Five Things That Will Help Your Future

Group of multi-gender, multi-ethnic students studying together.Your primary reason for attending college is to jump start your career, of course. But, did you know there are many other things you can do now to help secure your future?

Here are just 5 things you can do today that will improve your after-college life:

1. Be careful with your internet presence
You aren’t thinking about terms like “personal brand” just yet, but you’ll be applying for that first after-college job in just a few short years. In our digital age, employers tend to check out prospective employees’ internet presences to get a feel for what kind of person they might be hiring. Be careful to cultivate the online image you’d be comfortable sharing with your future boss.

2. Master the art of negotiating
Whether you’re a skilled debater or love to keep a low profile, you need to learn how to negotiate to earn your true worth. And you’ll need to know how to do that as soon as you’re applying for your very first real job.

Master the art of negotiating now by practicing on your friends whenever you disagree on something. You can find lots of tips and techniques online; research and then try them. See what works and what will never fly. By the time you graduate, you’ll be equipped to politely and firmly negotiate for a better salary, an improved benefits package and more!

3. Stick to a budget
Sure, you’ve got a mountain of student debt to pay off, but that doesn’t mean you should let your budget go to pot. Learn how to stick to a spending plan now, while life is still relatively cheap. Better yet, see if you can cut down on your monthly spending and start paying back your student loan before you’ve graduated!

If you need help managing your money, be sure to call, click, or stop by [credit union] today for free financial advice.

4. Sign up for a class that’s not related to your major
Take the time to explore educational pursuits that are not directly related to your chosen major. It’s always a good idea to broaden your knowledge base, and you never know which class or area of study can be super-handy at a later time. Consider subjects like finances, computer science and accounting, all of which will likely be useful to you one day.

5. Develop healthy habits
Now that you’re living on your own and responsible for your daily schedule, take the time and effort to establish healthy habits on every level. Find a healthful diet that you can stick to, adapt a responsible sleeping pattern and establish a study and work routine that shows maturity, perseverance and forethought. It might be more fun to let loose for another few years, but developing healthy habits now shows that you’re growing up and ready to join the world of adults.

Remember: The choices you make today will help to ensure your brighter tomorrow.

Your Turn:
How do you plan for your future today? Share your own best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/best-advice-college-students-never-hear-2017-5

https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/know-yourself/5-ways-to-find-career-ideas

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How to Prepare for Your Job Interviews

Young black woman shaking hands with her new employerNothing beats the excitement and novelty of your very first real job. With your long-awaited degree in hand, the world is at your fingertips! You can do it all – and you will. But first, you need to land that perfect job. For that to happen, you’ll need to get through an interview looking poised, polished and professional.

Whether,you’re preparing for your first real job or you’re just looking for part-time work to make some headway on your student loans, we’ve got you covered. Check out our handy list of interview tips and get ready to make your best impression!

Research – Find out all you can about your prospective workplace. Showing that you’re familiar with the company, its goals and its successes will impress your interviewer and help you display a keen interest in the company.

Practice – Having an interviewer’s question leaving you tongue-tied is the stuff that interview nightmares are made of. Role-play with a friend before the meeting, having them ask you typical interview questions, like “What can you bring to the company?” and “Can you list some of your strongest skills?”

This way, you’ll be prepared for the questions the interviewer will throw at you during the real thing.

Be professional – Dress to impress. You want to look respectable and mature, so look the part. You don’t need to wear a suit unless the particular workplace calls for one, but you can look sharp and professional in a buttoned, collared shirt, or a nicer blouse and slacks.

Also, be sure to show up at least 10 minutes early. Prepare everything you’ll need the night before so you’re not frantically searching for your keys a half-hour before you’re supposed to meet with the big boss. Make sure you know how to drive to the office without getting lost. If it’s in an unfamiliar part of town, input the address into Waze or another GPS app the day before the interview and do a practice run to be sure you’ve got it down pat.

