Internet Web Culture

3 Simple Ways To Cut Down Your Online Expenses

Akshata Shanbhag 25-03-2014

Your digital life is draining your financial resources in multiple ways. Fortunately, you can put a stop to it today.


A gadget or luxury item marketed as the next best thing; an accessory that seems impossible to do without; a service that you have to sign up for — all of those buys add up to burn a big hole in your pocket. The inexpensive purchases are even more dangerous. You don’t bother tracking them because it feels like you’re paying for them with loose change. These accumulate over time and cost you a substantial portion of your income.


You don’t need drastic changes to avoid these unnecessary expenses that give the illusion of enhancing your digital life. Here are three simple ways that will do just great.

Stop Right There!

The Web is full of pseudo-amazing products and services that trick you into thinking you need them. The temptation to click on the accompanying Buy Now buttons is appears swiftly, especially if there are glowing reviews alongside. You might even start daydreaming about all the ways in which the new product will fit into your life. Before you know it, an email arrives in your inbox notifying you about the purchase you just made.

Begin cost-cutting by putting the brakes on your planning and enthusiasm. Take a time out. Close the product’s website and shift your focus elsewhere to ensure that your brain does not have the space to get carried away.



Ask yourself this:

  • So far, haven’t I been doing fine without this product?
  • Do I already have some variation of it lying around somewhere?
  • Have I used the last product I purchased in a hurry? Was it worth my money?

When you stop to think before you buy, it becomes clear that the product or service you have your eye on is not really a must-have. I wish I had realized this when I was buying all those Fiverr gigs Fiverr - A $5 Marketplace For Anyone Looking For A Service Imagine you’ve got a photo of yourself or a friend which you really like, but you know it could be made perfect with just a little Photoshop magic. What you really need is a friend... Read More , vanity domain names, average ebooks, and online subscriptions that I left unused.

Find Hacks & Free Alternatives

Learning to be resourceful and being smart about assessing your digital requirements is a great way to reduce your online expenses.



When you’re taking up a new endeavor, it feels right to arm yourself with the requisite tools or gear. If you’re starting an online business, in all your excitement you might end up buying a handful of domain names, shiny branding material, paid services for invoicing and book-keeping, and other add-ons that come across as vital for your business. As another example, if you’re planning to learn a new language, you might end up ordering various recommended books, dictionaries, audio lessons, apps, etc.

Instead of spending a mini-fortune on material for the new project, how about testing the waters first? Buy a single domain name. Try a free language-learning app. Search sites like MakeUseOf for cheaper (often free) and more viable alternatives.



Also, if you’re buying tech-related stuff, begin with a tech budget Stop Leaking Money: How To Set Up A Personal Tech Budget Technology can rob you blind. Don't let technology put you in debt -- or worse, on the streets. Keep reading for tips on devising and maximizing your own personal tech budget. Read More . Follow it up with a realistic analysis of your tech requirements. Tell your brain that you don’t need the latest thing. Customize your purchases whenever possible. If a gadget needs five different accessories to function, skip it and look for a different solution.

About a year ago, I bought a 10-inch Ainol tablet with the intention of making it my primary digital device. To protect its surface and to make typing easier on it, I bought a tablet case with an attached keyboard. I also bought a wireless mouse. Since one OTG cable wouldn’t have sufficed to connect multiple USB devices, I ordered a USB hub. The tablet was too heavy for me, so I swapped it with someone for a 7-inch Samsung Galaxy tablet. As this new device wouldn’t detect my data card, I paid for a mobile wireless router for the sake of productivity.


This laughably assorted setup was hardly portable and usable on a regular basis. After stalling for several months, I bought a lightweight Asus netbook — a much more sensible buy that I should have considered in the first place. But since I didn’t, I’m stuck with about 300USD worth of digital goods that can only be called e-waste.


Keep An Eye Out For Discounts & Smart Buying Tips

Certain purchases are inevitable and can’t wait, no matter how expensive they are or what time of the year it it is. But you have to be smart in figuring out which ones fall into that category. To be frank, few do, and you’re the best judge of that. Don’t scrimp on such important purchases. For the rest, find good deals, use coupon codes Honey: Saves You Money By Automatically Finding The Best Coupon Codes Online Read More , take advantage of free services like IFTTT to save money Use IFTTT To Save & Make Money Perhaps the best way to stay informed of special offers online is to embrace IFTTT, the popular data combination service that allows you to process data from websites and RSS feeds into something useful for... Read More , or wait for special occasions to earn mammoth discounts. If you save some money on a purchase, watch out for the urge to spend the surplus on yet another product. Learn smarter ways to spend and save from the tips and experiences of fellow netizens Why Selling Tickets On Seatwave Was The Most Expensive Mistake I Ever Made It's quite unorthodox for someone to write an article about how using a service cost him hundreds of pounds, and then go on to recommend that particular service. Read More .

A Penny Saved Is A Penny Earned

When you’re parting with cold, hard cash or a handing out a credit card, it gives you pause for thought. A lot of what you’re purchasing begins to appear optional. But when you’re paying with a mouse click or two, it feels like child’s play, and often ends in buyer’s remorse.


