Whether you realize it or not, you’re probably wasting money on at least some of your apps. Apps have helped to revolutionize how we engage with technology, how we communicate, how we organize our lives, and even how we entertain ourselves—but they’ve also left us vulnerable to spending too much money. Accordingly, it’s hard to tell which apps are worth what we pay for them, and which ones are just draining your bank account.
Since it’s hard to quantify the true value of an app like a productivity improvement tool (or even a mobile game), we can instead turn our attention to the ways that apps can waste your money—costing you monetary value without providing any real value in return.
Key Areas of Wasted Spending
Evaluate your apps in these key areas to avoid spending money unnecessarily:
- Buying apps individually (instead of a group). First, you might be wasting money by buying all your apps one at a time, rather than investing in a suite of different apps. For example, in exchange for a single subscription fee, Setapp allows you to discover new apps in dozens of categories, and download them whenever you need them. Other packages, like Office 365, are designed to give you access to several commonly used apps at once, so if you pay for those apps individually, you could be wasting your money. Always try to bundle your apps together when possible.
- Paying for subscriptions you don’t use. If you aren’t paying close attention to all your spending habits, it’s likely you’re paying for at least one subscription service you don’t use on a regular basis. For example, you might have signed up for a free trial of a streaming service, but are currently being charged monthly for it, or you might have stopped using a subscription app months ago without ever canceling your subscription. Do a thorough review of your automatic payments and withdrawals, and cut any subscriptions you aren’t using regularly.
- Succumbing to in-app purchases with no real-world benefit. Many modern mobile apps, especially games, are free but offer in-app purchases that can somehow enhance your experience. That might mean a custom appearance, a bonus feature, or the removal of ads. Unfortunately, many of these “added experiences” provide you with little to no real-world benefit and end up wasting your money. If you feel you lack the willpower to turn down the temptation of an interesting in-app purchase, you can always disable the possibility of in-app purchases in the Settings menu of your phone or device.
- Failing to realize how much you spend on in-app purchases. Some in-app purchases may truly be worth it if they bring you happiness or improve your productivity in the real world. But they can still be dangerous if you don’t realize how much you’re spending on them. Most in-app purchases are microtransactions—they only cost a dollar or two—so it’s sometimes hard to notice when all those tiny purchases add up to a significant amount. Keep a close eye on your monthly spending, and total up how much you spend on those purchases; once you see the big picture, all those small transactions may seem much more significant.
- Accumulating paid apps. Paying a few dollars for a new app may not seem like a big deal, and if you truly use and see a benefit from the app, it can easily be worth it. The problem is, too many people accumulate apps endlessly, without ever taking full advantage of them. Instead, make your new app purchases deliberate, and use time as a buffer to fully analyze your decision (to reduce impulsive spending).
When Are Apps Worth It?
After seeing these possible methods of wasted spending, you might wonder when an app is truly worth the money. The answer to that question depends on the individual, and of course, what you’re hoping to get out of the app. The one reliable way to measure the value of an app is how much you use it; if you’re paying for a subscription, or if you’ve paid a one-time fee to download the app, you can feel like it’s worth the money as long as you’re using it actively. Other dimensions of value include how much time the app saves you, how much fun you have using it, and how many of your contacts rely on the same app—and these are much harder to quantify.
You may not be able to perfect your app-related spending habits, but you can at least trim some of the fat. Being aware of these potential areas of wasted spending can help you save hundreds of dollars over the course of months to years.