ISSUES

Free Apps That Aren't Really Free

These apps are free to download, but they seduce you into spending.

These apps may be free to download, but once they're on your phone, you're likely spending cold hard cash when you use them. Delete or spend at your own peril!

Data-suckers

When Dan Frommer of Quartz took a look at which of his apps were gobbling up most of his data usage, he was surprised.

"Twitter turns out to be my biggest 'expense,' he wrote. "This seemed surprising at first: isn't Twitter just 140-character text snippets? But with all the photos and videos in the Twitter stream today, plus loading websites in the built-in browser, addict-level usage adds up." Next in line, Instagram.

If you're only using these apps on wifi, you're not spending by scrolling. But if you can't resist seeing what your ex is up to when you're sitting in the no-wifi dentist's waiting room, then it's gonna cost you. Delete and set yourself free.


Instagram

Sure, it's free, and yeah, you're just using it for fitness inspiration or keto recipes or whatever you tell yourself. But Instagram's super-targeted, compelling, and on-point ads may be causing you to click-to-buy products you'd never otherwise consider. You know: the miracle exfoliator, the chicest workout leggings, the meal kit that will make your life easier and way more delicious.

Seven out of ten hashtags on Instagram are branded, which means most of the time you're interacting with advertisers whether you realize it or not. In 2016, at least thirty percent of Instagram's users had purchased a product they first discovered on the platform; in 2018, when the monthly users were up to 1 billion on the platform, there was sure to be even more app-driven purchases. And yes, we speak from personal experience.

Amazon

You love your Prime, we know. We do too. But all the seductive lure of those free deliveries is causing you to spend beaucoup bucks. When you've got the phone in your hand and one-click buying activated, a new backyard hammock or silky nightgown or kitchen gadget is one tap away. And the taps add up.

Research has shown that Prime members spend an average of $1,300 per year on Amazon, compared with just $700 for non-Prime customers. Take the app off your phone and you might find a new way to fund that trip to Portugal you've been dreaming of.

Don't stop at Amazon; this goes ditto for all your go-to shopping apps, like ShopBop and Etsy. According to App Annie, time spent on Amazon, Amazon Shopping, Wish, Etsy and Zulily grew 44 percent in the first half of 2017 compared with the first half of 2016. If you're spending time, you're probably spending money.

Food Delivery Apps

Any time you're making convenience too, well, convenient, you're hurting your wallet. Consider dinner. Between taxes, service fees, delivery charges and driver tips, a $10 burrito can easily turn into a $20 mindless splurge.

Americans spend an average of $63 a month on food delivery services. that's $756 a year — enough for a round-trip ticket to Europe. When HuffPost editor Janie Campbell wrote about her reliance on Postmates, she found that the had spend $287.71 on delivery fees and another $70.88 for additional fees in the first 22 days of a month.

Delete that app and use your phone the old-fashioned way — to call in a pick-up order. Or save mondo bucks by learning a few easy-to-whip up pantry meals; soon enough you'll have saved enough to eat ramen in Tokyo.

CULTURE

Spring Cleaning: Why Do Americans Have So Much Stuff?

Rather than viewing those objects as "mine," you may think of them as "me."

If there is one thing Americans know how to do, it's buy stuff.

According to the LA Times, the average American household contains over 300,000 items. But we also know how to hold onto all this stuff we buy. A 2013 article in Popular Science cites a statistic that seventy percent of Americas cannot park cars in their garages because it's packed with too much stuff. I guess that's why offsite storage facilities are one of the fastest growing segments of the commercial real estate market.

There are differing views on why people like to buy and keep so much stuff they don't need. According to an article in Inc., there is a direct link between the stuff you hold on to and how your feel about yourself. "The objects you struggle to get rid of are likely tied to your self-worth," according to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Rather than viewing those objects as "mine," you may think of them as "me."