Use these tips to ensure that your online expenses stay within the limits of necessity and usefulness. When you do splurge on something online once in a while, you’ll be able to enjoy it minus the guilt!

Image Credits: saving and spending by 401K (2012) (used under CC), Money, Money, Money! by peddhapati (used under CC), Stop by cobblucas (used under CC), Saving in a piggy bank by OTA Photos (used under CC)

Related topics: Money Management, Online Shopping, Save Money.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. dragonmouth
    March 28, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Are there any iPhone or Android apps that help the user develop will power?

    The problem is that over the past 50-60 years, we have become a world of consumers. We consume just for the sake of consuming, not because we need it. Internet has made that even easier. We just don't have the will power to say "NO" and stick to it.

    Even if you are buying things you don't need at a discount, you are not saving money, you are spending it. Years ago I saw a cartoon that epitomizes this attitude:

    A wife comes home loaded with packages and says to her husband "Look at all the money I saved."

  2. April
    March 27, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    This may have already been stated, but there are some sites that will give you a discounted price or free shipping on something you 'left' in you shopping basket for a couple of days to encourage the purchase.

  3. Dwream
    March 26, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    The best money saving tip: Take advantage of MakeUseOf articles, newsletters, and website! Akshata, you and your colleagues have saved me a bundle by your product reviews (showing both pros and cons), information on free software, free e-books and on-line resources. Thanks!

    • Akshata
      March 27, 2014 at 4:20 am

      Glad to hear that, Dwream. Thank you for reading :)

  4. Lucy N
    March 26, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    In order to reduce impulse buys or accidental "one click" purchases, I set up secondary accounts without credit card information.

    For Amazon you just need a valid US address. I currently have 692 free Kindle books that I can read on my computer. I don't even have a Kindle. Many authors put books on for free for a limited time, in order to collect reader reviews. Once you "buy" the free version it is yours forever, even when the price goes up.

    For free Google Books, I created a Google Wallet account WITHOUT a credit card by installing Google Opinions Rewards and answering the first survey. It created the Wallet account for me and deposited a dollar in the account. The questions weren't identifiable and you don't have to answer any more surveys unless you want to. You can even uninstall the app. It is the only way to create a Google Wallet account without providing a credit card. Now I can download free books. (To get the free Google Books you still have to have a Wallet account, even if you never plan to buy anything.)

    • Frank D
      March 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm

      One small note: You need a device in order to install an app. Google Opinions Rewards requires a device. Having only a PC does not qualify you for GOR.

    • Lucy N
      March 26, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      That's true. You can ask a friend to set it up on their device, open an account for yourself and then immediately uninstall the GOR app. I don't think you can read Google books on a PC. I've only tried it on my Android device.

    • Akshata
      March 27, 2014 at 4:19 am

      Thanks for sharing that Google Wallet tip, Lucy.

    • CJ Cotter
      March 28, 2014 at 2:11 am

      Lucy N, haven't you heard of Kindle for PC? It's Amazon's free software. I don't have a Kindle, either, but I read my Kindle books on my computer.

      And Akshata, don't be a killjoy. Gotta have that gadget! The trick is not to stop, but to find cheap ways to get the new stuff you want. Be a tightwad. Somebody SOMEwhere is selling it cheaper.

    • Lucy N
      March 28, 2014 at 6:42 am

      (also updates to Google and Amazon information)

      Thanks for the article. I teach a computer literacy class and I'll show your article to my students when we get to the purchasing section. It's a good summary of points they need to know.

      Yes CJ Cotter, I use the Kindle for PC (See the first part of my post)

      As of 10 minutes ago, I had 694 books downloaded to my Kindle for PC (free download from website) . You can also read them online from the website or use the Kindle Android app (free download from the Amazon App Store).

      I can start reading a Kindle book on my Android phone, switch to my tablet and then switch to my Windows PC while Amazon syncs how far I read in the book. When I switch to the next device, it starts up right where I left off on the previous device. I don't even have to use bookmarks.

      I set up an Amazon account using a valid US address and NO Credit Card information. 692 of the books were free. I "paid" for the other 2 with a promotional credit. I haven't spent any real money yet.

      BTW I found out that yes, you can read Google Books online on your computer by clicking on the "read" button instead of the "close" button when you "buy" the book, when you are on the Google Play website.

      I "bought" Free Google music with the WALLET account. It doesn't charge the account, it just needed the account to establish ownership. Remember, it doesn't even have my credit card info. I did it on the web page using my PC.

      (On the download page for Google Wallet, (& most of the free book reviews) a lot a people were ranting about having to use a credit card. I tried to post my tip to the reviews for Google Wallet, but it won't go through.)

      Quick summary:

      --Free Amazon Kindle App for PC and Android
      --Free Kindle Books ( to get email updates)
      --Amazon account set up with a valid US address & NO CREDIT CARD

      --Free Google Books and Music Android apps and online website. --Free Google Books and Music
      --Free Google Wallet account with NO CREDIT CARD when Google Opinions Rewards Android App set up the Wallet account and even put in a dollar (can delete GOR app if you don't want to answer any more surveys)

      Everything I did was completely legal. I used my real name and address when I set up the accounts. I talked to tech support at Amazon and they are fine with it. The Amazon support rep is the one who told me how to set it up in the first place. Google Wallet, I discovered by accident.