Finally, use respectable language only, keeping away from slang, vague, meaningless words like “um” or “whatever,” and, of course, all swear words.

Act confident – This is where your latent acting skills come into play. You may be quaking at the knees, but you’ll need to present yourself as a confident, assured employee. Your handshake should be firm. Look the interviewer in the eye. Answer questions in a strong, certain voice. Employers want to see strength and poise; show them you’ve got it!

Exit with grace – No matter how the interview played out, be sure to leave a good lasting impression. Smile, thank the interviewer for their time, and mention what a pleasure it was to meet them.

Follow-up – Later that day, send the interviewer a quick email thanking them again for their time, being sure to sign your name. This way, they’ll remember you from among the dozens of potential employees they may have met that day.

Now get out there and land that dream job!

Your Turn:
How do you prepare for job interviews? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/search?q=preparing+for+first+interview&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=preparing+for+first+interview&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.7064j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/first-job-interview-questions-answers

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/interview/practice

Ransomware And Mobile Devices

Three bad guys planning ransom demandsOne moment, you’re surfing the internet. A minute later, a pop-up shows your files have been taken hostage and that you’re required to pay a $300 ransom to have them released back to you. You stare at the screen in disbelief. How is this possible, especially considering you are on your mobile device?

Ransomware – malware that accesses your computer system and blocks access to your files until a ransom is paid to restore access all while stealing your payment information – has been becoming more prevalent among PC users. While these attacks typically focused solely on PCs, they are now adapting to include mobile devices. That’s right, the very same mobile devices you use to access your credit union accounts for checking balances, transfer funds and make payments.

An example of a Russian-based mobile device ransomware is called “Svpeng.” It focuses on tactics for infecting mobile phones and mobile banking applications. It infects the device with a phishing window when the application is opened. This overlay attack is used to steal online banking information as the malware pretends to be the application’s login screen. The user enters login and password information, which is then stolen by the hackers. Once they have access to the account, they can control the account. Svpeng also phishes through Google Play if that is on the mobile device.

This tactic also involves SMS messages being sent to two Russian banks to determine if the phone number of the device is connected to any payment cards. If a card is indeed connected to a number, the hackers use commands through the device to transfer the victim’s money into their own accounts. While Svpeng has currently been seen only in Russia, it is expected to expand into other countries; one of the features of the ransomware checks the mobile device’s language settings to determine the appropriate language to use for the attack.

As time goes on, other PC-based ransomware programs may also be adapted for mobile devices, or more ransomware programs that are specifically designed for mobile devices may be created. Hackers are always looking for ways to evolve their tactics in hopes of stealing more information and making immediate profits. Svpeng, for example, had 50 modifications to its malware within a three-month period.

How does this type of malware get onto a PC or a mobile device? It could be through a “drive-by download” where malicious software is downloaded without the user even knowing about it. This happens as the user surfs the internet without a care, yet comes across a compromised webpage or clicks to a website through an HTML-based email. It could have been downloaded through a phishing email, which appears to be from a credit union, yet is a fake email linking to a compromised webpage. The ransomware could also come through an email attachment that is malicious.

After the infection occurs on the mobile device or PC, the overlay or ransomware tactics are used as was described with Svpeng. That way the hackers can either directly steal the login and password information when the credit union account is accessed, or the user is blackmailed by a direct ransomware attack to send money to unlock the mobile device.

Many of the ways ransomware can be prevented from infecting a PC are the same for prevention on a mobile device. Make sure data on a mobile device is regularly backed up. This will help with recovering information if the device is hijacked. Make sure an antivirus program is running on the mobile device. Follow safe web browsing habits. Block suspicious emails.

Don’t download data or apps from questionable sources. Don’t “jailbreak” a device where built-in controls and security features are overridden; this removes an additional layer of protection against ransomware attacks.

