Modern life comes with many hassles that eat up your precious time. There's sorting through the daily influx of junk mail, waiting on hold for customer service and trying to find a parking spot when you're late for an appointment to name a few.
Fortunately, there are apps to help you deal with all these inconveniences. We list the best ones that help you stop wasting your precious time.
Reduce junk mail
Do catalogs, coupon books, mass-mailed fliers, credit card offers and more clog your mailbox? For those of us trying to be more organized, not to mention going paperless, it's a daily annoyance and that's where the PaperKarma app comes in.
Available for iOS, Android and Windows phones, this free app helps you eliminate the steady stream of junk mail that comes your way every day. Once you've loaded and registered the app, you can use the camera on your phone to take a picture of the offending piece of junk mail. A few taps later, the app will send a request to the junk mail sender to take you off their mailing list.
It may take a few weeks to see results, but it will be worth it to see a reduction in the amount of useless and wasteful solicitations in your mailbox. The one type of junk mail they can't stop is distributed based on zip code alone (i.e. local grocery store coupons or restaurant offers). These are usually addressed to "To Our Friends/Neighbors."
For junk mail addressed to you personally, take a picture of the offending junk mail and provide the app with your name and address. Once you confirm you really want to unsubscribe, it will send off a request promising to resend if it doesn't hear back in 13 days. You can receive a confirmation in as little as 60 seconds or a few months. You may also see the contact info for the mailing company if you want to reach out to them yourself.
Price: Free at PaperKarma
Reduce drive time
Whether you live in New York, Los Angeles or points in between, finding an available parking spot can eat up a good amount of your valuable time. Enter the ParkMe app. This handy service will show you available garage and street parking either immediately around you or anywhere you search on their map, along with the cost for each one. The app lists over 200,000 locations, in 15,000 cities, on 7 continents, and you can set it to look for either daily or monthly parking.
You can filter your search by either garage or street parking, as well as cheapest or closest spaces. Still can't decide? Tap the ParkMe button at the bottom of the screen and the app will recommend the cheapest option in the area.
In addition, the app will tell you how many spaces are left in the garage or on a particular metered street, so you can judge if you can make it there in time to take advantage of their availability. Some garages allow you to pay for and reserve a space directly through the app (the parking icons with the price tag icons.) If that option is not available for the space you're interested in, you can still see a picture of the parking area, the opening and closing times for the garage, as well as how much it will cost you, based on how long you are going to stay.
Once you're parked, there is a handy in-app timer you can set to warn you when you have to move your car (great for metered street parking.) In case you can never remember where you parked, you can also mark the location of your spot in the app before you walk away.
Price: Free at ParkMe
Cut customer service hold time
Sitting on hold waiting for a customer service rep to get to you is about as fun as a root canal. This is where the GetHuman app comes in. Choose from the app's list of thousands of companies to find the best number to call. Check the hold time, and you can enter your phone number and GetHuman will call back with a live customer service agent on the line. If the call center is closed, you can receive a reminder when it opens. In addition, you can view the best time to call and the current and average wait times.
Not sure of what to say to get your problem resolved quickly? Submit your problem to get relevant tips on handling the issue and follow the progress of others who have submitted their problems. Want to know your chances of a satisfactory resolution? You'll also find customer ratings of the quality of communication and the quality of the help.
Price: Free at GetHuman
Block spam calls
No one likes to see their privacy and time violated by a telemarketer calling your mobile phone. Fortunately, with a smartphone, you can outwit them. There are apps that identify incoming calls from telemarketers and even outright block the call.
If you have an Android phone, you get the best of both worlds with Call Control. This app automatically blocks calls and texts listed as spam calls in its database and it allows you to use wildcards to block any area code or area code plus exchange (e.g., 1-212-555-*). You can choose for the app to automatically hang up on the caller or send the call directly to voicemail.
Price: $29.99 per year on CallControl
For iPhone users, it's a little more complicated. No apps allow you to block incoming calls or texts, but that function is built directly into iOS 13 Go to the Contacts app and tap on the contact you want to block or find the number on the Recent Calls tab (clock icon) on your Phone app and tap the circled "i" icon to the right of the number. Both these methods will take you to the contact page for that caller. Scroll to the bottom and click on the Block This Caller. You can also go to Settings > Phone and turn on Silence Unknown Callers.
There is help in identifying incoming telemarketer calls, though. The Hiya app will check incoming calls against its database of top spammers and will notify you in the call screen if the caller is a known spammer. If so, simply decline the call or turn on call blocking, which will send the call straight to voicemail. You can also use wildcards to block area codes and area codes plus exchange. If you choose to do this, make sure you turn on whitelisting people who are in your contacts.
Price: $24.99 per year on Hiya
Automate everyday tasks
Little tasks like backing up your Instagrams, tracking price drops on items at your favorite retailers and turning your ringer up when you leave the office can be easily automated with the If This Then That (IFTTT) app. IFTTT is something of a meta-app, connecting the apps and gadgets you use via mini-programs (called “recipes”).
The services that IFTTT works with are called “channels”, with each channel – such as Gmail, Facebook, Nest Thermostat, Philips Hue or Fitbit – having its own set of “triggers” and “actions.” For example, triggers for Nest Thermostat include “away” or “home" and Philips Hue actions include "on" and "off." So a recipe could go something like: When your Nest is set to away, your lights will turn off.
Price: Free on IFTTT
Updated on 10/25/2019 with new apps and information
[time saving metaphor via Shutterstock]