While most technology is aimed at making life simpler, a new poll reveals one aspect it makes more difficult: saving money.
A survey conducted for the American Institute of CPAs revealed that while more than half of U.S. adults believe technology has made it easier to spend money, just 3 percent think it has made it easier to save.
The research found that Americans who subscribe to digital services spend an average of $166 each month for cable TV, home Internet access, mobile phone service and digital subscriptions, such as satellite radio and streaming video — the equivalent of 17 percent of their monthly rent or mortgage payment. Those who download songs, apps and other products spend an additional $38 per month, on average.
Overall, four in 10 adults download and pay for digital products or services, with the typical American buying an average of five digital songs, five movies or TV shows, two apps, two games and two eBooks per month.
Despite technology's added expense, Americans are unwilling to give it up. If facing a financial crunch, the study found adults would rather change what they eat than give up their cell phones, downloads or digital TV services.
"Our gadgets and connections can bring benefits like mobility and efficiency,” said Jordan Amin, chairman of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “But they can also bring financial challenges, like taking money that could go to savings, for instance, or contributing to credit card debt."
Believing it is critical to manage digital expenses to ensure benefits outweigh costs, the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers three tips:
- Set a budget: Decide how much you are willing to spend each month on digital services, apps and content. Look at how much you’ve spent on technology purchases in previous months and how that compares with your overall spending and saving. This will give you a baseline for determining an ideal budget for such purchases.
- Set up an account: Since many digital purchases are automatically drafted from bank accounts or charged to credit cards, it can be difficult to keep track of spending. To help, set up a separate checking account or credit card account — with a low limit — for your digital purchases. Set email or text message alerts to let you know when your balance is near your budgeted threshold.
- Evaluate: Regularly evaluate your spending on digital products — especially subscription services with recurring fees. On at least an annual basis, you should also look at spending on technology infrastructure such as cellphones and Internet connections and see if there are new features, bundles or technologies that could lower the total bill.
The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 U.S. adults.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.