Money was exhausting even before it got linked to our Apple IDs and repackaged in investment apps and turned into blockchain-based cryptocurrencies. As tech mediates more of our lives, it can get even tougher to keep track of our money and how we want to spend it.
Fun date-night suggestion app the Nudge saves me time planning dinner -- but will deleting the app make its recurring charges go away? Is Venmo really the best app for instant payments? And do I need to buy an NFT of my professional headshot before somebody else owns my face?
Q: Stop recurring app subscription charges: This is such a ridiculous question, but I have no idea how to resolve it. My daughter downloaded a couple of apps on her phone (one a celebrity look-alike app, for example). She says she deleted them, but I'm still being charged for them every month. How do I "unsubscribe"? It's an iPhone, if that matters.
A: I don't find your question ridiculous at all! I can't tell you how many times I've kept paying for subscription-based apps without realizing it.
The good news: On an iPhone, you can view all your active and past subscriptions in one place. Go to Settings, then tap on your name at the top. Select Subscriptions, and you should see any active subscriptions associated with your Apple ID. Tap on any app you no longer want to pay for, scroll to the bottom and hit Cancel Subscription. (On newer Android devices, go to Settings -> Google -> Manage Google Accounts -> Payments and Subscriptions -> Manage Subscriptions.)
Keep in mind that if your daughter paid for a monthly or annual subscription to the app, it may still appear under "active" until that month or year is up. If illicit app purchases are an issue, you can always use Apple's parental controls to prevent your kids from charging things to your account. Go to Settings -> Screen Time -> Content & Privacy Restrictions -> iTunes & App Store Purchases. There, you can choose whether your kids are allowed to install apps, delete apps and make in-app purchases.
And if you're struggling with recurring charges more broadly, check out some of the automated tools from DoNotPay.com. They'll walk you through exasperating cancellation policies such as for gym memberships, and even send cancellation requests on your behalf.
Q: NFTs: What do the initials NFT stand for, and why do I have to ask?
A: An NFT is a non-fungible token. Glad we cleared that up! Just kidding -- that wasn't much help. NFTs are receipts of ownership for digital assets, often images like popular memes. NFTs are supposed to be one of a kind, with information about their ownership stored on a public ledger called a blockchain. The non-fungible part means non-replicable.
Some people -- particularly gamers and people who invest in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin -- are really into collecting NFTs. A NFT from a South Carolina-based artist known as Beeple sold for $69 million last year, and my inbox is full of emails from upstart companies declaring themselves the next big thing in the NFT market.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are scratching our heads a little.
I asked Anand Agarawala, co-founder of Spatial, which holds NFT art exhibits in virtual reality, for help explaining what makes NFTs so fun for so many. First, there's the novelty of owning or viewing art in the digital world, just like in the real one. NFTs also help artists monetize their online creations, according to Agarawala.
"Previously, digital artists had a hard time making money because their work could just be copied and pasted," he said. "Now, with the NFT verifying authenticity, they have scarcity like real-world art."
People buy NFTs for unique characters in video games, profile pictures for online forums and even Christmas presents. But not everyone is sold.
"This is a scam," says Swara Ahmed, a gamer and data scientist in Washington, D.C. "This is something that on paper does not make sense: a digital token that cannot be replicated when I can simply copy-paste it."
In other words, NFTs might prove ownership but they don't stop theft, critics say. They're also bad for the environment, Ahmed said, because adding information to a blockchain takes large amounts of computing power.
The fate of NFTs remains to be seen. But with new companies and celebrities jumping on board every day, expect to hear a lot more about them.