If you think your mobile device has become a victim of ransomware, you can try to remove it by running a virus scan through mobile antivirus software. Don’t pay any ransom because it won’t guarantee the release of your data and you are giving additional payment information to the hackers. If none of these work, talk with your mobile device or cellular provider or their tech support. Of course, notify your credit union to monitor your accounts for any potentially fraudulent activity.

Protecting Yourself Against Card Cracking Scams

Person in front of screen selecting fraud  prevention iconIn a recent scam targeting cash-strapped millennials, fraudsters are once again cashing in on people’s naivety and goodwill. Only this time they’re using social media to make it happen.

What makes the scam especially cruel is that fraudsters specifically look for victims who are short on funds, such as students with large loans hanging over their heads, struggling single parents or young professionals searching for a job. People who are desperate for cash also prove to be desperate enough to believe almost anything that will help them earn them a quick buck. Unfortunately, this vulnerability, coupled with the broad reach and easy plundering that scammers are granted by using social media, has made card cracking more successful in luring victims than many other scams.

Card cracking scams start with an innocent-looking social media post that appears like the dozens you scroll through every day. The post may show up on the victim’s Twitter feed, Facebook page or on Instagram, and it will always showcase some form of quick cash. It might be an easy-to-win contest with a huge reward for the winner. It can be a dream job that will instantly be yours – as soon as you follow the instructions. It may even be a complete giveaway, such as a cash bonus or a gift card that you’ll be granted just for sharing some information. If you click on the embedded link, you’ll be asked for your checking account information, your PIN or your online banking credentials.

Once the scammers have this information, they can do any number of things with their prize, from withdrawing large sums of cash from your account to using your debit card number for a massive shopping spree. They may even help themselves to funds you have in your account, such as a paycheck or student loan.

In another iteration of card cracking, scammers will tug on victims’ heartstrings, claiming their personal accounts are frozen and they have no access to money. They’ll ask the victim to allow them to access the victim’s account for simple transactions such as depositing checks. Once the checks are in, the scammer will cash in on the amount, and a few days later, when the check bounces, the scammer will be long gone. This variation is sometimes played out in person, on college campuses.

In yet a third scheme, card crackers promise victims a cut of fraudulent funds if the victim allows them to use their account. Victims often rationalize this crime by assuring themselves that they’re not actually playing a part in the fraud. Of course, they will still be held accountable when the scammers are busted.

Sadly, falling victim to a scam can be especially harmful for a millennial who is just beginning to build their credit history.

Don’t be the next victim. Here’s how to protect yourself from card cracking:

1.) Never share personal information with a stranger
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but this rule cannot be overstated. Never share sensitive information with a correspondent whose identity you can not verify with absolute certainty. You wouldn’t think of giving your checking account number to a solicitor you met on the street; why would you share it with a stranger online?

Of course, victims of card cracking and similar schemes believe the scammers are legitimate. That’s why it’s important to authenticate a web address, company or offer by asking for a street address or phone number. Additionally, by educating yourself about these scams, you’ll be able to spot one immediately.

2.) When it’s too good to be true, it usually is
Remembering this rule of thumb will go a long way toward helping you recognize scammers. Free or easy money exists only in fairy tales. Don’t believe the Facebook post that promises you’ll land that dream job you’ve been searching for if you only hand over your account passwords. Ignore the offer for a free gift card and don’t believe the sob story about frozen accounts leaving people penniless.

3.) Never cash a check for someone else
You are not a credit union or a check-cashing business. If someone approaches you in person or online and asks you to cash a check for them, politely refuse. Unless you would trust this person with your life, there is no reason to believe their tale is legitimate or that their check will be honored.

4.) Report suspicious activity
If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, report it immediately. You may have fallen prey to a card cracking scam and you don’t even know it!

Scammers may be smart, but you can be smarter. When you’re educated, alert and aware, you’ll be able to spot most scams before it’s too late.

