Military life is a challenge, but there's an app for that. We polled our staff and asked our readers what free apps make their military lives just a little bit easier. And while not all of these are created specifically military apps, what they do and how they help fits just right with the military lifestyle.
Sandboxx. For service members, Sandboxx can be a great way to connect with their unit buddies over a social media network built just for them. But for spouses, family members and friends, Sandboxx also provides an easy-to-use and inexpensive postal mail service. Use the app to take a photo and write a message, and Sandboxx will print and send to your service member wherever he or she is stationed a snail mail version of your note. That's the perfect combination of mobile tech and old-school style. Although the app is free, the mail service carries a fee. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Military.com Pay App.Gone are the days of figuring out your pay by piecing together data from confusing online military pay tables. The Military.com Pay App lets you calculate your base pay, BAH and any other entitlements or special pays with just a few taps. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Base Directory. Everyone knows it can be tricky and frustrating locating services on any given base, even if you've lived there a long time. Base Directory has compiled location information for more than 15,000 services on military bases worldwide. Simply search for the base, pick the service category, and see the listings. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
WhatsApp. Use this messaging app to exchange text messages and phone calls with your spouse while he is deployed. Best part? If you miss a call from him, you can use the app to call him back (provided you are both in an area with WiFi). Score. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Military.com Transition App. Is leaving the military in your near future? The Military.com Transition App gives customizable checklists to make your transition smooth. With regular reminders and all the power of Military.com's wealth of benefits, jobs and education knowledge, this app can help you get a handle on one of the most chaotic and uncertain parts of military life. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Starbucks. You might prefer to buy your coffee from a local small business, but there's something to be said for using a chain store that is nationwide -- including on many military bases that aren't near any other coffeehouses. Since coffee is one of the things that helps us power through military life, this app is perfect. Use it to find your closest Starbucks store; pay for your order; and earn points toward free drinks, food and more. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Mint. Using a secure connection, Mint aggregates data from all of your banking institutions and credit cards (including USAA and the Military Star Card) into one place so you can easily see what you've spent and where you've spent it. Its budget tool lets you set monthly budgets and then categorize purchases. Using cash? No worries, simply manually add the transaction to the list. No matter who uses the card, you can see what has been spent. That makes it easy to keep track of spending from those accounts for the whole family. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Sesame Street for Military Families. Designed with military children in mind, this app packs a host of interactive games and videos next to those familiar Sesame Street characters we all know and love. If you can wrestle your phone away from your kid, take a look at the sections for parents. The practical advice presented through this app can help you walk your kids through the hurdles of military life. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Military.com News App. Military news isn't just interesting -- for military families, it's personal. Stay up-to-date with the latest on military life and benefits through this handy news app. You can filter the app to show up front the things you care about most, including pay, benefits and family specific news. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
Commissary Rewards.Tied to the Defense Commissary Agency's reward coupon card program, this app lets you view and add coupons to your card, see what coupons you've already added, and view store location, contact info and general hours. You can also use it to find your closest commissary. To redeem coupons, simply make sure your phone number is associated with the app, then add that number as your "alternate ID" at checkout (or ask the clerk to do it for you). Available on iTunes and Google Play.
USAA and NFCU. Both USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union, popular banking options with military members, offer intuitive, easy-to-use apps that make mobile banking a breeze. Since troops and families are often stationed in a location that lacks a physical bank branch location, having a great mobile app is key. Available on iTunes and Google Play.
LinkedIn. Military spouses know that landing and keeping a great job is hard, thanks to constant military moves. While not just for military life, spouse job seekers know a LinkedIn profile is absolutely necessary as they hunt for that perfect employment. The LinkedIn app makes using the professional social media service on the go a breeze. Available on iTunes and Google Play.