Choosing a New Smartphone

By Tracey Dowdy

With all the great options available, choosing a smartphone can feel like finding a needle in a haystack, except that the haystack is made of needles and you’re looking for the one needle with your name on it. Sure you’re going to find it if you have the time, but it’s going to take a while and it’s probably going to hurt.

It doesn’t have to be that way. The good news is that once you have a clear idea of what your specific needs are, you can sort through that haystack pretty quickly. And the even better news: no bloodshed!

Here are a few guidelines to get you started:


1. Consider your budget. Before you get dazzled by all the features of the iPhone 6 or the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge and its curved screen, decide how much you can spend and stay within your budget. A fantastic phone with all kinds of features is really a waste of money if you can’t afford the data plan to support those features.

2. Don’t go for the cheapest phone just because it’s a bargain. The old adage “You get what you pay for” is just as true for phones as it is with every other purchase. Mobile phones have long since morphed from being a convenient way to make a call into handheld computers. Think long term; you’re probably going to be using the device for at least the next year or two, so choose the best phone you can afford.

3. Talk to a sales associate in store or online about what costs are involved in the various service plans. Major carriers like Verizon offer family plans that allow you to bundle services and customize them to your family’s specific needs.


1. Weight – Are you going to be carrying the phone in a pocket or a purse? On your belt or in a backpack? Will you use it as a primary device and hold it all day or will it rest at the bottom of your bag? A few ounces can feel like a whole lot more; remember – they’re called handheld devices for a reason.

2. Screen size generally falls into three categories – Small (less than 4.5 inches), Medium (4.5 to 5.4 inches) and Large (5.5 inches or more). Generally speaking, the only smartphone with a small (4 inch) display is the iPhone 5 which makes it easy to use one handed. The iPhone 6 sports a 4.7 inch screen and the Moto X jumps up to 5.2 inches, making them harder to use one handed but that extra inch is huge when you consider how much larger the display area becomes. Devices with displays of 5.5 inch and greater fall more into the “phablet” category – a hybrid of a phone and tablet.

3. Phone size and screen size are not the same thing. There can be a significant difference between phones with equal sized displays. For example, while the iPhone 6 has a 4.7 inch display, its need for a physical Touch ID button on the home screen means it’s a larger handset than the Moto X with the same size screen.

4. Durability is another important consideration. My first cell phone was an ancient black Motorola that I once dropped down a stairwell – roughly four floors. I picked it up and made a call – the fall didn’t even make a mark on the phone. On the flip side, my first iPhone got dropped two feet onto a hardwood floor and the screen shattered like a special effect in a sci–fi movie.

5. Display quality will be more or less important depending on the primary use of your phone. If you use your phone to watch movies, you’ll want to choose a phone that offers the highest quality display with quad-HD resolution or 2560 x 1440 pixels. If that’s not a deal breaker, a full-HD panel with 1920 x 1080 pixels (1080p) is often detailed enough, and screens with 1280 x 720 pixels (720p) while not great for movies are perfectly adequate for gaming.

6. We all think in terms of megapixels when we think cameras but other factors play an important role as well. A 13-megapixel camera will take poor quality photos if the lens isn’t up to par. Phones with high shutter speeds and autofocus mean less lag and better photo quality as well.

7. Ah battery life, the great white whale of smartphones. The more dependent we get on our phones the more power manufacturers try to cram in. Batteries typically start in the neighborhood of 1,700mAh and go all the way up to 3,500mAh but it’s important to remember usage plays a huge role in the length and strength of your phone’s battery life.


1. Android offers one of the most customizable interfaces of all the major players. Phones offer plenty of features straight out of the box, but if you’re tech savvy and like to play around, Android is a great option. The Google Play Store now offers well over 1 million apps.

2. Apple devices all run off its iOS platform. It has an intuitive interface and a huge selection of apps available through iTunes. The downside is that you are pretty much locked in to Apple’s interface, as it allows for very little customization.

3. Windows (Microsoft) was late to the party but that doesn’t mean they can’t play with the big kids. The Windows Phone OS has a simple interface and the latest version (8.1) helps level the playing field with the Cortana voice assistant and a notifications center.

