Technology is great. Applied strategically, there are numerous ways we can use the latest technology to save time and money. But there’s a flip side to that equation – how many ways is your favorite device actually wasting your money?
I’m not bold enough to suggest that anyone toss out their laptops, smartphones, and tablets, but if your budget is tight (and even if it isn’t) consider the following ways that our favorite technologies cost us money and see if you can cut any of these wasteful habits from your routine.
Buying unnecessary apps
It’s estimated that total global revenue for mobile apps could easily reach and exceed $50 billion in 2015. That’s a lot of apps. Many of them are free, a good deal of them are free, but include in-app purchases, and the rest cost you money up front.
Apps can range from harmless time-wasters to life-changing programs that improve your health or your finances. Some, however, don’t accomplish much of anything. In fact, over a quarter of apps are used just once after they’ve been downloaded – or never at all.
The trouble with apps is that they’re incredibly easy to purchase and almost always priced so low that their cost may seem irrelevant (especially if you’re not the one footing the phone bill). Those costs add up, though, so think long and hard before your next app purchase. It may not seem like a lot, but any amount of wasted money is too much wasted money.
Overspending on eBooks
I love eBooks. I didn’t think I would, quite frankly, thanks to a longstanding love affair with paper books of all kinds. But eBooks are convenient, weightless, accessible on multiple devices, and available instantly. Nearly any book you could ever want is likely available for download right this very second.
That convenience, however, is what makes eBooks so dangerous to your budget. If you’re a book reader, there’s a sore temptation to make a quick purchase every time a great book is recommended to you. Where once you may have favored the library or the local secondhand book store to find your treasures at a reduced rate, now you jump online and pay whatever the asking price may be.
The solution may be simple compromise – don’t give up on “real” books just yet. Renew that library card. Comparison shop a little before making your purchase. Keep reading, just don’t let your love of books blow up your budget.
Making impulsive online purchases
In 2013, American consumers spent over $210 billion in online purchases. Online retailers are happy to offer convenient incentives like free shipping and free returns because they reduce the perceived risk of purchasing products sight-unseen.
But some of that convenience can be dangerous. Many online retailers store consumer payment information, making it incredibly easy to complete purchases on a whim. You don’t have to leave the house. You don’t have to go find your credit card. With a smartphone or a tablet, you don’t even have to get up off the couch.
Don’t be blinded by convenience. Always carefully consider your purchases and review your spending regularly. The spending is always easier than the paying back.
Feeling pressured into constant upgrades
For the manufacturers of mobile devices, success is tied to consumer upgrade cycles. Because most of the potential market for their product already has one, manufacturers need consumers to constantly upgrade from their old products to their new products, regardless of how that older model is performing.
That narrow upgrade cycle means some potentially big unnecessary spending. Don’t be tantalized by the allure of the “next big thing.” Something newer and shinier is just around the corner.
Disconnecting from real experiences
Technology is great at keeping us connected on an interpersonal level. But mobile devices also have a tendency to disconnect us from the immediacy of personal experience. It’s hard to “be” somewhere when we’re constantly checking our phones.
The waste here really depends on how you value experience. If you feel that the value of an experience lies in appreciating where you are and what you’re doing, mobile devices have the capacity to waste money spent on any leisure activity, from an expensive vacation to a simple lunch with friends. Conversely, if you think the value of an experience is defined by how many retweets it nets you, then nothing lost, I suppose.
In 2011, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) released a study connecting inadequate sleep to overuse of technology in the hours before bedtime.
“Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep," according to Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Handheld devices have increasingly made their way into the bedroom, as we browse, read, text, and play games right up until it’s time to sleep. Our sleep suffers as a result. But what else suffers when we don’t get enough sleep? According to the NSF, poor sleep habits can negatively impact your work, mood, health, and more.
Do yourself a favor and leave your mobile devices out of the bedroom. Simply going screen-free during the run up to bedtime can greatly improve the length and quality of your sleep.