What’s the first thing you reach for when you’re bored? There’s no shame in being honest; it’s likely your smartphone. And why not? That pocket-sized computer/camera/phone book is loaded down with free and low-cost apps that make your life a little brighter each and every day. And I’m not talking about the socials, as those can bring you down as much as they can pick you up. I’m talking about the apps that stimulate your brain, inspire you to new ideas, keep you calm when you’re stressed, and on task when you’re flustered.
I use some of my favorite apps so often that I almost feel guilty — they deliver so much value but cost me so little. Am I assuaging that guilt by sharing my apps of choice here? Probably, but I sincerely hope you see something new in this list that becomes one of your favorites. You’ll find fashion, beauty, and budget picks — of course. But, since I’m a whole person as well as a budget fashionista — and you are too — my list of favorite apps also branches out of that space, too.
Enjoy these nine apps for a more stylish and beautiful life.
My 9 favorite apps
1. Shopstyle for shopping
Shopstyle pulls in catalogs from your favorite fashion retailers so you can search multiple stores to find that garment you’ve been seeking. Need a navy-blue jumpsuit with a deep-v neckline? Or a platform espadrille? That’s easy for Shopstyle. You can also sort and filter search results extensively — there’s even a one-tap button to view only pieces that are on sale. You can also earn Rakuten cash-back rebates from many of the Shopstyle retailers.
How Shopstyle makes my life better: It’s a one-stop shop for fashion when I know exactly what I want (which is most of the time).
2. Vogue Runway for your high fashion fix
The big fashion week news right now is coming out of Copenhagen spring 2021 shows. And you have it all right at your fingertips. Vogue Runway is a collection of look books that delivers your high-fashion fix in a flash. Check out the pastels and slinky dresses of the Helmstedt spring 2021 collection, Stine Goya’s soft lavender wrap dress matched with lavender low-heeled boots, or the black, whites, and neutrals that dominate the Rodebjer spring 2021 collection.
How Vogue Runway makes my life better: It provides quick access to the latest high-fashion designs.
3. Palette Republic for a different kind of outfit inspo
Palette Republic will make a color palette out of any photo. Like the color composition of that cute pic you snapped of your dogs? Upload and Palette Republic pulls out the main colors and uses them to add a color palette to the photo. Probably most people use this app to create artwork — but I like it as a fun way to ideate color combinations, for clothes or for makeup.
How Palette Republic makes my life better: It’s a fun way to play with color.
4. Perfect 365 for makeup ideas
Perfect 365 is a must-have for any beauty enthusiast. Use it to test out new makeup looks without buying anything or even having to wash your face. You can upload a photo of yourself or use the app’s built-in makeup mirror. Then, swipe through the looks until you find one you love. Along the way, you will probably see a few you should never try (I did for sure). You can also click “About the look” for a tutorial. Perfect 365 is addictive and entertaining — whether or not you’re in the market for a new beauty look.
How Perfect 365 makes my life better: It encourages me to think more creatively about makeup.
5. Clarity Money for your budget
Switching gears to an app that’s more practical, Clarity Money is next on my list of favorite apps. Sync your bank accounts with Clarity Money and the app tracks your spending and shares insights about where your money goes. There’s some AI techy stuff happening behind the scenes, which powers the messages the app displays to you. When I log in, for example, the app shows me my total spending in the last several days and recent transactions — but it also often displays how much I’ve spent at Amazon in the current month and any spending anomalies.
You can also review your account and debt balances, and search through all of your transactions by keyword or amount.
How Clarity Money makes my life better: It simplifies my finances so I know if I’m staying on budget or not.
6. Alarmed to stay organized
I’ve tried many reminder and task list apps over the years, and Alarmed is the one I’ve stuck with for several years. It has timed reminders and location reminders; I have the premium version but I’ve honestly never used the location reminders. I mostly use it to document things I would otherwise forget — like when to give my dogs their monthly meds, when I need to cancel subscriptions that I initiated on a free trial, or when I need to choose a winner for the latest Budget Fashionista giveaway.
It’s also very satisfying when I get to tap the checkbox and mark a task as complete. I couldn’t get through a single week without dropping multiple balls if I didn’t have Alarmed.
How Alarmed makes my life better: It holds me accountable for my to-dos.
7. Headspace for peace and health
I started meditating regularly about a year ago, and it’s done wonders for my focus and ability to remain calm in stressful situations. The thing is, meditation is not easy to work into your life — especially if you’re a task-master who’s more comfortable getting things done than relaxing. Headspace, backed in part by The Chernin Group, helps you develop a meditation practice with simple, easy exercises and tools.
Learn to do a body scan or practice focused attention in one minute. Listen to single meditations designed to improve your performance in sports, creative writing, job interviews, presentations, and more. Play background music that improves your focus or calming tracks that help you fall asleep. You can even stream workouts designed to release stress and anxiety.
Headspace is a premium subscription app that costs $12.99 monthly.
8. Peak Brain Training for boredom
Peak has brain training games. In the free version, you can complete a single brain workout daily — the workout consists of three or four games that help you develop skills like memory, mental agility, problem-solving, and language. The app tracks your scores over time and displays your progress with trendlines. You can also view a brain map, which shows your relative strength in these categories. My brain map shows great language skills and a not-so-great memory.
I use the free version, but an upgrade to Premium gives you unlimited access to the games.
9. Kindle for learning and downtime
Surely you’ve heard of the Kindle app already, but I had to include it here because I use it so often. I’ve never had a Kindle device and I don’t really want one — I have enough trouble keeping track of my phone, probably because my memory is not great. But the Kindle app is a beautiful compromise. I can quickly download free books courtesy of Amazon Prime, so that I have reading material with me wherever I go. And, bonus, digital books don’t require shelf space or kill trees.
What are your favorite apps? Let me know in the comments!