5 Questions to Ask before Saying ‘Yes’ to Another App or Subscription

by Katherine Swarts

How many apps are on your phone? How many subscriptions fill your inbox each week? And how much of your time are all of these apps and subscriptions eating up?

We live in the “Age of Infinite Options.” Computer apps do everything up to and including counting your sheep at bedtime. Countless subscription possibilities exist for periodicals, blogs, and podcasts.

Especially since many are no-cost, apps and articles may seem to have little to do with stretching dollars, but time-saving and money-saving are connected. An app that doesn’t cost a dime of “real money” may be taking up time and energy you could use to implement creative money-saving ideas.

Before hitting the next “download” or “subscribe” button, ask yourself:

1. Do I have any reason for saying “yes” beyond “it’s there”?

It feels easier to say “yes” than “no,” even to a preprogrammed e-message, but little things add up quickly. “Equate the word ‘Subscribe’ with the thought ‘Email flood,'” suggests professional organizer Gayle Goddard of ClutterFairyHouston.com. “Every box you click puts you on a list that will likely have an endless life, and while clicking that box is easy-peasy, unclicking it is like rolling a rock uphill! Think about all the work you’re saving if you decide not to click in the first place!”

Do you really want this new option? Will you really get any benefit from it, beyond the temporary “rush” of acquiring something new?

2. Will anything that comes with this package tempt me to make unnecessary purchases?

If you’re particularly fond of the rush of acquiring new things, you better take a serious look at your reasons and where you’re heading. Any habit can turn dangerously addictive, but even if you aren’t acquiring for the sake of acquiring, many apps and subscriptions come loaded with ads. Others talk too much about what can go wrong, conditioning you to think you always need a new cosmetic treatment, a new security system, or a new relaxation gadget.

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3. Am I chasing a hope of bringing my life to complete predictability?

The idea that acquiring more solves our problems doesn’t stop with tangible goods. Partly due to proliferating information and technology in the Age of Infinite Options, many people dream of the perfect system that will enable them to gain an impossibly complete control of their world. If your primary reason for considering a new app or subscription is to purge unexpected frustrations from your life, consider whether learning to live with the unexpected might be a better frustration reducer.

(The “solve all problems” obsession drives money-spending as well. Americans put billions of dollars annually into self-help programs and products.)

4. Do I feel obligated to read every word of every article, ad, and follow-up comment?

If you have any tendency to obsess over covering everything in full, set a strict limit on your subscriptions, realistically considering the time you’re likely to spend on each. You are better off avoiding anything that’s heavy on text and links.

Patricia Daza, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at Baylor College of Medicine, notes, “If, instead of saying no when you have no interest, you agree to subscribe, you become resentful, and this ‘negative energy’ has to go somewhere. This could contribute to anxiety or depression because people feel they have little control in their world or no voice to make any changes.”

5. What do I have already?

All that said, I’m guessing you already have apps on your phone and several active subscriptions to print magazines, e-zines, and/or blogs, which you don’t plan to give up. Remember these when a new option comes along. New options always look good in isolation, their immediate visibility causing us to forget we have old options that perform the same function or are already using time and space the new one would need.

Whatever criteria characterize your favorite apps and subscriptions, the same principle applies to all owning and spending. You’ll enjoy the favorites more if you aren’t smothering them under lower-priority options.

Reviewed July 2019

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