My suggestion is to do a little research on your own and make a wish list. Talk to your friends and co-workers about their phones and plans and see what they love or hate, what they wish they knew before they bought, and how they feel about the customer service levels of their provider. Ideally, take your wish list to your local store and talk to one of the sales associates. They’ll help you sort through features, provide you with demos of the phones, and give you the opportunity to physically hold and feel the phone before you commit.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

It’s Time for an Internet Upgrade

It always surprises me how many people still complain about their home Internet speeds. In an age where most of us enjoy high-speed 4G cellular connections for our smartphones and tablets when we are out and about, it’s strange that we would accept second best in the one place we use our devices the most. What I expect is happening is that a lot of people are eschewing their home Internet connection in favor of their wireless service – a potentially expensive proposition, especially when it comes to data overages.

If you’re unsure just how fast your home Internet is, you can take the Verizon speed test here. The speed test works by sending bursts of random data for 30 seconds. It calculates the upload and download speeds of your connection by measuring how many “bits” of data were transferred during that 30 second timeframe.

Note that the test measures upload speeds as well as download. Upload speeds are becoming increasingly important as individuals and small business share more and more data with the cloud. In fact, Verizon estimates that the level of upload activity on their FiOS network will double by late 2016 and continue to grow. (If you’re still not sure about the importance of upload speeds, ask your kids about “lag” and video game response times.)

If your Internet connection is less than 25/25 Mbps (that’s 25 megabits per second upload and download), then maybe it’s time for an upgrade. At 25/25, you’ll be able to surf the Web, check e-mail, shop online, and watch all those cute cat videos on Facebook without interruption. But if you are going to upgrade, why stop at 25/25? FiOS offers plans all the way up to 500/500 and, while you might not need that kind of speed, there are levels to suit every kind of household or small business.

And if you are a small business, now’s the time to act. Until June 27, Verizon is offering small businesses a free FiOS Internet upgrade. For example, a small-business owner who orders a new FiOS Internet and voice bundle with 50/50 Mbps will pay the price of a 25/25 service for a two-year term agreement.

Today’s smartphones and tablets are built for speed. It’s time to make sure your home Internet can keep up!

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon.

You’ve Bought a New Smartphone, Now What?

By Chantal Bechervaise

It is exciting to get a new smartphone. I love the feeling of unboxing it and holding it in my hands for the first time. It can be overwhelming too, as there are always new features to get used to and learn and I just want to start playing with it right away.

Here are some tips and guidelines to help you set up and learn how to use your new smartphone, so you are up and running as quickly as possible.

Fully Charge Your Phone

This is the hardest part for me. I am impatient, so waiting a couples hours before being able to play with my new phone is torture. It is important to charge your phone first. Your new phone will more than likely have to update its operating system (OS) so it is better to have a full charge.  Plus respecting your battery is the best way to prolong its life.  I recommend never letting it drain completely and topping off the charge whenever you can. If you are out an about and need to prolong your battery life, try turning off the Wi-Fi and GPS locator.

Move Your Data

After installing all the updates, the next step is moving over prior contact lists and data to your new phone.  If you are moving contacts from iOS to iOS or Android to Android, once you sign in with the same account information, all it should take is one sync to get you up and running. (If you are using iOS and you have backed up all your info to iTunes, then just plug your phone into your computer and sync it through the iTunes back up feature.) Another way to transfer contact information is through the SIM card. If you previously saved contact information to your SIM card and the SIM card fits your new phone, then you can save the contact information into your new phone.

Media, Photos and Songs

If you used a microSD card in your previous phone for your photos and videos, then you may be able to simply pop it into your new phone and have immediate access to them.  I highly recommend using cloud storage to back up all of your photos and videos.  That way if you lose your phone or if it gets damaged, you have not lost any of those important memories.  Apple users can backup photos, videos and songs with iTunes or iCloud, Windows users can use OneDrive, and Android users can use Google Drive.

There are many other cloud storage apps and options that are available to use as well. Some of the most popular ones can be found here. Verizon also offers the Verizon Cloud storage service, which allows customers to sync and save important contacts, photos, videos, music, documents, and even text messages.

Watch the How-To Videos on Your Phone

Newer smartphones usually have How-To Videos, a Support Center, or Help app built in to the phone. Take the time to look through this feature (which can be found in the main menu) to learn the ins and outs of your phone. Even experienced smartphone users are bound to discover some new tips or tricks that they were not aware of.

