During the COVID-19 pandemic smartphone usage increased dramatically. It continued to increase as more people lost their jobs, were furloughed or adhering to stay-at-home orders.
While smartphones can provide endless entertainment, believe it or not, they can also be bad news for your budget. In fact, the combined global monthly amount that consumers spent on apps and games peaked in May 2020 at $9.4 billion, a 25% gain on the monthly average in 2019.1
While that’s all fun and games (no pun intended), it may be time for you and your family to think about a “digital detox.” Here’s why it could be good for you mentally and financially, plus five tips to help yourself unplug.
5 Ways a Digital Detox Can Save You Money
#1: Limit Ad Exposure
Any time there’s a screen in front of you, you cannot avoid being exposed to advertisements. From social media sponsored content to well-targeted email campaigns, advertisements are everywhere you look these days.
According to a recent report, 2018 was the first year that people around the world spent more time consuming media on their computers and smartphones than they did on television.2 Due to this change of behavior, companies have had to pivot and change the way they advertise. More marketing efforts are being geared toward grabbing the attention of social media scrollers, online shoppers and folks playing games on their phone.
When you begin spending less time online, you’ll automatically reduce the amount of ad exposure you’re receiving every day. Less exposure to ads means less temptation to make impulsive purchases.
#2: Create Impulse Control
Advertising works. Corporations wouldn't spend so much money on it if it didn’t. Advertising exposes you to the same brand or product over and over and over, which can wear down your impulse control over time. The more often you’re exposed to something, the less “impulsive” the purchase will feel. Recognizing this fact is an important part of resisting any purchasing temptations.
In fact, studies on smartphone usage have shown that your impulse control is lessened with excessive use of your phone.3 With everything right at your fingertips, it gets more difficult to say “no.” Therefore, more time away from your phone can help build up your impulse control and remove the temptation altogether.
#3: Forget FOMO
By logging onto social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, you are exposing yourself to the ongoings of others' lives. Social media influencers flaunt new products or share their new favorite vacation spot, friends post about taking weekend trips and wearing fashionable clothing, whatever it is your connections are doing right now, you’re seeing it. This exposure often triggers the feeling of wanting to do the same thing or buy the same things as those who are sharing on social media. FOMO is short for “fear of missing out,” and it’s a very real phenomenon. You begin to envy the people that you see living these lives and start wanting the same for yourself.
Of course, most of these experiences or products aren’t free. Therefore, your FOMO could soon translate to feeling like you need to spend money to achieve a similar result. If you didn’t log onto social media in the first place, you wouldn’t experience those feelings, which will save you money by effectively removing that type of temptation from your life.
#4: Prioritize Your Priorities
Do you find yourself mindlessly perusing shopping websites, and the next thing you know your cart is brimming with superfluous items? If so, you’re not alone. While this can seem harmless, it causes unnecessary temptation.
Spending time away from your phone, computer or other device frees you up for more time spent with your family and friends, learning a new hobby or reading that book you’ve been eyeing. These types of activities can bring you a much-needed mental break as you realign your priorities and reassess what’s most important to you.
#5: Free Your Free Time
Think of all that you could do if you had more hours back in your day. You could get more exercise or start a side hustle, focus on home improvement projects or learn a new skill. When you sit down and think about it, the possibilities are endless.
5 Steps to Start Your Digital Detox
How do you begin this process? A digital detox can be quite a lifestyle change, but there are ways to get started and continue on with the new habits you are forming.
#1: Write Down Your Hobbies & Interests
Are there things you’ve always wanted to accomplish but never seemed to have the time to do? Make a list of all the things that you like to (or want to) do that don’t involve a device. Listing out what you’re interested in can serve as motivation to stay off of your phone. Keep the list handy so you will be motivated to make the right choice. Maybe the money you’d normally spend online shopping or gaming can be put towards a new hobby or project.
#2: Count Your Screens
Doing a digital detox doesn’t just refer to your smartphone. It can include every screen in your life - your tablet, Ereader, smartwatch, gaming device, etc. When you take a step back and look at it objectively, it might come as a shock just how connected you really are.
#3: Ease Into Your Detox
For most, there are some logistical issues with trying to quit technology “cold turkey.” You need to connect with your family and friends, schedule meetings, work from home and complete other important tasks on your devices.
Start by setting specific times when you want to avoid screens, such as first thing in the morning or right before bed. Once you see what a change it is making, you will be motivated to create more positive change.
Did you know that studies have shown that the blue light emitted from screens is harmful to your eyes and increases your alertness at night? This makes it harder to fall asleep and ultimately to wake up in the morning.4
#4: Determine Your Screen Allowance
As mentioned above, there are instances in which you simply have to use your device to work or connect with others. If this is the case, you may find it useful to utilize an app to help limit your screen time and help remind you to take some needed time away from the screen. These apps can help you focus on the moment and quit mindless scrolling once you have sent that email or important text message.
#5: Get Back to Basics
Think about what you did before the era of smartphones and devices. Put away your Apple watch for a while and use a regular wristwatch. Switch to an analog alarm clock in the morning, so that you don’t have to have your phone alarm right next to your bed. Having the phone so close to you can be tempting while you try to fall asleep at night. Instead of reading books on your Kindle or Tablet, go back to the library and borrow a copy. You might find that you don’t miss your devices as much as you think you will. It’s going to be a lifestyle change, but it will set the tone for your digital detox, making it easier to disconnect.
While there is more involved when it comes to improving your finances, a digital detox can be an effective place to start. Utilize these tips and slowly but surely, you might see a positive change in your finances.