Tech costs too damn much. Mostly because you’re willing to pay for it. Stop doing that.
Each time you plunk down $650-plus for a new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, you’re telling our corporate overlords that’s a fair price for a breakable gadget good to last two, maybe three years.
Ditto for the hundreds of bucks you surrender every month to the cable companies and wireless carriers.
These are dollars that not that long ago would have ended up in our retirement accounts, or at least would have paid for better quality beer. Priorities, people.
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Sure, more than half the country has dumped any landline phone service. Saved a little. But most of us have replaced it, or supplemented it, with far steeper wireless bills.
Add the cost of home broadband and even a small family can now lose north of $200 a month on utility bills that didn’t even figure into most household budgets at the start of this century. That’s the big money. Cut back.
Can you get that tech on the cheap? Probably not, but maybe cheaper.
For starters, don’t be an early adopter.
Let your geekier friends line up for the latest oh-so-slick gadget. If it catches on in a year or two, and costs half as much, then think about if it fits in your life and budget. You’ll make the choice with a clearer head after the gee-whiz buzz has passed. And you’ll get tons more for your money.
If you’re an all-in fanboy of something and you enjoy snazzy electronics just for their snazziness, have at it. But you pay a premium. And you could get stuck with a dud that becomes obsolete. Ask the dude who bit on Google Glass, Microsoft’s Zune, that Amazon Fire Phone, a Windows phone or a Segway. Yeah, Betamax was better. Well done, you.
Next, on the big recurring bills, take a minute to shop around. Probably once a year.
Start with that cell bill. Multiple sites can help you compare. Yeah, Verizon’s coverage tends to be a little better than the rest, but that varies from town to town and neighborhood to neighborhood. But today, in a way that wasn’t true five years ago, the differences barely matter.
Price matters. Your big variable is cellular data usage. If, like me, most of the data coming to your phone comes over Wi-Fi, then don’t buy too much. My plan is a pay-as-you-download system. I pay less than $50 a month to keep two phones humming.
If you feast on data over cellular networks the way I hit a buffet, then you probably want unlimited data. Rule of thumb, buy data as you go if you use less than two gigabytes a month. Three to five gigs a month? Find a plan that allots you six. More than that, look at an unlimited plan. (Learn your use by checking your phone, likely via Settings > Data Usage.)
For internet service, anything that can move at faster than 50 megabits a second is wasted horsepower. That will change, but for now, there are too many bottlenecks across the internet to worry about your home download speed.
Kansas City’s lucky because Google Fiber sells gigabit speeds for $70 a month. AT&T Consolidated Communications followed suit, and Comcast and Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable, have boosted speeds far more than they’ve raised broadband fees. And we have more choices than most markets.
The place you can trim your bundle is TV service. Cutting the cord and getting your video from Hulu, Netflix and the like is a bit more of a hassle, and getting live sports can be tricky. But if you have trouble making ends meet, it’s a place to look.
This leads us to the greatest little secret hiding in plain sight, something that your tax dollars already pay for: the library.
Use it. For tech. It’s good for filling your Kindle or such with e-books. You can stream or download music using your library card account. Get audiobooks. Movies. Online access to magazines. Bust past the paywalls on the websites of major newspapers.
You don’t need to leave your couch, or open your wallet.