Set Up Shortcuts and Personalise Your Phone

You have finished the initial set up and updating and now the fun begins – personalising your phone and making it your own.  This is my favorite part of setting up a new phone. I always begin with selecting new wallpaper.  You can usually find the place to set up and chose the wallpaper under the settings menu (it may be called appearance or personalization).  Your phone will have some built-in options but you can also download wallpaper to match your personality through your phone’s respective app store.

Next, I start creating shortcuts for my most used apps and place them on my home screen with my favorite widgets. That way they are easy to find and quick to launch. I am an Android user and my widget of choice is the Google Now Launcher which provides me with traffic updates, weather, and updates to the sites I frequent the most.

Don’t be afraid to move apps around until you find a layout that works for you.  Try out new apps that suit your lifestyle. There are so many to choose from: Best Apps for Pet Owners, News Junkies, Keeping Kids Entertained, Streaming Music and much, much more!

Using your smartphone should help to make your life easier and not be a burden.


The last step in personalising your new phone is accessorizing it. I start with a phone case. Besides offering protection from bumps and drops, a case can add personality and style to your phone. Verizon offers many cases to choose from, including an option to create your own personalized photo case.

Accessories don’t stop at just the case; there are many more fun things to help improve the performance and use of your phone, from portable chargers to headphones and Bluetooth speakers. There are many options to turn your smartphone into a mobile entertainment system, and even a mobile office.

Do you have any tips to share about setting up a new phone and personalising it? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

CBechervaise67Chantal is located in Ottawa, Ontario. She is passionate about everything related to the World of Work: Leadership, HR, Social Media and Technology. You can read more from Chantal at her TakeItPersonelly blog or follow her on Twitter @CBechervaise.

Trends in Teens and Technology

By Tracy Dowdy

As a woman in my 40’s living in the suburbs, marketing aimed at me tends to fall in to the home/lawn/wrinkle and/or grey hair maintenance categories. In other words, things my kids couldn’t care less about.

The same principle applies to social media – if it’s trending or something that appeals to me, my kids aren’t interested. They’ve been there, done that, bought the t-shirt and likely got the tattoo.

Though it started as a way for Harvard University students to connect, and despite Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts, the average Facebook user is now 40.5 years old. Once my generation caught on, Facebook’s “cool factor” dropped significantly.

But just because it’s not the most popular site anymore doesn’t mean teens aren’t using Facebook. According to Pew Research Center, 71% of teens still use Facebook, they’re just using other sites

Interestingly, socioeconomic status seems to impact which site teens use. Those in households earning less than $50,000 tend to use Facebook more often than other social media, while those in households with an income over $70,000 prefer Snapchat.

When you consider that 73% of teens have smartphones and the fact the average teen sends 3,339 texts a month, suddenly the popularity of apps like Kik and WhatsApp become apparent. Both apps bypass the restraints and cost of traditional texting making their appeal even more understandable.  Video messaging apps like Keek allows users to upload 36 second videos directly to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google+ and HeyTell allows instant voice messaging by pressing a giant “hold and speak” button.

Anonymous sharing apps like Whisper, Yik Yak, and Ask.FM, that allow users to ask questions or post confessional texts or images, are utilized by a smaller number of teens with only 13% of girls and 8% boys reporting use.

All this can be very intimidating for parents, caregivers, school counselors or anyone else tasked with providing emotional or peer support for teens. Online bullying frequently rears its ugly head, as does kid-shaming or the lowest of them all, revenge porn.

Keeping up with what your kids are up to is like trying to outrun a zombie, only in this analogy, you’re the zombie. Unless your prey is as old as Facebook, you may have a hard time keeping up.

Don’t despair. You don’t need to have a Tumblr account, join Snapchat or start making Vines. As with every other good parenting strategy, start with a good ol’ conversation. Ask your kids what’s new, what they’re into and see where it leads. Plus, that’s what we’re here for at The Online Mom. We’re all about keeping up with trends in technology and supporting your family’s digital lifestyle. What trends do you want us to look at? Is there a social media platform you don’t understand? It’s right there in our name – The Online Mom. All you have to do is ask.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Tips for Setting up A Mobile Office

By Tracey Dowdy

Whether it’s the quiet, dedicated space of your home office when everyone else has left for work or school or the energy that comes from sharing a co-working space with other innovators and small business owners, setting up a mobile office could be the best thing you do for yourself and for your business this year.

