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Summary:

In these tough economic times, it’s never a bad thing to trim our spending.  Last month, Aliza Sherman asked us how much we spend on web apps, and while some claimed to spend nothing at all, there were others who paid more than $100 each month.  […]

In these tough economic times, it’s never a bad thing to trim our spending.  Last month, Aliza Sherman asked us how much we spend on web apps, and while some claimed to spend nothing at all, there were others who paid more than $100 each month.  Although web apps are a necessary part of our work, it’s still important to keep our overhead expenses as low as possible without sacrificing the benefits we receive from these paid apps.

Know your needs and the true value of your purchase

We should take a look at the features the free app offers and see whether they’re enough for our needs.  Other criteria you might want to consider include the ease of the interface, reliability of service, and the kind of value it brings to your web work.

Now, the value of an app isn’t just limited to its cost.  The price alone can be misleading.  Sometimes we’re inclined to think that a more expensive purchase has more value than a less expensive one, but this value is external and based on the price tag.  What you need to inspect is the internal value.

When thinking of an app’s internal value to your work, think about what effects it has on your productivity and efficiency.  Will it make you accomplish certain tasks faster?  If the app is something that you get to use for customer service, there are additional questions you need to ask.  What value will it bring to your customers?  Will they be comfortable in using it?  Will using this app boost your credibility?

244815_credit_cardReturn of investment

Another thing you should take into account whenever we’re purchasing gadgets or apps is the return of investment (ROI) you expect to have.  Will this app help you profit?  If so, by how much?  How long will it take to ‘pay for itself’?  Although it’s not the only benefit you should look at, knowing about an app or service’s return of investment can help you see if it’s worth it – especially if the price is expensive.

Check out free or cheaper alternatives

The first thing I ask myself before I decide to subscribe to a paid web app is whether there’s a free alternative available somewhere.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should automatically favor the free alternative.  You should only do that if the freebie fulfills your needs just as much as (or even more than) the paid app.

Start working on a payment plan

One of the things I ask myself before purchasing new software is “How many hours of work each month will it take for me to pay for this?”  Even if this number might be overwhelming for the more expensive apps and services out there, it’s easier to look at if you know that your purchase will have an ROI.

As Aliza mentioned in her article, sometimes it costs less in the long run to make yearly or semi-annual payments for your apps.  Also, some apps offer discounts or free months if you’ve had a longtime subscription with them.  Find out if there are any ways to lessen the fees you are paying.

Calculating your app expenses can be a scary task, especially if you’re not too fond of budgeting.  Keep in mind, however, that you are a web worker in business. Money is an important part of the equation.

Factor it in your fees

Since these web apps help you with productivity and efficiency, in turn, they are also helping your clients.  If you don’t include the paid apps in the fees you charge, then how do you expect them to ‘pay for themselves’?  This is especially important if you’re charging low rates as a starting web worker.

Having paid subscriptions to web apps doesn’t have to be a pain.  After all, they exist to enrich our online working experience, as well as or communication with clients and colleagues.  If we evaluate our needs and do the math, having these apps around could be less expensive and more profitable.

How do you budget your web app expenses?  How do you decide which services to subscribe to?

Image by Piotr Lewandowski from sxc.hu

  1. You forgot a crucial and well tested method: search for coupons!

    Most sites allow entering a coupon or promo code just before payment. If you don’t have a code go search for one in Google or in one of the dedicated sites. My favorite is RetailMeNot.

    For me, it works in over 50% of the cases.

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  2. Great points. As a co-founder of a company that offers a subscription based web-app, I can agree with the point about understanding your needs (both now and down the line) and what type of value you want to extract.

    If you select a service (free or paid) but can’t get the value you need from it, it can end up costing you in time.

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  3. Great points, Celine!

    I’d also like to stress the importance of searching around and keeping your eyes and ears open to the whole web apps scene in general because it will always pay to have a good sense of not just what’s ‘free’ but what is being offered out there for you to get a better picture of the what’s being offered vis-a-vis your needs.

    As they say, better to be informed than sorry.

    Mabuhay!
    alain

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  4. @Matt The same is true for – If you select a service (free or paid) but CAN get the value you need from it, it can end up saving you time (and money).
    There a lots of incredible free web apps out there and we like to consider ourselves one of them : )

    Louise (Passpack)

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