All those in-app purchases add up, says blogger Melanie Lockert. Pay attention to how much you’re spending—or those one-click purchases could screw up your budget.
In today’s digital world, it’s easier than ever to get whatever you want delivered to your doorstep. Want sushi? Use Postmates. Need household items? Amazon Prime it. Groceries? Instacart has you covered.
These sharing economy apps can be a win-win situation in some ways—they offer consumers maximum flexibility and convenience while providing workers ways to earn more.
But at the end of the day, are sharing economy apps causing you to spend more? Here’s what happened to me.
I heard about Postmates, a local restaurant delivery service, in 2015 when the app launched in Portland. I eagerly downloaded it and was immediately surprised by their promotions: Just pay delivery and tip! Free mac and cheese? Yes. Free breakfast sandwiches? I’m in.
It was so easy! I could scroll through all the restaurants and, with a few swipes, have all my culinary desires at my doorstep within an hour.
This was especially beneficial during the Portland rainy season, which lasts, oh, nine months or so. I work from home, and Postmates allowed me to stay in the warm, comfy bubble of my own apartment without waiting in lines, dealing with rude people, or trudging through rain.
After falling in love with Postmates, I decided to try Instacart, which delivers groceries. I hate going to the supermarket: I’m overwhelmed with choices and the general mayhem of navigating shopping carts in and out of aisles, trying not to run over children or ram into someone with my shopping cart.
As promised, within an hour I got all of my groceries delivered to my apartment. It was great!
I’d found the ultimate convenience and comfort. Over the next year, I turned to Postmates after a long day when I couldn’t imagine cooking. It saved me when I was sick in bed and couldn’t fend for myself. It felt like my life was easier and better because of these sharing economy apps.
One thing was clear, though. I was spending a lot more. Just a few years ago (while paying off debt) I would have never imagined doing something like this—I probably would have found myself on the other end working as a courier.
How did this happen? Surely, I lived most of my life without all these apps and now I couldn’t imagine my life without them.
Watch your spending
Sharing economy apps can provide the ultimate in convenience when you’re strapped for time and energy. But if you’re not careful, they can encourage spending.
Why? You’re completely disassociated from the payment process. You know all those studies about how people spend more using credit cards because it hurts less than spending cash? Sharing economy apps take it to the next level. Your credit card is saved in your account, so you don’t even have to take it out, swipe it, or use a chip reader. You can complete an order from start to finish in less than a minute flat.
It’s so easy to spend when the process is simplified—you don’t even have to sign anything. In this way, sharing economy apps also keep you disconnected from how much you’re actually spending.
When reviewing my credit card statements, I’ve thought, “I spent that much on Postmates?!?” Yikes.
Check your budget
After realizing I was spending more because of these apps, I did something drastic: I deleted them all from my phone. I went cold turkey because I know myself. I’m not good at moderation; being “out of sight, out of mind” was the best way to get my spending in check. If you’re like me, consider removing the apps entirely.
Now, if you’re better with moderation and impulse control than I am, you don’t have to be so drastic. To start, set up certain conditions for when using a sharing economy app is permissible and when it’s not.
It’s not necessarily a problem if you use these apps when you really need it—like when I was sick or pressed to meet a deadline and couldn’t leave the house. However, other times, I was just lazy and didn’t want to cook. Know when it’s OK to use these apps and when you’re just indulging in the novelty and convenience.
Second, check your credit card statements weekly to see how much you’re really spending. Waiting until you make your monthly payment can leave you in for a surprise.
Finally, think of how much you’re actually spending in regards to hours worked. How much of your hourly salary goes toward this convenience? What benefit is it really bringing? If you do find it valuable and want to keep it in your budget, find ways to lower costs elsewhere.
In the end, sharing economy apps can make our lives easier—but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your financial health.
Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer and passionate
debt fighter who writes at www.DearDebt.com.
She recently climbed out of $81,000 in student loan debt
and is currently dreaming of her next adventure.
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