The key to success is running your business effectively and efficiently whatever that looks like for your business model.

1.   Treat it like an office. If you’re first thought was “Well obviously” let your second thought be, “Oh wait, I get it.” If your mobile office is at home, you can’t be distracted by laundry or vacuuming and if your mobile space is a table at your favorite coffee shop you can’t spend the whole day people watching or stalking your ex on Facebook. In other words, separate the personal from the professional.

Consider setting up a different phone number, email and VoIP account dedicated to your business. If appropriate, set regular business hours so clients aren’t expecting you to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On the other hand if accessibility is important, make sure you’re responding to those texts and emails in a timely manner.

My husband is a private practice therapist and one of the components that sets his practice apart from others is the fact clients speak with a receptionist when they call to book an appointment. New clients looking to connect are often scrolling down a list of results in a Google search – if you don’t respond quickly, you could easily lose that client to another business.

2.  Consider a coworking space. Taking up a table at a local coffee shop is okay for an hour or so but setting up for an eight hour day and asking for multiple refills on your coffee isn’t and not just because of the resulting full-body-shakes and raging headache. If working from home isn’t an option but you don’t have the need for full-time office space, consider a coworking space. Sharing office space with freelancers, entrepreneurs and other small business owners offers you dedicated space for client calls, wireless access for your devices, room to spread out paperwork or research,  plus don’t even get me started on the importance of a decent office chair.

Not only do you have instant professional office space, coworking facilities provide access to conference rooms and networking opportunities with both peers and potential clients.

3.  Choose your equipment carefully. Consider what you need or want and make a prioritized wish list if something is missing. My current laptop is a dinosaur and gives the impression I’m dragging around a bag of wet laundry when it’s in my backpack. It’s fine for when it’s sitting on my desk at home, but running around with it reminds me technology is getting more lightweight and mobile so a new one is top of my wish list.

Obviously staying connected to clients is essential to mobile office success so consider a mobile broadband dongle or dongles and mobile Wi-Fi device so you’re never without access to your virtual office. 

While printers have come down substantially in price printer ink still seems to be made from unicorn tears. If you’re printing primarily in black and white with only occasional color copies, a basic printer may be all you need. If your business is built on top quality images but you don’t have the budget for high end equipment, consider working with a local printer instead. Some small business, (read “not chain stores”) are open for trade in kind. Consider providing graphic designs for their promotional materials in exchange for a discount on your printing needs.

If you’re travelling to construction sites or frequently work outdoors, make sure your phone and laptop are rugged enough to stand up to the demands of the environment. Verizon offers a variety of rugged phones offering durability without compromising functionality.

4.  Reach for the Stars Cloud.  Access to cloud based storage systems has revolutionized the way we do business. Of course you can print hard copies or back up everything to an external hard drive, but the freedom to retrieve or share archived information is invaluable.  Sites like Dropbox, Google Drive and Amazon’s new cloud service provide users secure access to information and the ability to share it with others.

5.  “Know Thyself.” You already know if you’re the Rumpelstiltskin type and can be locked in a room with a bale of hay and come out having spun gold. For others, the thought of being left alone to work on a project is a fate worse than death. Some not only prefer a solitary work space but actually thrive on it while others feed off the creative energy of others, using that energy to build their business and meet client needs in new and innovative ways.

Whatever your style, make the most of it. Use apps like Evernote, Simplekeep, Microsoft OneNote and DEVONThink to act as your personal assistant, keeping you on track while you’re busy coming up with new ways to conquer the world. That way no matter where you are, you’re not only working hard, you’re working smart.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

The Benefits of Buying Local

By Tracey Dowdy

My daughter and I ran errands last week and I forgot to bring our reusable shopping bags. When the cashier offered us plastic bags for our purchases, we said “No!” as if she’d suggested we adopt a mountain lion and let it sleep in our beds. Although my whole family is mindful of recycling, my younger daughter is militant about plastic bags and water bottles. In fact, I’d rather bring a panther into the house than risk being caught with a plastic bag.