      I also have separate accounts with credit card information so I can pay for things, when I'm really sure I'm ready. I just used a different email address and added my middle initial to my name (to keep my "pay for" and "freebie" accounts separate.)

      One of these days I'll check out Nook to see if it will work this way, too. I need to catch up on my reading first ; )

    • dragonmouth
      March 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm

      @CJ Cotter"
      "Be a tightwad. Somebody SOMEwhere is selling it cheaper."
      There is nothing cheaper than FREE. If I can't get it free, I don't want it.

  5. Thelma Wickwere
    March 26, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Good article for watching spending in general, not just on-line stuff. One of the things about buying on-line is it's so easy to just "one-click", and it doesn't seem like real money -- until that credit card bill comes in! Pause, think about it, put it in your basket, come back to it tomorrow and see if you still need the item. Our "gotta have it" society spends too much on Stuff that doesn't really make life better; I'm right there among them, but trying to curb the tendency.

    • Akshata
      March 26, 2014 at 3:28 pm

      Thank you, Thelma! I'm trying to do that myself, but sometimes it's hard to do because those one-click options just make shopping so easy.

    • KT
      March 26, 2014 at 8:03 pm

      So true, I'm helping wife beat that addiction. $5 here, $10 there, over time she can't pay her credit card balance in full and bam! You've got debt. No one needs a deluxe cheese straightener, or a blue tooth toilet brush! lol.

  6. KT
    March 26, 2014 at 12:08 am

    Great article. I used to work with a guy that had a $400/month smart phone bill, $400/month car payment, and $200/month insurance for full coverage (he was young). I pay cash for my used cars (I'm a machinist/mechanic, maint. is no issue) I still have no cell phone (I'm in front of a pc at home and work, so no need) and I paid cash for my home (nothing fancy, but comfortable). My triple play cable bill is around $200/month and that angers my cheap ass, lol. I think the worst offenders are the free to play, pay to win games that dominate the web now.

    • Thelma Wickwere
      March 26, 2014 at 2:55 pm

      You are so right, KT. The game apps are real money crocs, lying in wait to gobble up resourses. I try to keep game playing at a minimum (reading is a better use of my time) but when I want a new game app, I'd much rather pay a couple of buck for it up front than hundreds along the way!

    • Akshata
      March 26, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Thanks, KT. You're absolutely right. Game apps that require you to pay to win can trick you into parting with your money on a regular basis.

    • dragonmouth
      March 28, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      You can always quit playing those kind of games. If enough people said "NO", those games would disappeare.

    • Anon
      April 10, 2014 at 12:53 am

      As president of Tightwads USA®, I try not to spend money whenever possible. When I must, I like to spend as little as I can get away with. One of the biggest aspects of this is learning to fix things yourself. If something breaks and you don't know how to fix it, you're going to have to pay someone else to fix it, and they're going to charge you out the ass for doing so, mechanics especially. That's one of the biggest scams going.

      I refuse to pay for software on principle. There's so much free software out there that it's ridiculous to pay for it. I use Linux on both my laptop and desktop.

      Printer ink is one of the biggest scams going (possibly even bigger than mechanics, but I doubt it). Buy refillable ink cartridges and bulk ink and refill them yourself, or you can take them to Office Depot and have them refilled (but not for Epson). They even make after market refillable cartridges for Epson, but you have to refill them yourself (wear gloves, if you do. Haha).

      As for entertainment: your local library has a ton of FREE books, music, and DVDs for checkout. Over-the-air TV is still free, and it's all I watch. Many shows can even be watched free online. If you must pay for TV, I'd recommend Netflix, HuluPlus, or Amazon, as they're all fairly inexpensive, but I still think paying for TV is for suckers given all the free content online these days.

      If you're paying the phone company for a home phone, you're doing it wrong. Either get a very inexpensive, prepaid phone such as from Republic Wireless, or AIO wireless, or even the new WalMart prepaid plan through T-Mobile, and use that as your only phone number, or get BasicTalk Home Phone, or similar, which allows you to use your current home phone (if you have one) and even keep your own number for a flat monthly fee. BasicTalk is $9.99/month, similar services may have higher/lower prices. If you have internet at home, check and see if your ISP is charging you an equipment rental fee. Ours charges $5/month to rent their modem. I bought my own modem and it's working fine with their system (they just won't provide any support for it if it breaks, which is fine). I'll be taking their modem back and getting the rental fee removed from my bill.

      Replacing your incandescent light bulbs with a more energy efficient type can save you a lot, especially if you use light a lot (which you shouldn't, at least during the day; opening the blinds is free).

      Don't buy non-rechargeable batteries; it's a scam. I have rechargeable batteries I've been using for a really long time. In that time, I would have had to buy non-rechargeable several times over.

      If you have your money in a bank, try to find the one with the best interest rate possible. This will often be an online only bank. Ally has decent interest rates (even on checking accounts). Sallie Mae has slightly better interest rates on Money Market Accounts, though.