I recently read an article from CNN about how to save money on technology in the new year.
It was a decent list that offered 10 basic tips — things like using electrical smart strips, smaller data plans, buying online and avoiding extended warranties.
The list was written by Blake Snow, an editorial writer for some of the biggest names in technology. Mr. Snow knows a lot more about technology than I do, but his article caused me to think of my own rules regarding technology.
Our culture is littered with “gadgets” that are constantly being bought and replaced. You can’t go to a restaurant or even walk down most sidewalks and see a man or a woman tuned into something electronic … or several somethings.
Admittedly, I own a few of these things myself and I appreciate what they can do. But I’ve always been a critic — at times even a cynic — about the cost of having these things.
Here are my own rules to saving on tech-gadgets in 2013. They may be unusual, but they also work.
First, buy as few and as basic “gadgets” as possible
I’m not going to make a lot of friends by saying this, but most of the gadgets people own are things they could live without if they really wanted.
Consider the digital camera. It’s a revolutionary way of taking pictures that almost anyone can comprehend and it saves having to pay for film to be developed.
It’s cool and it’s fun. I own one — eight years old — and I love it. But pretty soon, you need a new digital camera and a bigger one with a bigger lens and more memory on the card and a higher clarity of image.
And pretty soon, you need a new printer and a new type of ink and a new type of paper to print your digital pictures. And before long, you’ll need a digital camera that shoots video, as well, and that can record sound and adjust for less-than-perfect conditions. And you’re going to need batteries — the expensive kind that last in digital cameras — and expensive battery chargers, and one for each camera.
It gets costly quickly and cameras are just one example.
Two, shop technology stores sparingly
I break this rule all the time, but even so, I usually walk out of the store empty handed. It’s fun to see what’s available, but I like to control what I let myself see, as well, because if I don’t see it, I’ll be less tempted to buy it.
Three, avoid monthly fees
One of my biggest pet peeves is the cell phone. I own one and I rely on it for work and for social communication, but it’s six years old and it’s one of those phones where you can call people — they can call you — and that’s about it.
I am told constantly about how I can upgrade to a new phone — even get the new one for free.
But the part that isn’t free is the monthly fee for the usage plans (texting, Internet, etc.), and a varying fee structure depending on how much data (texting, Internet).
Prioritize things you need and things that last
Three of these things are food, water and shelter — and I’ve seen people who lacked these but still owned a fully-featured cell phone or a large screen television.
Cell phones and computers are not edible, though so many in our society have been consumed by both.
I’ve met scores of salesmen and women who politely explain to me that for just a few bucks more a month, I can receive my favorite songs and channels and data, all sent directly to me — everything when and how I want it. And I think every time I hear such offers, of how I could be saving the same amount for my healthcare, retirement, a vacation or some new furniture.
Pay attention to the cost
There’s nothing inherently wrong about owning “gadgets.” They can greatly improve your life and lead to greater efficiency. But if you’re one of the millions of Americans struggling to keep up financially, maybe a few of your gadgets need to go. Buy yourself some food and pay your rent. Borrow a friend’s camera and wait for your favorite songs to be played for free — over the radio.