We are all creatures of habit and I often hear that living a greener lifestyle is not only expensive but means making huge changes when in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth. Making a few simple adjustments can bring about a significant change in your carbon footprint without giving everything up to live in a yurt outside Seattle. Not that there’s anything wrong with yurts outside Seattle…just saying.

One of the easiest ways to incorporate a greener approach is through our food choices. Personally, I look forward to my local farmers market like baseball fans anticipate Opening Day. I take my dog and we wander through the stalls sampling artisanal cheeses, gorgeous seasonal produce and unusual treats like salmon bacon. Yes, salmon bacon is a thing.

Not only are you supporting local farmers, you’re getting fruit and vegetables at peak freshness while they’re in season. Local Harvest not only helps you find the nearest farmer’s market but also has suggestions to help you make the most of your visit, with handy tips like asking for “Number 2’s” (stop giggling) – imperfect produce which can be purchased at a lower price, e.g. apples that have bruises that can be cut away and used to make apple sauce.

Apps like Specialty Produce (Android) and Seasons (iOS) help you follow what is in season, so whether you’re shopping at the farmers market or at a chain grocery store you know you’re getting your produce at its best. Get tips on how to choose the perfect grapefruit, how to tell if a melon is ripe or even learn the flavor difference between Cotton Candy and Muscat grapes. (Here’s a hint – Cotton Candy Grapes taste a lot, and I mean a lot, like cotton candy.) Specialty Produce includes recipes for the fruit or vegetables you’ve chosen, and Seasons will tell you which markets currently have the produce you’re looking for in stock.

Greenease (Android/iOS), available for New York City and Washington DC, searches for restaurants, cafes and grocers that buy from local and/or sustainable farms. Whether you’re looking for a really good bacon cheeseburger or are craving a killer chick pea and spinach veggie burger on a Portobello mushroom “bun”, Greenease has you covered. The app breaks down businesses into the following categories: Free-Range, Gluten-Free, Grass-Fed, Drug-Free, Local, Organic, Sustainable Seafood, Veg-Friendly and Vegan-Friendly. Foodstand (iOS) connects food entrepreneurs with consumers. User-community driven, the app is a platform for users to promote their favorite local businesses by sharing photos, tagging ingredients, asking questions and a host of other fun features for foodies invested in buying and eating local.

Buying local means more than just buying produce that’s been picked within the last 24-48 hours. Equally important is the fact you’re preserving greenspace in your area, boosting the local economy, eliminating harmful pesticides from your diet, and reducing your carbon footprint. That’s a lot of good for making a few delicious changes.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

Friday, June 19: Planning Your Vacation



When: TODAY, Friday, June 19, 2015
3:00-4:00 pm ET
12:00-1:00 pm PT

‘Planning Your Vacation’

Join @TheOnlineMom @RobynsWorld @geekbabe and @TheTechDad TODAY, Friday, June 19 at 3 pm ET (12 noon PT) as we chat about Planning Your Vacation!
Making plans for that much-needed vacation? Your smartphone or tablet can help! Join us as we look the best apps for planning and organizing your travel, as well all the other mobile tools that will make sure you have the best vacation ever!
RSVP and attend the party for a chance to win a GoPro Hero 3+ Silver camera or a Limited Edition Metallic Color Droid Turbo smartphone!
Join @TheOnlineMom on the Video Recap right after the chat for another chance to win a Limited Edition Droid Turbo smartphone!

(Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

  1. Email (subject line: VZWBuzz) and include your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:    
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#VZWBuzz) today between 3 – 4 pm ET
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.)

Monday, May 18: Technology for Social Good

Technology for Social Good


When: TODAY, Monday, May 18, 2015
8:00 – 9:00 pm ET
5:00 – 6:00 pm PT
Join hosts @GlenGilmore and Monica Vila (@TheOnlineMom) and friends at 8 pm ET TODAY as we share how technology is transforming people’s lives, and explore how a reliable Internet and faster connection speeds can make a difference for everyone!
RSVP and attend the chat for a chance to win a portable Motorola battery charger or Kindle Fire HD!

  (Click here to learn more about our Twitter chats. You must RSVP and attend the party to be eligible for a prize.)