Your Turn:
Have you recently spotted any card cracking scams on your social media platforms? Share what tipped you off in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://info.rippleshot.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-card-cracking
https://www.google.com/search?q=card+cracking+scam&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=card+cracking&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l3.10532j0j7&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8
https://www.nextadvisor.com/blog/2016/07/18/know-about-card-cracking-scams/

How To Use The Money Envelope System

Image of person putting cash into an envelopeIf you’re like many of us, you’ve been trying to stick to a budget for a while, but by the time each month is over, you’ve busted your budget – again.

Because of this recurring pattern, you’re probably wondering if there’s a better way. Fortunately, the answer is yes!

The money envelope system has been around for years, and it’s an incredibly motivating and powerful way to keep spending in check.

Advantage One is proud to bring you this handy guide to understanding and implementing the money envelope system in your household.

Note: If you already have a workable monthly budget, you can skip to step 2.

1. Determine your monthly income and expenses
For the next few months, track all of your expenses. Hold onto every receipt or record each purchase you make, being sure to indicate which category of expense it falls under. Hold onto every pay stub, too. When a three-month period has passed, you’ll sit down to figure out exactly how much discretionary income you’re left with each month. This will not include fixed amounts, like insurance premiums, mortgage payments, savings and investments.

2. Create a budget for every expense category
Now, divide your discretionary income into different categories. The categories you need and the amounts you’ll set aside for each will depend on your individual lifestyle and habits, but you’ll likely need categories for food, gas, entertainment, transportation and clothing costs.

Review the way you’ve been spending your money in the last few months for an idea of how much you’ll need to set aside for each category. If you see you’ve been overspending in a certain area, this is a great time to resolve to cut back.

3. Create your envelopes
This is where the money envelope system differs from a regular budget. Instead of having money set aside for each category in your head, or even scribbled on a paper somewhere, take one envelope for each expense category and mark it clearly. Now, put the exact amount of cash for this month in the envelope for each category.

Do this with every expense category, and voila! You’ve created your new budgeting system!

4. Stick to your budget
As in any budget, following through on a plan is the hardest part. With the envelope system though, it’s a whole lot easier.

Say you need to make a grocery run. You’ll peek inside your “groceries” envelope, take note of how much cash is inside, and figure out how much you can afford to spend. Take that amount of money to the store with you, and only use that cash. No cheating! There’s absolutely no card-swiping allowed and no sneaking money from another envelope to beef up a skimpy cash supply in another. You need to work with what you have.

Instead of walking out of the store with a dozen items in hand that weren’t on your list, you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. And, if you find yourself running low on grocery money one month, you’ll have to make do. You can take the pantry challenge and dream up a menu created around the ingredients you have on hand, or you can shop the sales and cook according to what’s cheapest this week.

Do whatever it takes – but no cheating!

5. Reward yourself!
If you find yourself with extra money in any category at the end of the month, it’s OK to celebrate. Dave Ramsey recommends rewarding yourself with a dinner out or an expensive drink. Alternatively, you can treat that money as “rollover cash” and use it to enjoy a roomier budget next month.

Tips and tricks
Here are some variations and different approaches to this ingenious system:

  • Use a small accordion file folder instead of individual envelopes. It’ll be easier to keep track of your envelopes when they’re all in one place, and it’s sturdier than paper envelopes.
  • Go cashless! Love the idea but hate the thought of only using cash? You can still use the envelope system with some minor adjustments. There are apps designed to create virtual envelopes for you to use, such as Mvelopes. You can also use a cost-free budgeting app that allows you to divide and track your spending into different categories, such as Mint, Quicken and Monefy.
  • Trim your fixed expenses. If you’re finding it difficult to stick to your self-created budget, try to cut back on your non-discretionary spending. Search for a cheaper auto insurance plan.
  • Ditch your cable. Find ways to trim your electric bill and gas expenses. Use the money you save to add to the envelopes that never seem to have enough to get you through the month.
  • Create an emergency envelope. Set aside $20 or $50 to use in case another envelope runs out of money.

Congratulations! You’ve got the money envelope system down pat! Here’s hoping it helps you on your journey toward financial wellness.

