6 apps that changed the way we spend money over the last decade

@justin_02 | Twenty/20

At the start of this decade, you couldn't take an Uber to the airport, Venmo someone for your share of dinner, or ask Alexa to play Lizzo.

But as the number of smartphone users in the U.S. more than quadrupled in the past decade, according to Statista, Americans have been increasingly able to spend money from wherever they are and on almost whatever they want.

Here are six of the biggest game-changing apps of the past decade when it comes to how we spend money.

Amazon Alexa

In 2014, Amazon launched Alexa, an at-home voice-activated assistant that could turn on your lights, play your favorite music, and, most importantly for Amazon, help you buy products efficiently.

Apple got to the personal assistant game first with Siri in 2011, but Alexa caught on a few years later and has helped make Amazon central to people's everyday lives and spending decisions. Consumers have come to depend on Amazon so much that to save money, more of them would be willing to give up food delivery and takeout than their Prime memberships.

7 apps from this decade that changed how we earn and spend money

Video by Stephen Parkhurst


Airbnb got its start in 2009, but it wasn't until 2010 that it really hit its stride. Today, the company says, it offers over 7 million listings in 191 countries around the globe. Airbnb has run into issues with local regulations, guest safety, and fraud, but it is still expanding and providing rooms and homes to travelers around the world.


Patreon was founded in 2013 by a musician who was looking to make a living from his YouTube videos. These days, everyone from gamers to beauty bloggers to podcasters uses Patreon to make money doing what they love.

Other, earlier sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe had already enabled large-scale online crowdfunding, but it was Patreon that turned the one-time fundraising model into a subscription service.


Splitting the check at a restaurant after a meal with friends has always been a baffling ordeal. Venmo hasn't solved all the problems associated with group dinners, like Tammy claiming she didn't eat any fries so she shouldn't have to help pay for them, but the app has made the whole process easier. Since the app launched in 2009 and went nationwide in 2010, Venmo has become a verb.

Ride-hailing apps

Uber, which was founded in 2009, and Lyft, which was founded in 2012, are two of the major ride-hailing apps in America today. They both went public in 2019 (Airbnb is expected to join them in 2020). And both companies have had their share of controversies over the years: Recently, Uber was stripped of its operating license in London.

The fact remains, the ability to summon a ride to and from wherever you want using only a phone has forever changed how people get from place to place — and how they spend, in some cases, hundreds of dollars a month.

Streaming services

Netflix faces stiff competition from Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime video, and other streaming services. In spite of all the new options, though, Netflix is holding steady with subscribers thanks to being first in the game and setting the standard others streaming services are often judged against.

Media consumption has changed dramatically this decade: Ten years ago you could only stream Netflix if you subscribed to their DVD delivery service. Streaming didn't become a standalone option on Netflix until 2011, and its original series offerings didn't launch until 2013.

Since then, though, Netflix changed the game, in part by making itself ubiquitous. The ability to download certain shows or movies means you can now watch something no matter where you are. That's a far cry from when "Netflix and chill" meant huddling around a laptop as it overheated your bed.

It's been a decade of technological disruption, and the 2020s are likely to bring even more big changes. Who knows what everyday products we can't live without will be everywhere in 2029!

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