Parking my excessive app spending
This week I plucked up the courage to open my ‘Uber receipts’ email folder. It wasn’t pretty.
Up until a couple of years ago I never took taxis. I’d regularly take two buses at 1am to get home rather than splash out on one. Now I get them a couple of times a week.
What changed to make me think I’m as flush as Kanye? I downloaded the Uber app.
Just Eat, Trainline, Audible, Kindle, Mobike, Taste Card, Etsy, Amazon, ASOS and of course – the worst of them all – Uber.
Scrolling through my phone it turns out that a worryingly high proportion of my apps make it easier to spend money I don’t need to.
Figures by behavioural research start-up OpenUp showed that 1,000 subjects studied over two months in 2016 "severely underestimated what they actually purchased".
The survey found they actually spent twice as much money online as they thought they had. That’s a terrifying margin of error.
"Being online is like being in a Vegas casino,” the company’s founder and CEO Ashwini Anburajan told CNBC.
"You're in an environment that's been optimised to grab your attention and a share of your wallet."
By having apps like Uber or Just Eat on my phone it’s almost like I’ve pre-OK’d it with myself to spend that money. It doesn’t feel like a big deal to use ‘luxury’ services like a taxi or takeaway because I downloaded it in the full knowledge I would use it.
The slick user experience of the apps make overspending even easier, remembering password and payment details so I can use their services with literally a click or two of a button. Not having to input any information makes it feel like I’m not actually spending at all.
This isn’t a new idea and with every new payment tech, from contactless to credit cards, we’ve had to adjust our mindset and our spending habits. The difference is, we don’t really think of apps as a payment technology.
In the same way that people now know to approach credit cards with caution, we need to do the same with apps.
So, if tech creates the problem, can it also help protect against it?There are lots of budgeting apps out there and I’m about to go and download them all.One example is the Monzo online bank card, which is becoming a popular way of keeping tabs while you spend.You transfer a certain amount onto it each month then set a budget for different areas, like entertainment, food and transport.When you make a purchase with the card you have to log them under the relevant category and it tells you when you’ve hit the limit of what you wanted to spend on say, Donald Trump figurines, for that month.The general concensus seems to be that using the card does actually work.The problem is that doesn’t dig out the root of the problem. I’ll know how much I’m spending but rather than stop me it’ll probably just make me feel worse when I do.I could delete all of the apps but that doesn’t help me at 2am when my friends want to split an Uber fare with me and I only have cash.For now then, increasing awareness, getting rid of apps where I can and taking steps to protect ‘future me’ when I know I’ll be at my weakest – like buying a monthly bus pass in advance – will have to do.Giving myself a chance to think twice is important too and here’s where tech companies can step in.For example, it would be great if there was an app that flashed up a warning every time I tried to order an Uber, to remind me that a 10-minute wait at a bus stop wouldn't really be so bad.Until that happens, I’m going to bury my spend-heavy apps in a separate folder so that I have more steps between my lack of self-control and the tantalising click of that button.How do you stop from overspending with tech? This Uberholic would welcome any suggestions.