Technology has made it easier for consumers to save money on goods and services, but the convenience it offers can lead to increased spending. In a recent AICPA survey, 41% of Americans said that their use of personal technology makes them more likely to pay extra for convenience.
The survey, conducted in March for the AICPA in support of National Financial Capability Month, asked 1,018 respondents how technology influences their spending and budgeting.
Nearly all (95%) of the respondents report using personal technology to make a purchase. High percentages of each generation (98% of Millennials, 96% of Generation Xers, and 94% of Baby Boomers) said they had purchased something using personal technology such as smartphone apps.
Half of respondents (50%) said their use of personal technology helps them better manage their time, while 47% said technology helps them better budget their finances. Nearly half of respondents (46%) said the availability of personal technology has made them more likely to save money.
“Technology can help you save money by making it easy to find the best deals—ranging from comparing air fares, hotel costs, and car rentals across dozens of providers, to checking on your smartphone to see if there’s a lower price for the item you see in the store online or even across the street,” said Neal Stern, CPA, a member of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
“On the other hand, your personal electronics make you a constant target for marketing,” he noted. “Will that enticing email offering 30% off cause you to trade your money for one more item in the closet that you really didn’t need?”
The survey also asked respondents about how they prioritize time and money. Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (59%) say they consider their time and energy to be as important as cost when making a purchase. Six in 10 respondents (61%) also said that budgeting their money is equally as important as budgeting their time.
The National CPA Financial Literacy Commission offers several tips for consumers on how to use personal technology, stay on budget, and balance cost and convenience when making purchases:
- Stay accountable. Consumers who struggle with impulse purchases should consider using cash —a tangible reminder of hard-earned dollars—instead of credit or debit cards. The AICPA’s Feed the Pig website offers creative apps to help keep consumers on track, including one that will tweet out an #SOS if you’re shopping when you’re not supposed to.
- Know your budget. Creating a budget with tools such as the home budget analyzer from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy can help consumers determine how they’re spending their disposable income and make changes to meet their goals.
- Don’t store payment information. Personal technology allows consumers to shop online around the clock, but that convenience can lead them to buy items they don’t need. Online shoppers should consider not saving credit or debit card information on shopping sites. The extra effort required to enter payment information for every purchase can help curb impulse buying.
—Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article, email JofA editorial director Ken Tysiac.