Change your screen habits from time-wasting to money-saving

The numbers don’t lie, but they can be surprising

Apple’s Screen Time feature can tell you more about your iPhone usage than you may care to know.

Like how many text notifications you receive, the number of hours you spend on social networking and how your total usage on any given day stacks up against your average.

The numbers don’t lie, but they can be surprising. If you find yourself wasting too much of your day on your phone or tablet, here are some ideas for how to use your time and devices for something more productive — like saving money.

Double-click on your usage

First, be honest about how many hours you spend staring at a screen.

Mike Johansson, a senior lecturer in communication at Rochester Institute of Technology, has asked his students to keep track of how they spend their time.

“Over time, I had a few students who came back to me and said, ‘I was amazed. I didn’t realize that over the course of a week I was averaging three to four hours on YouTube every day.’ It adds up,” Johansson says.

Once you’ve tracked your habits or checked your phone’s tally of your usage, make some judgment calls about which activities are (or are not) a good use of your time.

Double down on your apps

If you can’t put down your phone completely, try switching the applications you use most frequently. If you’re going to be on your phone, you might as well make it worthwhile, right?

Instead of opening YouTube, Instagram or Facebook, here are some of the apps and tools that can be a more effective use of your screen time:

FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS: Download and check the apps for your various financial accounts. “The first app people should sign in to every day is their bank’s app and any credit card apps they use,” Robert P. Finley, a certified financial planner and the principal of Virtue Asset Management in Illinois, said in an email. “First, this process will help them better understand their daily spending, and second, help them keep an eye out for any fraud.”

BUDGETING APPS: Similarly, budgeting apps like Mint and PocketGuard can assist in keeping your spending in check. Use these regularly to get a better handle on your cash flow and how much money you’re devoting to each category of your budget.

ORGANIZERS: Organization tools like Evernote and OmniFocus can help, too. Open up these apps to create shopping lists to prevent you from buying extra things you don’t need, or to-do lists to ensure you pay all of your bills on time.

COUPON FINDERS: Coupon apps, including Coupons.com and CouponCabin , compile coupons for free. Take the time to consult these before shopping to lower the amount of money you’re spending on life’s necessities, such as groceries or household supplies.

CASH-BACK SITES: Take the extra step to use cash-back websites such as Ebates and BeFrugal to earn money back on purchases you’re already making.

FREEBIES: Sure, social media is free, but there are other free apps that could be more educational. Libby, for example, is a reading app that uses your library card to access e-books and audiobooks for free.

Double-check the clock

While these apps are helpful, it can be freeing to cut down your screen time completely. And contradictory as it sounds, your phone can actually help you limit the amount of time you spend on your phone.

Some apps help you stay off your device altogether. Flipd, for example, calls itself a “digital nudge” to discourage phone usage. Download the app to lock yourself out of your downloaded apps for a certain period of time, says Alanna Harvey, co-founder of Flipd.

“Flipd is a productivity and time management app that people use to help motivate themselves to not get distracted by their phones when they should be doing other tasks more mindfully like studying, reading and spending quality time with family and friends,” Harvey says.

If saving money is your goal, you can add financial management to that list of things to do in the real (not virtual) world. If it helps, get off your phone and spend some time with an old-fashioned paper budget, calculator, your credit card statement and checkbook.

And perhaps most importantly, start by changing your mindset. You don’t have to be tethered to your phone.

“Once upon a time, people literally would call your house, and if you weren’t there, they would call back later,” Johansson says.

Courtney Jespersen Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press

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