Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Weekly Column: Does the Internet Cost You Money?

Does the Internet make you spend more?

The Internet has become a part of everyday life—it has streamlined the sending and receiving of information and enabled people to conduct most of their business without ever leaving their home or office. While that may be convenient and, in many ways, save us time and money, we are also becoming conditioned to want what we want right now. There has also never been so much to choose from. Whether we realize it or not, our Internet habits expose us to blatant and subliminal advertising almost continually, every day.

How do you use social media?

You might use your Facebook account primarily to keep in touch with friends and family, and you may be satisfied with the amount of time you spend there. But did you know that many people admit to checking Facebook on their phones everyday before they get out of bed? Even if you only seek updates from friends and family, you are still exposed to their possessions, activities and lifestyles. For those who tend to splurge on things they see online, this is a continuous stream of temptation everyday. That is hard for even the most frugal to resist.

Promoting your personal brand

More and more, people associate their personality and identity with the image they project online. Sites like Pinterest allow the user to create boards that display their interests and tastes. You may learn a lot about hobbies, skills and personal development but have you noticed that these types of social networks are becoming more and more laden with sponsored pins? And that most of the content is posted by bloggers and companies that direct you back to their site where you can become a subscriber (and thus subject to the advertising embedded there) or, better yet, a consumer of whatever they are selling? Companies are counting on you to “save” or “like” their pins which, in turn, promotes their product to more and more people on the site. While you scroll through those pictures of beautiful home décor and DIY projects, you are actually browsing through one advertisement after another. Although you may not immediately buy what you find on sites like Pinterest, it puts an image of what you want in your mind and may contribute to an overall sense of needing and wanting new things to make you happy.

Following trends is costly

Do you follow celebrities on Twitter? Do you feel the need to update your wardrobe/home décor/vehicle/garden as quickly as you can find the Next Big Thing online? Staying on top of current fads is a costly venture if a person has had a reduced income for some time. The more a person exposes themselves to consumer culture and opportunities to shop, the harder it will be to resist making non-essential purchases. You may have stopped going on shopping trips to the city but if you are still overspending online, or shopping for what you see on social media, your budget is no better off for your efforts.

To each their own

If you can handle looking at new gadgets and pretty things online without buying them and you enjoy the experience, have at it. But if your internet habits leave you feeling dissatisfied with what you have, perhaps it is time to question why that is. Perhaps it is time for a digital diet. Disable notifications, unsubscribe from flyers and newsletters or, better yet, take some time away from your social networks and see if you feel more contented with what you have. Fill those hours you spent online with something that brings you pleasure but doesn’t cost money.

Use the Internet wisely

You might argue that there are many ways your apps and social media save you money, and you may be right. Used properly, store apps, online classifieds and garage sale groups and the like can save you time and dollars. But if you are spending beyond your budget, you should question your impulse to buy no matter what it is that you shop for. No matter how affordable something is it isn’t a good deal unless you actually need it.  

Social media has transformed our lives for better or worse. People update their status throughout the day to let their acquaintances know every minute detail of their lives. We see inside the homes and vacations of people we barely know. This can lead to comparisons, feelings of inadequacy and the desire to keep up with the neighbours. The control of those emotions lies in the hands, or mouse, of the beholder. If your Internet habits cost you money and steal your joy, log off or take a break. Remove some apps from your phone. You will be surprised to see that world keeps spinning without them.


  1. I don't facebook, tweet or pin but I do still think the internet costs me money. Just having access to what pops in my head means sooner or later I'm going to part with more money than I should. I suppose it is just knowing this is the case (or taking the ads and sponsored posts with a grain of salt) can help us to think twice before purchasing. But it is so different from ten years ago. Some call it progress...
    ~ Pru

    1. I took Pinterest app off my phone and not only do I have more time I almost never think about things I "want" to buy anymore. I don't do Facebook or any other social media besides the blog. I feel fairly insulated from the temptations of trends and fads. But yesterday I was in Walmart and some shopping diva inside me took over and starting inventing new lists of things we need lol. So for me avoiding the whole shopping experience is the best way to save :)