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When it comes to managing your money, it can often seem like the deck is stacked against you.
Creating an effective budget can be challenging, especially when inflation continues to drive up the costs of daily necessities. And as technology continues to advance, targeted ads and other tactics used to make you spend more are harder to avoid.
All of this can lead to unconscious spending. “We have the most credit card debt in history right now. And I think a lot of that is due to the fact that people don’t even realize what they’re spending.” [money on]says Jennifer Beeston, financial expert, mortgage originator, and author of the upcoming book “Brainhacked: How Big Tech Trains Your Brain to Spend — And How to Fight Back.”
Although spending money often feels easier than saving it, it can do more than rage helplessly against the machine. CNBC Select spoke to Beeston about how you can supercharge your finances by fighting technology designed to entice you to spend more.
Virtually everything you do online is tracked in one way or another. That information can be used to target you with ads when you are most likely to hit the buy button. “Every time you open your phone…you have the best salesperson in the world introducing you,” says Beeston.
If you’ve been having trouble spending more than you’d like, here are three tips to help you control your budget and be more intentional about the purchases you make.
Subscription services are a big part of the unconscious spending trap. If you were to list all the subscriptions you have and how much they cost without looking them up, how many could you remember?
An increasing number of services are moving to a subscription model. You can even buy a subscription for heated car seats in some countries. This is the future, with bits of what we once bought whole being resold to us on a monthly basis, Beeston says.
On top of that, the vast majority of free trials end up automatically signing you up for a subscription plan. And you can’t always unsubscribe with the click of a button.
Beeston recommends reviewing your credit card and bank statements to identify recurring charges. Write them all down and how much they cost, then ask yourself, do I need this? “Cancel anything you’re not passionate about,” she says.
If you want to fight fire with fire, you can also sign up for another subscription service, except this one helps you manage the accounts you have left after your free trials and subscriptions. Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) is an app that (among other things) can link to your bank account, analyze and identify your subscriptions, and then cancel them on your behalf.
Rocket Money (formerly Truebill)
Free, with the option to upgrade to Truebill Premium Service for a fee of $3 to $12 per month; invoice negotiation costs between 30% and 60% of the 12-month savings achieved as a result of the negotiation
Easily cancel unwanted subscriptions, track your spending and credit score, automate savings, and get help reducing bills
Categorize your expenses
Yes, Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) instantly identifies your top spending categories
links to accounts
Yes, bank and credit cards.
Offered on both the App Store (for iOS) and Google Play (for Android), as well as online
Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) accesses user transaction data via an encrypted token, uses the Plaid API so user credentials are never stored, provides bank-grade 256-bit encryption, and hosts servers on Amazon Secure Web Services (AWS), which is used by the Department of Defense, NASA, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
See our methodology, terms apply.
- Negotiates cell phone and cable bills, plus helps you get refunds for some bank fees
- free version available
- Syncs with your bank accounts and credit cards
- Instantly find and track your subscriptions
- The website says that 80% of people save money by using Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) to find and cancel unwanted subscriptions
- Provides a breakdown of users’ spending and notifies of upcoming charges and low balance alerts
- Helps users create a budget.
- Users can view their Experian VantageScore 3.0 credit score and access their credit report
- Provides an interest-free payment advance of up to $100 directly to qualifying users’ checking accounts
- Users can set goals, save money with autopilot smart saving feature
- Concierge service is available to identify bills to reduce and, for a fee, Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) will negotiate on behalf of users for the best rates (non-refundable negotiating fee ranges from 30-60% of the 12 months). savings achieved as a result of negotiation)
- Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) Premium Service features include free access to the Smart Savings feature, unlimited budget categories, custom spending categories, real-time account balance updates, premium chat, unsubscribe concierge, ” Truebill Offers” and educational material
- Coming soon: Users can track their net worth
- High Trustscore rating of 4.3/5 stars (from 392 reviews)
- It costs between $3 and $12 per month to upgrade to Rocket Money Premium Service (formerly Truebill)
- Non-refundable trading fee between 30% and 60% of 12-month savings achieved as a result of trading Rocket Money (formerly Truebill) bills on behalf of users
- Less Than 10 Better Business Bureau Reviews
- Does not negotiate internet, landlines, cable/phone/internet packages, alarm and security systems, radio/satellite TV or electricity bills
Just keep in mind that these types of services may not find every subscription in your lifetime. And while these services help you manage your subscriptions, they also follow the same model. That means you’ll need to be comfortable with having at least one subscription to manage.
If you do end up keeping a few subscriptions, you can ensure you get the most bang for your buck by using the right rewards credit card to pay for. For example, if you simply can’t give up your Netflix or Hulu account, you should at least pay with a card that gives you extra rewards on streaming purchases.
Make every click count
What you interact with online creates a profile of you that can be used to help companies market you. “Every time you click, you’re telling the algorithm that they can make money by showing you that content,” Beeston says. Every click, view, or comment helps refine what’s displayed online, so it’s important to keep an eye on your online activity.
Beeston suggests throwing a wrench into the advertising machine by deliberately engaging with content you don’t care about. Watch some videos of something you wouldn’t normally pay attention to, whether it’s crocheting, hiking, or stamp collecting. “With just a few clicks a week, you can have ads tailored to what you don’t like, making you less likely to buy and making it harder for the algorithm to figure out what to sell you,” says Beeston.
go cold turkey
To understand how much you spend online, Beeston says you need to kick the habit for a month. Give yourself 30 days and commit to not buying anything online.
Shopping online is easy and “it’s 100% designed to make you click without a second thought,” says Beeston. When you have to get up and go to the store to do your shopping, it adds a layer of friction between you and the purchase. If it takes longer to make a purchase, you have more time to identify the things you don’t need.
This approach requires a little extra willpower on your part, but Beeston says it may be easier than you think, and your wallet will thank you.
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As marketing technology advances, it becomes easier to fall into a pattern of unconscious spending. But there are ways to take things into your own hands and focus only on making the purchases that matter to you.
Start by taking a look at your subscriptions and delete the ones you no longer use. Pay attention to what you click and which accounts you follow on social media, all of this activity can be used to target you with very tempting ads. And if you want to get a good idea of how much you’re spending online, commit to not buying anything online for 30 days. When you have to work harder to shop, you may spend a lot less.
Editor’s note: The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are solely those of Select’s editorial staff and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any third party.