Just like most everyone else in America, I have too much stuff. So, this summer, I'm embracing a utilitarian approach to spring cleaning: If I didn't use it in the past two years, it's time to lose it. This means ridding my closets and drawers of all unworn clothing and shoes, no matter how much I think I love them. Looking through the growing pile of throw-away/give away items, it's clear to me how aspirational so many of my purchases were. And, the extent to which, as June Saruwatari, author of Behind the Clutter points out, I wanted to buy an emotion as much as an object. That size 2 Diane Von Furstenberg dress never fit me, but I pictured myself feeling brilliant when I wore it. Those glam Jimmy Choo silver strappy sandals never did work with anything I actually wore, but I pictured feeling glamorous and sexy in them. No place do I have more unused, aspirational stuff than in the kitchen. Peelers, corers, slicers, molds, bundt pans, quesadilla makers, outdoor dining sets, basket sets, napkin and placemat sets: enough for a solo garage sale.

Most of my useless items broke down into one of seven categories of beliefs:

"If I buy it, pain in the butt tasks will be so much easier"

The mushroom brush, kiwi peeler, avocado peeler, mango peeler, pineapple corer (I used each of these items once), mayonnaise jar spoon (I could never find when I needed it), vegetable scrubbing gloves (these worked, but felt totally disgusting on my hands).

"If I buy it, I will save a ton of money"

Sushi Bazooka (I never got past step three in the instructions), vegetable juicer (I used it like crazy for about two weeks and then got really tired of cleaning it).

"If I buy it, I will become Martha Stewart"

Candy thermometer (you need this in order to determine if your boiling sugar has reached the hard or soft ball stage for desserts that require caramel, like Tarte Tatin, crème caramel, caramel buttercream --- gazillion calorie desserts I never eat), 6 sets of place mats, napkins and napkin rings and three sets of outdoor dishes and wine glasses (I hate eating outside because of the bugs), baggies full of cookie cutters (letting the dough rest in the fridge for an hour and then having to roll it out was always a bridge too far), a set of 24 personal soufflé sized ramekins – I don't make large souffles so I'm certainly not making individual sized souffles. And 24? What was I thinking?

"If I buy it, my marriage will work"

Pasta roller (the family that makes pasta together, stays together, was my hope here), fondue pot and forks (same idea; just gather round the fondue pot and you'll both be smiling again).

"Homemade is so much better"

Yogurt maker (if you like runny, lumpy yogurt, this is the way to go), ice cream machine (given all the flavors and variety of delicious store-bought ice cream, nothing I made could justify the hours of preparation and waiting), bread maker (not sure what I was doing wrong, but every loaf that came out of this thing was as heavy as a doorstop).

"If I buy it, I will not eat carbs"

Spiralizer (great idea, spiralized vegetables --- I'll never eat pasta again! --- unfortunately this thing does NOT work).

"If I buy it, I will be super organized"

Multiple sets of plastic and glass storage containers and multiple wire racks on which to stack pantry items (some of these items are definitely useful, but when you have more storage stuff than space to store it, you have a problem). Multiple sets of "nesting bowls" (why did I think I needed eight different sized bowls in plastic and glass?)

"If I buy it, my daughter will have the best birthday party, ever = I'm the best mom ever"

Taco Proppers – That's right, u-shaped plastic holders that "prop" up your tacos so you can assemble them without spilling the contents, (they never made it out of their packaging). Cupcake tower (I used this once, about six years ago, and it was a success but it's sat in the back of a hard to reach cupboard ever since).

In addition to all the aspirational unused cooking-related items, there also quite a collection of general stuff that has somehow migrated into the kitchen --- stress balls, boxes of thumb tacks, half-used spools of twine, travel sewing kits, extra sets of supplies from old parties, boxes (and boxes!) of nails, ash trays, piles of take-out menus and trail maps, Mandala stress relief adult coloring books, and various earth-friendly cleaning products that don't actually work.

"Then there is the stuff that I've taken with me from place to place over the years"

Cookbooks I've never used, fancy serving dishes I've never served from, extra salad servers I never really liked, candle stick holders that have never seen a candle, my grandmother's crystal wine glasses that I never use because they don't actually go with any of my dishes, decorative paperweights (why do people still make these things? They serve absolutely no purpose).

It's liberating to say goodbye to things that took up space in my drawers and cabinets, and my imagination, as well as things that were tying me to the past. What are you ready to clear out?