Money

A woman who spent $453 on Uber in a month highlights a critical money lesson

Calling an uber from the iphone application
David Ramos | Getty Images
Calling an uber from the iphone application

During a month-long trip to California in 2014, New York City-based reporter Nitasha Tiku "essentially wrote Uber a $453 check with my thumbs," she writes on Valleywag.

That wasn't all. In one month, she "hangrily clicked $206 over to Seamless," and, over the course of a few months, she spent nearly $100 "buying extra lives in Candy Crush."

Tiku's hardly the only one to squander hundreds of dollars on ride-sharing apps and takeout. After reviewing their credit card statements, one couple realized they spent $30,000 eating out in 2016. Another millennial, CNBC's Rajaa Elidrissi, tallied up her monthly expenses last December only to find that she spent $651 on Uber and Lyft in just 30 days.

"Out in the real world, a number of obstacles stand in the way of you spending money: the distance from the dressing room to the cash register, for example, or the time it takes to get from your home to a store," writes Tiku. But mobile apps have stripped down these barriers: "The half second it takes to press your thumb down on a smartphone screen leaves no time for regret."

And, as Tiku notes, "impulse-driven, one-press smartphone purchases are the easiest to lose track of." Perhaps that explains why people spend twice as much money as they think they have online.

If you have no idea how much of your money is going towards Candy Crush, Uber, Seamless or Amazon, it may be time to find out.

Try recording each and every purchase you make for a couple of months by keeping a spreadsheet on your computer or using an app such as Mint, Personal Capital or Level Money. The results may surprise you.

If awareness isn't enough to break you of your pricey habits, consider deleting the apps that are costing you the most. It worked for Elidrissi, who scrubbed her credit card info off Uber and Lyft, and then got the apps off her phone. She went from spending nearly $700 on rides in December to just $60 in January.

Another more extreme but effective strategy to curb your spending is to ditch your credit cards altogether and go cash only. Simply withdraw a predetermined amount of cash for the week and commit to spending only that amount. It'll force you to stay on budget.

Plus, using cash adds another barrier between you and spending money. Rather than mindlessly swiping a credit card or tapping your smartphone, you'll be handing over physical bills and watching your money disappear right in front of your eyes. Chances are, you'll think longer and harder about your purchases.

Like this story? Like CNBC Make It on Facebook.

Don't miss: 10 small things to give up if you want to save more money