About the author: Lamar Watson, CFP®, is a Fee-Only Financial Advisor in the Washington, D.C. area that works with clients virtually across the country. Lamar's work with his clients focuses on budgeting, employee benefits, paying down debt, buying their first home, and investing. Lamar is the Founder of Dream Financial Planning, a virtual Fiduciary Financial Planning firm specifically designed to help young professionals and minorities take control of their finances and fulfill their dreams. Feel free to schedule a complimentary consultation to learn how we use the DREAM Financial Planning Process ™ to help our clients achieve their goals.
Smartphone usage increased dramatically during the pandemic as more people lost their jobs, were furloughed, or adhering to stay-at-home orders.
While smartphones can provide endless entertainment, 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 percent gain on the monthly average in 2019.1
While that’s all fun and games (no pun intended), it may be time to do 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
Way #1: You're Exposed to Fewer Ads
If there’s a screen in front of you, you can’t avoid being exposed to advertisements. From sponsored content on social media to well-targeted email campaigns, advertisements are everywhere.
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 on television.2 Because of this, companies have changed the way they advertise. More marketing efforts are being geared toward grabbing the attention of those who shop online, game on their phone, and scroll through social media regularly.
By spending less time online, you’re automatically reducing the amount of ad exposure you’re receiving every day. Less exposure to ads means less temptation to purchase impulsively.
Way #2: It Builds Your Impulse Control
When you’re exposed to the same brand or product over and over and over, it 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 can be harder to say “no.” Therefore, more time away from your phone can help build up your impulse control and remove the temptation altogether.
Way #3: You Won’t Experience FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
By logging onto Facebook or any social media platform, you are exposing yourself to the ongoings of others' lives. Social media influencers flaunt new products or share their latest travels; friends post about taking weekend trips and wearing fashionable clothing, whatever it is your connections are doing right now, you’re seeing. This exposure could easily trigger 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 start to envy the people that you see living these lives and want the same for yourself.
Of course, most of these experiences or products aren’t free. Therefore, your FOMO could soon translate to a need to spend money to achieve a similar result. If you didn’t log on in the first place, you wouldn’t experience those feelings, which will save you money by removing the temptation from your life.
Way #4: It Can Help Realign Your Priorities
Do you find yourself mindlessly perusing shopping websites, and the next thing you know, you have unnecessary items in your cart? If so, you’re not alone. While this can be harmless, it causes unnecessary temptation.
Spending time away from your phone or computer frees you up for more time spent with your family and friends, learning a new hobby, or reading a book. 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.
Way #5: It Gives You Back Your Free Time
Think of all that you could do with more hours back in your day? You could get more exercise or start a side hustle, focus on home improvement projects and more.
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 with the new habits you are forming.
Step #1: Write Down Your Hobbies & Interests
Make a list of all the things that you like to do that don’t involve a device.
Are there things you’ve always wanted to accomplish but never seemed to have the time to do so? Listing out what you’re interested in can serve as motivation to stay off of your phone. Maybe the money you’d normally spend online shopping or gaming can be put towards a new hobby or project.
Step #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. It might come as a shock just how connected you really are.
Step #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 families, 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. In fact, studies have shown that blue light is harmful to your eyes and increases your alertness at night, making it harder to fall asleep and ultimately to wake up in the morning.4
Step #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. There are apps that can limit your screen time and allowance.
These can help you focus on the moment and quit mindless scrolling once you have sent that email or important text message.
Step #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. Instead of reading books on your Kindle or Tablet, go back to the library and get the hard copies. 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, your finances should start to improve.
Dream Financial Planning Process ™
Whether you're managing student loan debt, starting a family, or considering buying your first home, the DREAM Financial Planning Process™ is tailored to the unique needs of busy professionals in their 30s and 40s. This process focuses more on short-term goals while you grow and evolve in your personal and professional life. If you're looking for guidance on Financial Planning, optimizing employee benefits, budgeting, student loans, and managing your 401k or investments, we can help.
With uncertainty surrounding the economic stability of our country, it's okay to have fears and anxieties surrounding your own savings and investments. The most productive course of action from here is to reach out to Dream Financial Planning (or whoever your trusted advisor might be) and discuss your options. It's easy to have knee-jerk reactions when it feels like the bottom is falling out, but it is imperative to make decisions using research-backed data and a level head. If you'd like a Complimentary Review and risk assessment of your investment portfolio, feel free to send me an e-mail.
If you're looking for guidance on your investments, you'll want to read this month's Newsletter. In my April Newsletter, I discuss Gamestop, market speculation, long-term investment returns, and 9 investing mistakes you should avoid.
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