier – the parent you can be.