Your Turn:
Have you tried the money envelope system? Has it worked for you? Why, or why not?

SOURCES:
https://www.moneycrashers.com/envelope-budgeting-system/
https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/envelope-system-explained
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-budget-using-the-envelope-system-1389001
https://www.pennypinchinmom.com/cashless-cash-envelope-system/

Laptop/Notebook Reviews

student looking at laptops in retail storeSay goodbye to your iPhone; in college, your laptop will be your new BFF. Here’s where it all happens: the notes on your classes, your study schedule, writing those papers – your whole life is here!

Make sure you’re fully equipped to give it all you’ve got by weighing all of your options before buying a laptop or notebook. We’ve made the job easier for you by reviewing the best picks for college students today.

1.) Dell XPS 13
Price: $800-$949
For a laptop that looks amazing and is super-powerful and functional, the Dell XPS 13 is a great choice.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 8th-generation Intel Core i3 – Intel Core i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Intel UHD Graphics 620
    RAM: 4GB – 16GB
    Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080; non-touch) QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800; touchscreen)
    Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
  • Pros: Strong battery life, Webcam orientation, Sleek, pretty exterior
  • Cons: Poor speaker placement, Relatively expensive in comparison to similar models

2.) Samsung Notebook 9 Pro
Price: $875-$999
The 2-in-1 laptop that outperforms nearly every other one on the market, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro’s best feature is its stylus, equipped with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity to make sure you don’t miss a word. Best of all, this nifty little gadget attaches to the Notebook and doesn’t need to be charged separately.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – AMD Radeon Graphics (2GB GDDR5)
    RAM: 8GB – 16GB
    Screen: 13.3-inch – 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED display with Touch Screen Panel
    Storage: 256GB SSD
  • Pros: Excellent for the stylus, Sleek look and feel, Lengthy battery life
  • Cons: Downward-firing speakers, Touchscreen has only 1080 pixels

3. Asus Chromebook Flip
Price: $450-$499
Asus has slashed the price on Chromebooks while equipping the laptop with a 360-degree hinge for easy flipping.

  • Specs:
    CPU: Intel Core m3
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515
    RAM: 4GB | Screen: 12.5-inch, Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED backlit anti-glare
    Storage: 64GB eMMC + TPM
  • Pros: Stunning, vivid screen, Excellent price for performance and features, 360-degree hinge
  • Cons: No out-of-box Android app support, Average speakers

4. Microsoft Surface Prol9
Price: $375-$899
Finally, the next generation of tablets has made its debut. This tablet is so well-equipped that it can easily replace your laptop. The Surface Pro has several different versions, and as usual, the more you pay, the more you’ll get.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core m3 – i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 615 – Iris Plus Graphics 640
    RAM: 4GB – 16GB
    Screen: 12.3-inch, 2,736 x 1,824 PixelSense display
    Storage: 128GB – 1TB SSD
  • Pros: Improved battery life, Sleek, modern design, Large selection of accessories
  • Cons: Surface Pen no longer included in package, Only the i7 version can compete with Apple’s less-expensive iPad Pro

5. Samsung Notebook 7 Spin
Price: $ 699 – $1200
With the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, you’ll get the performance you’d expect from a MacBook Pro, for the price of a MacBook Air.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 6th generation Intel Core i7
    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 940MX (2GB DDR3L); Intel HD Graphics 520
    RAM: 12GB – 16GB
    Screen: 15.6-inch Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) LED with touch panel
    Storage: 1 TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
  • Pros: Extremely versatile, Full HD touchscreen
  • Cons: Heavyweight, Graphics don’t quite measure up to the competition

6. Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming
Price: $699-$799
Need a computer that offers the perfect mix of functionality and gaming options? Look no further than the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7
    Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050; Intel HD Graphics 620 – GTX 1050 Ti; Intel HD Graphics 630
    RAM: 8GB – 16GB
    Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) anti-glare LED-backlit
    Storage: 1TB HDD – 1TB HDD; 128GB SSD
  • Pros: Affordable gaming setup, Excellent battery life
  • Cons: Trackpad isn’t fully reliable, Screen is deficient

7. Acer Swift 3
Price: $429-$699
If you’re looking for a budget laptop that will still do its job well, you’ve just found it. The Acer Swift 3 offers performance and value, complete with Ultrabook-class Core i processors and an incredible 8 hours of passive battery life.

