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Jennifer Jolly | “At the intersection of high tech and real life”

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MacGyver Gadgets For Busy Families 

When you buy for back-to-school this year, why not get the gadgets and tech tools that will make a big change in your day-to-day? Maybe you’re always crunched for time, space, or just trying to find the best bargain… whatever it is, there are amazing news tricks and tools to solve common problems, that most students and parents have no idea exist.

USA Today Tech-life columnist and founder of Techish.com, Jennifer Jolly, is back with MacGyver-like save-the-day gadgets and tech tools for the whole family.

  1. Edge Desk $399 :https://www.theedgedesk.com/ (Chicago based company!)

This is an insanely cool portable one-piece chair/desk combo that comes fully assembled in the box, then folds into customized positions – in less than a minute.

  • I think it of it like a modern Murphy-bed-type instant office or study space – that you can tuck away when you’re not using – perfect for dorms or small apartments.
  • It weighs less than 30-pounds and you can get wheels that clip on it, so it’s super easy to move around.
  • all set up ergonomically – great for your back, tons of different configurations – I can even use it as a standing desk!
  1. Virgin Mobile Inner Circle – $1 phone plan for a year : VirginMobileUSA.com

Stop over-paying for kids phones already … and your own for that matter. Virgin Mobile has a solid deal on Apple’s iPhones right now – buy one of six specially priced phones (starting at $279.99) before August 31st you’ll get a full year of unlimited service for just $1.

***They just announced that you can bring your own phone to this deal – so it’s one-freaking dollar for a year!***

  • You also become part of Virgin’s Inner Circle. That means you get access to perks and discounts on flights, hotels … Wine and more.
  • Considering that service typically costs around $50 per month, that’s some seriously impressive savings and perfect timing for the back-to-school money crunch.
  1. New Mobile Skype App for iOS and Android ($Free) https://www.skype.com/en/

Group video calling and group chat makes it easier for students to communicate with friends, classmates or family members anytime, anywhere.

  • For that – check out the newly designed, free, mobile Skype App –  it’s helps people do more together (and save time!), on any platform or device with 1:1 and group instant messages, file sharing and screen sharing.
  • Students can use reactions and @mentions to call out fellow students and friends – to help them with projects or deadlines, set up an activity after school, or check-in with mom or dad.
  • The new version of Skype is a better place for your personal networks, where you can share, chat, and create from one free app across your devices – great for busy students on the go.
  1.  OnStar Smart Driver Program: ($0) 

If you have a new teen driver – like I do – high-tech driving tools aimed at safety are another must-have. If you already have a car in the GM family, sign up for OnStar Smart Driver. This works for anyone with a 2015 or newer Buick, Chevy, GMC or Cadillac.

  • Through an app, it gives you a basic report card of each drive, showing average speed, distance, late night driving, hard breaking—feedback that can help make teens better, safer drivers, and save us parents on ton of worry!
  • It’s no additional cost, and can also help your family get more out of their car, reducing wear and tear, enhancing fuel efficiency and even helping you get better prices on car insurance. Also adds gamification element – you can compare your results to other drivers who drive your same vehicle, other drivers in your state and other OnStar Smart Drivers.


  1. Pixie AR Tracker(starts at $29.99) www.getpixie.com

The brand-new Pixie tracker is like Pokemon Go for your lost stuff – using AUGMENTED REALITY to actually show, rather than just tell, where your missing stuff is hiding.

  • Attach one guitar-pick sized tracker to your phone and the other to whatever you lose a lot like your keys, wallet, backpack, remote control, you name it.
  • When you can’t find something you need, just open the app on your smartphone, scan the area (just like taking a panoramic photo) and watch a little cloud of “pixie dust” appears right over it.
  • Pixie can see through walls, inside drawers, beneath couch cushions and in your messy purse. It has an outdoor range of 150 feet and works within 30-50 feet indoors. If you’re further away than that, it will show you the last place you were near it. It comes Pixie comes in a bunch of different colors, plus a complimentary iPhone case and has 12 month battery life.


  1. Geko Smart Safety Whistle: $49.95

The world’s just not always as safe as it used to be, and for that, there’s a new high-tech safety siren that blows the old “rape” whistle away.

  • It looks like a cute and colorful little whistle, but this GPS tracking, Bluetooth tech tool is wired to save your life.
  • One blow or push of a button can send an SOS to your “safety net” – up to three contacts you pre-program – record audio, and send an alert with your exact location on a map that updates every few minutes. Oh, and it makes a really loud noise, but as a whistle and in the app.


  1. Bella Vita Wine Purse: $74.95

This last one just for us Mom-friends: it’s a designer-looking purse for all of our modern-mom essentials, including wine.

  • The zippered side-compartment conceals an insulated pocket created to hold the coveted party pouch.  The party pouch has a spout and is durable enough to hold up to 2 bottles of wine, or 1.5L of your favorite beverage.
  • The backside of the PortoVino wine purse has a stylistic flap that when opened will provide access to the pouring spout so you can easily pour your drink on the go.

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