  1. Email (subject line: LifeOnFiOS) indicating your Twitter ID.
  2. Spread the word and RT this link on your Twitter feed:
  3. Join us on TweetDeck or HootSuite (#LifeOnFiOS) today between 8:00 – 9:00 pm ET.
  4. Tell your Twitter followers!
PRIZE WINNERS will be announced during the Party!

(The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon.)

Smart Devices to Help Save Energy and Money

By Tracey Dowdy

When I was a kid, my dad would get after us for leaving the lights on or my mom would, ahem, gently remind us that we weren’t trying to air condition God’s green earth. I didn’t get it; what’s the big deal? Now, as an adult paying utility bills, I get it. I so get it.

The average U.S. household spends approximately $2,200 per year on energy. About half of that goes on heating and cooling, 14 percent for heating water, 12 percent on lighting, and 13 percent for large appliances such as refrigerators or washers and dryers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey suggests allocating at least 21 percent of your household budget to utilities. That’s second only to your rent or mortgage payment and likely more than many of us will spend on groceries. With a winter like we just experienced and summer AC bills looming, this is a great time to look at some energy saving devices to help stretch your budget – and be kinder to the environment while you’re at it.


According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED lightbulbs use up to 80% less energy and last 25 times longer than regular lightbulbs. LED’s have dropped in price since they were first introduced, with many now available for $10-$15 including this bulb from Cree that comes with a full 10-year warranty.

If you’re not a fan of LED’s, there are plenty of other options, including smart bulbs like these from Alba which dim or shine brighter based on the amount of ambient light in the room, the time of day, or whether someone’s at home.

Verizon offers the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch that allows you to program when lamps or other appliances turn on or off using your smartphone or tablet. The switch even tells you how much energy the appliance is using, so you can manage your energy consumption from anywhere.

Water Savers

Although I may feel self-righteous about not buying bottled water, I’ve had to re-evaluate how much water I waste at home. Whether it’s letting the water run in the shower while I stand at the sink and brush my teeth, running the dishwasher when it isn’t really full, or throwing a small load in the wash because I want a specific pair of jeans, I waste a lot of water. If you stop and consider the fact that 750 million people around the world lack access to clean water, that helps you view your water consumption differently.

Aside from waiting until the dishwasher is full or simply choosing a different pair of jeans, there are plenty of devices that can help save water. The Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying® showerhead reduces water use by up to 36% without compromising water pressure. (On a side note, unless your hair is exceptionally dirty you don’t need to “lather, rinse, repeat.” That’s just a marketing ploy designed to get you to buy more shampoo.)

You can also get high efficiency aerators for your taps; a toilet tank bag to reduce the amount of water needed to refill the tank after you flush; water flow valves that reduce the amount of water you use in the shower by 75 percent; or a dual flush converter that promises to pay for itself 5 times over every year.


Depending where you call home, temperatures can hit extremes at both ends of the thermometer and heating and cooling costs can be a significant part of your budget.

The Nest Home Thermostat is a perennial favorite, allowing you to not just program settings when you’re home but also change settings via your mobile device. This intuitive thermostat learns your habits over time and displays energy use on a dashboard allowing you to monitor consumption. Not only can you program the thermostat to kick on while you’re driving home, you can reset it if you get stuck at the office or decide to go out with friends.

If you don’t have central air, the Quirky + GE Aros Smart Window Air Conditioner “learns from your budget, location, schedule, and usage to automatically maintain the perfect temperature and maximize savings for your home.” When you factor in the ability to control it from your cell phone, the reason for its popularity is obvious.

Power Strips

Did you know your phone charger is drawing energy even if your phone isn’t plugged in? Every device – your TV, hair dryer, coffee maker, microwave, refrigerator – pulls energy and costs you money. The easiest fix for these devices is a smart power strip that enables you to turn off several devices at once. The Smart Strip turns off your peripherals when you turn off a key device, so if you turn off the TV, Smart Strip turns off your cable box, surround sound, and the game system that’s attached.

Aside from all these devices, there are plenty of apps that can also help you get a grip on your energy and water consumption. WattBuddy lets you Track, Graph and Save by tracking electricity use directly from your GreenButton or electricity meter, and Dropcountr connects with your water utility company through your smartphone to track water usage in real time as well as set up a customized water budget and notify you of leaks.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.