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How Pokémon Go Can Cost You (Even Though It’s Free)

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Even if you don’t play games, you’ve at least heard of Pokémon Go by now or know someone who’s playing it.

There’s been a flood of news on Pokémon-related robberies, injuries and even over-walked dogs all on the heels of the game’s wildly successful launch. In fact, more than 15 million people have downloaded the gaming app since it became available in the U.S. earlier this month, according to research firm SensorTower, an app analytics company.

While the app itself is free, there are several ways the game can end up costing users, and not just in time spent playing it. Here are four ways Pokémon Go, or PoGo for short, can negatively impact your bottom line, plus some tips for ways to ensure it doesn’t.

1. Data Usage

This game is a data hog, there are no two ways about it. But there are things you can do to make sure you don’t start paying your cellular provider extra for data overages.

According to the Pokémon Go Database, the app can average from 2MB to 8MB or more of data usage per hour of play, depending on what kind of gameplay you’re taking part in (battling, capturing, walking).

The site said that “if half of a 2GB data plan is allocated to playing Pokémon Go, users can reasonably expect to play four to six hours per day without any issue. If Pokémon Go is played for more than six hours per day, an upgraded data plan may be needed.”

If an upgraded data plan isn’t in your budget or you just don’t want to shell out more money each month, there are some ways to reduce the data you use. Pokémon Go Database has several recommendations, including:

  • Download applications and updates only using Wi-Fi
  • Play only in areas where Wi-Fi is available
  • Set a data limit
  • Limit/remove high data-consuming apps

2. In-Game Purchases

According to a report by Quartz, based on data from SensorTower, U.S. Po-Go players using iOS already are spending about $1.6 million each day on in-app purchases. And Statista reports that worldwide revenue for Po-Go in-app purchases is expected to hit $58.2 billion this year and reach $76.5 billion in 2017.

But is spending real-world dollars to acquire virtual PoGo tools worth it? It could be if you’re offsetting the costs on what you’d spend on other entertainment and even gym fees.

PoGo player Michelle McGuinness, 29, says it is absolutely worth it to make in-app purchases.

“I pay $40 to $60 for games all the time, and I play them for maybe 40 hours,” the Seattle resident said. “I will blow past 40 hours of gameplay in Pokémon Go, and the app was 100% free. Throwing them $5 or $10 or $20, or even more, seems well worth it considering how much enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it. Even if I stop playing in a month, they’ve earned a few dollars from me, and I suspect I’ll be playing for well longer than a month.

“Plus, getting up and walking during work has made me noticeably happier,” she said. “The benefit isn’t just fun or exercise. I’m in a better mood all day. My boyfriend is exercising! He’s an active person, but he never once did cardio voluntarily. Now he’s walking, like, four miles a day.”

If that’s the case for you, it could be worth setting aside a fixed amount in your monthly budget for PoGo in-app purchases to make sure you don’t overspend. By setting a limit, you’ll be able to keep your own nest egg growing while you incubate your virtual ones.

3. External Purchases

Some businesses have been so inundated by PoGo players that they’ve put up signs saying, “Pokémon are for paying customers only.”

Some, however, have intentionally attracted PoGo players to their places of business using the game itself.

For example, one New York pizzeria owner Sean Benedetti reportedly spent $10 on an in-app purchase of a dozen “lure modules,” which attract Pokémon to a particular location for 30-minute intervals.

Benedetti saw his sales jump 75% last weekend because of the move, according to The New York Post.

“We had people come down, sit down and get a couple beers and play the Pokémon game,” Benedetti reportedly told the Post.

That might be great for the business owners, but if you’re spending an extra $5 to $10 on food or drinks you don’t need just to catch some extra Pokémon, those seemingly small expenditures add up to serious money by the end of the month.

Again, it’s a good idea to keep your budget in mind. You can still “catch ‘em all” without going into debt — or going up a pants size.

4. Buying Assistance

Those with entrepreneurial spirits are aiming to take advantage of the PoGo craze, offering their services for everything from rides to PoGo hotspots to even taking on the capture of Pokémon for you.

One such example, Ivy St. Ive, who billed herself as a professional Pokémon Go trainer, offered her services on Craigslist to catch Pokémon for anyone willing to pay $20 an hour. St. Ive, who told Gothamist on Tuesday that the ad had received a lot of attention, including from “creeps asking me out for drinks and coffee,” has since removed the ad.

If you’re already paying people for things like cleaning your home, taking your dogs for a walk (dog walkers may want to take note of the double-dip PoGo could offer), or other services you could do yourself, paying someone to literally play a game for you might not seem too far-fetched. But if you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, have any outstanding credit card debt, or a pile of student loans to pay off, this likely isn’t your best money option. (You can use Credit.com’s lifetime cost of debt calculator to see how your debt is impacting your finances.)

Instead, you might want to take that money and start an emergency fund so you’ll be prepared when the inevitable emergency strikes. It’s also a good idea to know where your credit stands, as low credit scores can end up costing you money on interest rates and more. You can check your two free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com.

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