CNN offered up some good tips on saving money on tech. But of course I want to analyze and comment on it myself. Anything else would be out of character.
Use smart strips. Getting one or two of these has been on my to-do list for years. I do still have a three of the old-school power centers that have switched outlets on them, and I use those to get the same effect, but a smart power strip is certainly more convenient. Whether one saves you $10 a month depends on what you plug into it, of course.
Buy less computer. I’ve said for years that a good way to save money is to buy at or near the low end and replace more frequently, if you even need to. You could even say I wrote the original book on that, and that bit of advice is more true today than it was 14 years ago when I wrote it.
Sell unused gadgets. Parting with stuff for 10% of what I paid for it is hard, but it does indeed make more sense to sell stuff while it has value rather than let it sit unused and depreciating in a drawer. When I had unused memory after my last upgrade, I listed it on Craigslist for half what it would cost new, and sold it in a matter of hours.
Cut cable TV and buy (don’t rent) a cable modem. The only thing you can watch on cable that you can’t watch more cheaply is live sports. But there are exceptions even then. And paying monthly rental fees on something you can buy for around $50-$100 is ridiculous. Also look into the cost of DSL vs. cable Internet–AT&T U-Verse costs me less than cable Internet, and with U-Verse you buy the equipment up front rather than renting.
Use freeware as often as you can. Be careful with this, because a fair amount of free software still comes with ride-alongs, but you can save a lot of money this way. Microsoft Office, for example, costs as much as the computer you’ll run it on and frankly, Libre Office is better these days. The old complaint against Libre Office was that it would mess up the formatting of old documents, but guess what? Microsoft Office 2010 does too. So why not save $500?
Antivirus is another place you can save significant money. Get Microsoft Security Essentials and Avast antivirus (trust me–read the link), then you can get good-enough protection without spending anything up front and without the annual $40 subscription fees, and no lapsing coverage either.
Avoid extended warranties. Absolutely. If it makes you feel better, take the money you would spend on the warranty and deposit it in a bank account. When something breaks, raid that fund to repair or replace the item. You’ll come out ahead. Burn-in your computers, and you’ll rarely have them fail during the warranty period. The last time I had a computer fail within four years was 1994.
Buy refurbs. I buy refurbs from time to time. My main 20″ LCD monitor and my Nook Color are both refurbs. I have a 1 GHz Athlon system in my basement that’s barely useful for anything these days, but I can’t bear to get rid of it because it’s 11 years old and still works. I bought the Asus motherboard in it from a liquidator. I got 11 years of use out of a refurb. I also have a 15″ Sony LCD monitor that I bought used back in 2006 or so. One sticker on the back says it was made in 2001, and the other sticker proclaims it was refurbished. So there’s a 12-year-old refurb that’s still going strong. I use that monitor a couple of times a week.
Given the opportunity, I’ll buy used gear from time to time too.
Buy online. I do this more often than not, and there’s a trick to get free shipping more often. If you can afford to be patient, you can save a lot of money.
Buy smart rechargeables. I’ve been buying NiMH batteries for a decade, and generally get right around two years of use out of them. The Sanyo Eneloops claim to still deliver 75% capacity after three years, which would be worth it. The Amazon reviews are overwhelmingly positive, so that’s a good sign.
If you can live with having some components sitting for a month or two–patience, my friend!–being flexible with what you buy when can help you stretch that budget.