  • Specs:
    CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i3 – i7
    Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
    RAM: 4GB – 8GB
    Screen: 14-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) ComfyView IPS
    Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD
  • Pros: Powerful for its price, Strong battery life
  • Cons: Boring looks, Down-firing speakers

Your Turn: What’s your favorite laptop? How does it make tackling studies or doing course work easier and/or more productive?

SOURCES:
https://www.lifewire.com/best-laptops-for-college-students-to-buy-4071769
http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/laptops/10-best-laptops-for-students-983385
https://www.pcmag.com/roundup/285524/the-best-laptops-for-college-students

Grocery Apps

Grocery shopping is an inevitable part of life. Whether you choose to do your shopping at the corner grocery, Whole Foods or your local Walmart, remembering what you need and trying to stick to your budget can be a hassle. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if this chore was a little easier?

That’s the goal of the dozens of grocery apps currently available. But with so many out there, how can you choose the one that best suits your needs?

Advantage One to the rescue! We’re proud to bring you a review of the best grocery apps. All to make your life a little easier.

Grocery iQ
Grocery IQ logoThis one has the word “IQ” in it for a reason; it’s built smartly! Grocery iQ also wants to make you a smarter shopper. This free app is one of the most full-featured grocery list apps available. It allows you to create shopping lists, scan barcodes and perform searches via voice recognition.

  • Best features
    Grocery iQ allows you to scan an item’s barcode and then store it in the app’s memory to add to future grocery lists. It’s also equipped with the super-convenient ability to clip and print coupons – it’ll even show you which coupons are available for the products on your list! Best of all, when you create a Grocery iQ account, you can sync it with your store’s loyalty card and add your coupons directly to your store account.
  • Glaring glitches
    While Grocery iQ will show you coupons for the items you’re searching for, it won’t tell you what’s on sale in other stores or offer any help with creating your menu for the week.

Out of Milk
Out of Milk logoEveryone hates running out of milk. This free app wants to make sure you never have to experience that inconvenience again! Out of Milk allows you to create a fun, interactive grocery list that makes shopping super-easy. It also lets you design to-do lists for other areas of your life outside grocery shopping.

  • Best Features
    Out of Milk’s defining feature is its Pantry List. Aptly named, this feature allows you to keep stock of what’s in your pantry and alert you when you’re running low on a food item or staple so you know when it’s time to restock. It’s like shopping with your pantry in your back pocket!
  • Glaring Glitches
    Out of Milk shines at pantry-tracking but has no added features for menu-planning, coupon-clipping or even comparison shopping.

Grocery Pal
Grocery Pal logoGrocery Pal is the bargain shopper’s dream. The free app was designed to help you browse the latest sales and deals at your favorite supersized and midsized stores, allowing you to add on-sale items to your existing grocery list with an easy click. Grocery Pal is also adept at organizing your recipes and tracking the items in your pantry. It’s truly an all-in-one app!

  • Best Features
    No more messy coupon-clipping! Grocery Pal not only allows you to browse the local sales, it will search for deals on the items on your list on its own, with no input or effort on your part.
  • Glaring Glitches
    Grocery Pal will not allow you to scan a barcode and store an item in its memory for future lists.

How they stack up
App Comparison

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite grocery-list app? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bestproducts.com/eats/food/gmp1505/grocery-shopping-list-apps/

https://www.foodbeast.com/news/the-10-best-grocery-shopping-apps/

https://www.lifewire.com/time-saving-grocery-list-app-iphone-1999329