11
Jan

smartphone app usage

As a Credit Expert, I try to take my own advice. My family pays our bills diligently, saves aggressively and maintains positive credit habits 95% of the time. Unfortunately, today I’m talking about that pesky 5%.

Lately there’s been a drastic uptick in my household food budget and discretionary spending. It’s not the food we eat or even baby expenses that are hurting our monthly income: it’s my iPhone apps. Online delivery services and smartphone apps are gaining popularity in the Unites States. Prime Now — an iPhone app that provides free two-hour delivery to Amazon Prime subscribers — is now available in 24 metropolitan cities, reaching an estimated 41 to 54 million users.  As a faithful user myself, Prime Now serves as my go-to service when I don’t have time to visit the grocery store, Best Buy, or other local retailer. Prime Now isn’t alone in the marketplace; Amazon Fresh, Blue Apron and UberRUSH are just a few of the companies whose business model thrives on convenience and consumer need.

“Technology has revolutionized online spending,” said James Dion, industrial psychologist and founder of Dionco Inc., a retail consulting firm. “10 years ago, people either bought in a store, catalog, or dialed an 800 number. Today, you look at the statistics and people are buying from their bedrooms, bathrooms and offices. We have the ability to shop anywhere, everywhere, anytime, and we’ve never had that opportunity before.”

In the beginning, I didn’t see an issue with using delivery services so often. After all, what’s the harm in utilizing convenience for items I already need? It wasn’t until my budget began to suffer that I took a deeper look at the problems and solutions associated with a new form of spending. Read on to learn how delivery apps could be hurting your finances — and how to minimize the damage.

Problems

Wise spending is essential to credit health, and while online delivery services add value to many households, they also create avenues of lost income, including:

  • Upcharges: Amazon isn’t known for marking up their products, but many other services raise prices to account for overhead, driver salaries and more.
  • Fees: Prime Now and other services provide free delivery to users, but the latter also offers a one-hour option with a $7.99 fee attached. For consumers who don’t want to wait, the extra costs add up quickly.
  • Tips: It’s customary to tip the pizza delivery guy, and the same cultural habit has immersed itself in online delivery services. The Prime Now app provides a checkout field allowing users to include the driver’s tip before placing an order.
  • The Temptation Factor: “I’ll just Prime it” is a common phrase in my house when trudging to the grocery store isn’t a possibility. Buying things without thinking has become an easy fix for millions of consumers, bordering on addiction. “Everyone is familiar with the temptation lane at the grocery store that screams, ‘Buy me!’” said Dion. “In the past, you had to be in wrong place at the wrong time to see and give into these temptations, and most people were susceptible, particularly if it was a low-cost item or something that rewarded you like a candy bar. Now impulse exists right in your hand, 24/7, and for a lot of people, they just can’t resist it. Some people are addicted to their phones, and the addiction is just as strong as drugs and alcohol.”

Solutions

Recognizing the problems associated with virtual spending is the first step toward repair. If delivery apps are affecting your budget, take the following steps to use them wisely:

  • Change Your Tactics: A change in technology usage could help you curb delivery spending. “You really need to commit to yourself and establish a hard and fast budget,” Dion said. “For example, you might say, ‘I’m only going to place online orders on Monday.’ It’s also a good idea to place orders on your computer to get out of the habit of doing it on your mobile device to overcome that addiction.”
  • Decide When Convenience Is Necessary: Delivery apps are invaluable when illness and emergencies occur, but the cost of convenience isn’t worth the price in other scenarios. Refocus your perspective based on budget concerns rather than an easy fix. Download our free budget template along the way.
  • Prioritize Your Goals: Online shopping and delivery is a necessary evil for many families, but it shouldn’t hinder long-term goals. Remember the five factors of credit scoring and the importance of emergency savings. Create a list of personal and financial goals to reference whenever you feel the urge to open that app.

The bottom line: Technology is changing the face of shopping in our culture, but it hasn’t changed the need for positive credit. Recognize your weaknesses and work to build better habits.

Image: CHAINFOTO24