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How to Stop Apps from Draining Your Wallet

Every budget has its killer, and for many of us, its apps. 

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, Peacock, or Hulu then you’ve probably seen an ad with Ryan Reynolds promoting Mint Mobile. Similar to apps like Rocket Money, Mint Mobile’s original claim to fame was its ability to uncover hidden fees or transactions. In other words, people were downloading it to weed out any subscriptions they may have forgotten about.

Haven’t we all signed up for that 7-day free trial at some point? It’s so easy to give up our email so we can watch a movie that isn’t on our usual streaming platform for free. The issue comes 7 days later when we’ve forgotten all about it and our card gets charged.

Subscriptions can be devastating to your bank account if they go unchecked. Alone, they can appear innocently enough, $0.99 here, $10 there. Added together, however, those small fees build up. Today, a popular subscription model is to ditch a monthly fee and opt for an annual fee. I decided to take a look at my annual fee for the apps I use:

With the exception of Motivation and Imprint, I would say the majority of my annual apps serve a valuable purpose. Those six apps are also costing me $276.93 a year. Over five years that’s almost $1,500. After ten, It’s nearly $3,000. While that may not seem like too much money to some, keep in mind, that this excludes my monthly subscriptions. Add those in and the number goes up to $786.21 a year and $7,862.10 after ten years!

I discovered how much I was spending on apps about six months ago. Since then, I have cut my annual subscriptions to $18.73 and my monthly to $19.96, less than half of what it used to be. Though I thought slashing through my app list would be painful, as it turns out, it greatly improved my lifestyle just as much as it improved the health of my bank account.

Single-Time Transactions are Key

The single greatest strategy I employed while trying to save money was finding apps that were either completely free or a single transaction. Admittedly, this required some trial and error, but the result was well worth it.

Take Evernote. I was spending $80 a year to use it for all of my notes, checklists, and reminders. I stored PDFs, pictures, and videos on Evernote, trying to keep everything in my life in one centralized place. I chose Evernote originally because of the ability to link notes together and add tags to different notes.

A hand holding a phone with Slack on it.
Unsplash: Auston Distel

Out of curiosity, I tried to see how much of my system could be replicated in Apple Notes. To my surprise, everything transferred. I moved my reminders into Apple’s Reminders App as well as my checklists. The moment everything was moved, I deleted my Evernote account and canceled the subscription. I haven’t turned back since.

When looking for apps that you hope will improve your life, do your research. There are plenty of note-taking and calendar apps out there that cost hundreds of dollars. Would you spend that much on a calendar you buy from the store?! You must ask yourself if it is worth the price.

For cheaper subscriptions, remember that even those few dollars add up over time. My first filter when searching for apps to fulfill a need in my workflow is always if I can buy a lifetime subscription if I pay anything at all.

If You Aren’t Using an App, Ditch it

This may sound obvious, but hang with me for a moment. Take streaming services. There are about 8 major streaming services with dozens of others beneath them. Each offers its own selection. The only reason I ever subscribed to HBO Max (I guess it's just Max now) was to watch Chernobyl (which is fantastic by the way). I kept that subscription for months after however, because it felt convenient to pull up a service that had the movie or show I wanted to watch regardless of who it was.

After watching Chernobyl, I started Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. It took me about two months to finish the series. That was two months where I wasn’t touching any of my other streaming services, but I was paying for them.

Apple TV station underneath a Samsung TV
Unsplash: Brandon Romanchuk

Once I realized this, I canceled all of my streaming subscriptions. If one has a show I want to watch, I subscribe and for that month, that’s my TV and movie catalog.

Likewise, I had an app just for scanning documents. When I was transferring my Evernote system onto Apple Notes, I discovered that Apple has always had its own document scanner built in, and it worked just as well. Needless to say, the scanner app was tossed aside.

The Challenge

If you are looking to cut back on your spending, I encourage you to create two tables. Label one “annual subscriptions” and the other “monthly”. Next, go through every app on your phone or tablet. For either the Google Play Store or App Store, there is a feature under account settings that can show you what apps you have purchased and which are billing you. Here's a simple example I made if you want a template.

A person holding an iPhone with the Calculator App open
Unsplash: Kelly Sikkema

Sort out all of your subscriptions then tally up the total for each table. Once you’ve done this, if you are unhappy with your expenditures, go down your subscriptions list and ask yourself when the last time you used each app was. If it’s been more than two weeks, toss it.

Next, ask if any can be replaced with lifetime subscription apps or free ones. Whittle down your list and cancel each subscription as you do it, don’t wait!

As you cut back on your app usage, watch as your device becomes more and more decluttered. Fewer apps also means fewer distractions and fewer steps to be taken. Not only will you be saving money, but you will be saving time as well!

That’s my little soap box for the week. Hope y’all have a great weekend,



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