Billshare is a excellent, free online app that manages bills and payments for you and your roommates. You simply enter the bill amount and the program splits payments between everyone in the apartment. You can enter anything from utility bills to grocery receipts. Billshare will even send e-mail reminders to you and your roommates when a new bill arrives in the program. The program features detailed stats as well as a built-in group wall for easy communication. In my opinion, Billshare is an essential, easy-to-use tool for anyone living off campus with roommates.
With many of NU’s dorms still lacking wireless capabilities, a cheap router can give you the freedom to move about your room while saving precious space. How? Most of today’s routers are equipped USB ports which will allow you to hook in an external device. Instead of having two large, bulky printers for you and your roommate, you cut it down to one that you can both share wirelessly. Additionally, why not hook in a USB hard drive to wirelessly share files? Have a ton of music? Just upload it to the hard drive and let your roommates share the wealth. Some routers are even equipped with a speaker jack that gives you the ability to play music sans messy cords. Recently, I invested in Apple’s Airport Express. While it lacks hard drive functionally, the $99 router can share printers, speakers, and Wi-Fi between both PCs and Macs.
Want to watch a movie while you type that paper? Want to see your entire iTunes library while you surf the web? Have a TV in your room? Well, you then have a perfect external monitor for a dual display. If you have a new HDTV, it will most likely already have a built in VGA port to hook in a computer directly (VGA-to-VGA cable). But if you have an older TV with RCA jacks, you’ll just need a VGA-to-RCA cable. Most of these cables can be found for $25 or less. I got mine off eBay for about $15 with shipping. If you don’t use eBay, the Radioshack in Evanston will most likely stock what you’re looking for. (Note: Most new Mac computers use either Mini DVI or DVI connections instead of VGA. Confused? Just replace the letters VGA with DVI and you’re set).
While the interface seems a little dated, BookFinder will save you tons of time and money. Simply type in a book you’re looking for and the site will find you the best price the internet has to offer. There’s no longer a need to search a ton of websites (or get ripped off by Norris) to get the most for your buck.
While Netflix is probably the most obvious choice of them all, I find there are a bunch of people still paying ridiculous amounts of money to Blockbuster in late fees. And trust me, despite Blockbuster’s “End of Late Fees” campaign, they can still hit you with a fine for the full price of the DVD. Netflix plans start as low as $4.99 per month, a pretty affordable price for those on a college budget. With over 90,000 DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray titles, you’ll never find yourself limited to a few titles like you are at Cat’s Corner. Movies are delivered right to your door and contain a pre-paid return envelope. Best of all, no late fees. You keep the DVD as long as you damn well please!