Yes, your smartphone can help you save both money and time!
Many of us live through college life with a "let's just wing it" attitude, but it doesn’t hurt to prepare just a little bit. These are the most formative years of your life, and if you can learn a lesson or two on being organized or managing money, you'll likely be better off. Fortunately there are a handful of useful apps at our disposal that can help you do just that.
Yes, the thing that we waste our time the most on—smartphones—can actually help save time, money, or both. When I started college, I didn’t have anyone tell me about the applications I’m going to list below and how I wish someone did! I've stumbled across most of them after a few rounds of trial and error, and have found these among the best out there in what they seek to do.
Also, I'm aware of how tight finances can be when you're a student, so most apps you see out here are completely free, offer a useful free tier, or have special discounts. Let me not waste any more time and get right into the top 10 apps that I recommend every college student to have on their phone.
You might not know this, but your college email address is a gold mine of savings, and there’s no better way to make the most of it than Unidays. Simply sign up using your .edu address and access student savings on all your favorite brands and websites across categories. The app splits the discounts across different categories like technology, fashion, and travel, making it easier to know where you should be looking.
There’s a slight learning curve to it, but Notion is worth getting used to if you're looking to organize your notes and thoughts in a coherent manner. It’s highly flexible in the way you can store content and allows you to store all your information in interconnected blocks of text and media. The easy availability of third-party templates for kanban boards, daily planners, portfolios, job hunt trackers, among others, makes Notion even more desirable for a student. The best part? It's completely free for personal use!
It may sound like something you don’t need, but it’s never a bad idea to meditate and listen to your thoughts in a calm, peaceful environment. If you're not sure how to go about doing that, Headspace is just the app you need. It offers guided meditation that can help you develop a habit. It even has a beautiful collection of calming music and nature sounds that I love listening to while writing—helps me get to sleep too! If that's not enough, there are inspiring stories for when you need motivation and there's mood-boosting music to accompany your workout sessions. The app is available for free for all teens, or for a yearly cost of $10 if you're a student, and that's quite a drop from its regular $70/year price tag.
We don’t mint money, so it’s wise to track just how much you’re spending over a period of time and trust me, in a place where you’ll never run out of reasons to party, you’ll need to do that much more. Mint is a sweet budgeting app that helps me understand my monthly outflows via neat visuals and easy-to-understand insights. You can even keep a tab of all the subscriptions you're paying for or the cryptocurrencies you're hodling.
It’s only natural to want to play the most incredible and immersive games out there, and there are not many ways to do this cheaply, except for cloud gaming services. Stadia, for one, is a free cloud gaming subscription service, which lets you purchase games and play them on virtually any screen you own – your phone, laptop, a projector, or your tablet. You can pay a monthly $10 fee for a bunch of free games and 4K gameplay, but that's up to you—Stadia offers discounts often enough, even if you don't subscribe. You'll need a fast internet connection for the best experience but at least you won't have to pay hundreds of dollars for a hard-to-get console.
There’ll be multiple occasions where you’ll end up paying for your friends and vice-versa. Instead of accounting for and settling every transaction individually, it’s better to start a Splitwise group with them and track all your expenses in one place. Splitwise does all the math for you and instantly tells you your financial positionwho you owe money to or who owes you some, whatever may be the case.
College is an excellent time to pick up soft and technical skills that you know could be useful for a successful career, and Udemy is one of the most popular e-learning platforms. Be it courses on personal development or coding languages like Python, R, or SQL, it’s all here for you to consume. It's best not to look at this as an additional burden to what might be a packed curriculum at school because you can engage in non-academic courses too. I, for instance, took a beginner's course on photography to make sure I can take better product pictures for the reviews I write for Android Police. The app is well-designed and you can even download courses for offline access if you're not sure about always having a reliable internet connection.
It doesn’t take much for my phone to distract me and it's single-handedly responsible for me completing my assignments at the last minute. Thankfully, Forest has helped me moderate my usage. It incentivizes not using your phone to grow a virtual forest that gives a sense of satisfaction. What’s incredible is that if you decide to leave your phone alone for longer and develop a healthy pattern, you can even gather enough coins over time to redeem them for the planting of an actual tree!
If you do not use Google Lens during your college life, you’re doing it wrong because this convenient tool is not something worth passing on. Its excellent OCR abilities let you copy text from any photos you have on your phone, finally letting you catch up with that one professor who writes or presents at the speed of light. It’s even helpful in translation (if you’re taking up foreign language classes), some math solving, and general searches of things you might see but not recognize in your daily life.
This last one may be a bit obvious, but I've seen a lot of students make the mistake of writing down assignments and notes in their local notes app. It’s always a better idea to use Google Docs because it's perfectly serviceable on all form factors, automatically syncs documents across clients, and is completely free. What’s even better is that it offers most features that Microsoft Word does for free and is suitable for group assignments, thanks to its great collaboration tools. Similarly, you can also use Google Slides to make presentations or Google Sheets for all your spreadsheet needs.
If names on this list seem unfamiliar, you'll be surprised how resourceful your phone can get. I can't picture going through college without some of the apps I've mentioned and I hope they prove to be just as useful for you!
At least I got closer than ever this year
Prasham is a victim of Samsung’s marketing — he ended up choosing the S3 Mini over the Nexus 4. He has been writing about phones ever since and has regretted not sharing affiliate links with those who have asked for his suggestions. Oh, he was also an urban farmer once but you better not ask him what crops he was growing.