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How much is technology costing you?

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How much do you spend on technology each month? Technology — and mobile devices in particular — can make your life easier, but they also add to your regular expenses. Here are some insights on technology spending and how to keep it in check.

A big expense

The cost of subscribing to digital services certainly adds up. Consumers spent an average of $166 each month to pay for things like cable TV, home Internet access, mobile phone service and digital subscriptions — equal to 17 percent of their monthly rent or mortgage payment — according to a poll by the American Institute of CPAs.

Do you download apps, songs or other products? The AICPA study found that Americans buy an average of five digital songs, five movies or TV shows, two apps, two games and two e-books per month. That adds another $38 every month on average.

It's not surprising that more than half of all Americans think technology makes it easier to spend. So how can you be sure that your technology spending doesn't add up to some unpleasant surprises? CPAs offer several tips.

Set a budget

Create a monthly budget that identifies your regular expenses and income to help you determine how much you will spend and save. Within that budget, set limits on what you will shell out for digital services, apps and other content. Are you currently spending more or less than you should be? Use your past and existing technology purchases as a roadmap to help you decide how to set your limits.

Separate your tech spending

It can be difficult to track technology-related expenditures because many are deducted right from your bank account or charged straight to your credit card.

It might be a good idea to set up a separate checking or credit card account for your digital purchases, and set email or text message alerts that tell you when you're near your limit. This approach makes it easy to see what you're spending and helps ensure you don't go over your limit.

If you're using a credit card, be sure to pay off the balance each month so that you don't incur high interest charges.

Only get what you need

Before you sign a contract for phone or other services, make sure you understand all the details so you avoid paying for services you don't really want or need. Review your past cellphone or cable service statements to see what you actually used, and don't commit to a new service that offers any more than is necessary.

Cut out the dead wood

Once or twice a year, review your subscriptions and your devices, such as e-readers or tablets, to see whether you're really getting your money's worth out of them.

If you have numerous devices, consider whether you truly require all services on each of them. It might be wiser to drop the data service on one cellphone, for example, and use your tablet for apps and Internet access.

Similarly, if you signed up for an online subscription service that you never use, drop it. Also, investigate whether there are new features or bundles available that could lower your bills.

For more information about Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA), visit www.ineedacpa.org.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@cpbj.com

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