Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thursday Money Tips: Technology Edition

Each Thursday, Ms. Moneypenny posts 5 money-saving tips. Have a tip you would like me to include? Post it in the comments and I'll log it for another edition.

So I'm married to a gadget-head. My husband loves gadgets, the more cutting edge, the better. While I'm not a luddite, I don't like the new new thing. It's expensive, it's often buggy, and, well....let's just say I still use a paper day book to record my appointments.

1. Don't buy cutting edge
I say this knowing what an abyss the urge for the new new thing is. After all, for his 35th birthday last year my husband got the a-ok to go stand in line for an iPhone on that first day. But for the most part, husbands with 35th birthdays not withstanding, my take is that the technology will still be there tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And guess what? It'll get better - and cheaper. Talk to the people who spent $900 on a beta max about this.

2. Become friends with compulsive upgraders
There is always those folks - you know the ones. When MP3 players came out, they dumped their CDs. When DVDs came, they dumped their videotapes. Sure, all of us eventually experiment with the technology (iPods, are, after all, far more awesome than portable CD players, not to mention they don't skip as much) but see point #1. Stick with the cheap, proven technology, and get it for free from your gadget-head friends.

3. Look for the free deal
I love the free phones that are given away with cell phone contracts. Why pay when you can get one for free? My most recent phone cost something - $19.99, but only because I wanted a flip phone, since I was costing us minutes with 'accidental dialing' when the phone was in my purse and my wallet dialed my sister or something. Still, until that big splurge, my phones were always free. Take the free DVR instead of the expensive TiVO. And so on. No, maybe your phone won't walk the dog for you, but I bet it works great for making phone calls.

4. Don't rule out technology that can really improve your life.
For frequent travellers, I think the Kindle is fabulous - we were fortunate enough to get to play with a friend's recently. This is from someone who packs 5 or 6 books on an average trip - I read fast, and I bore easily. My back, however, kills me from the weight. Technology has made medical devices that improve and extend lives. You couldn't pay me enough to go back to the outhouse days, especially during January.

But evaluate it for it's genuine benefit to you. Ask people how they like theirs. Think about how you might use it. Then buy.

5. Evaluate the true cost.
It's a fact that modern LCD TVs draw more electricity. That iPod batteries are going to end up in a landfill somewhere. And so on. So take a look at what you are buying and the cost to the world around you. Having all the iPod models may be fun, but what does that mean to the earth from a pollution perspective? So think about it. If it's still a good spend, okay, do it. But know that our everyday actions have a price tag.

Technology has improved lives. It's also made the world more expensive, both from a wallet and an environmental perspective. So choose wisely and carefully.


Anonymous said...

I found your comment about the electricity usage for an LCD TV interesting, so i googled it a litte. Turns out, LCD is not SO much more than a traditional CRT, and much LESS than a plasma, because of the fluourescent lighting. Sure, i'm trying to justify my LCD, but still. :-) Here's a passage i found:

"The annual energy consumption of a television varies significantly with screen size and television type, and defining what constitutes a 'typical' television is difficult. However, for a 32 in widescreen cathode-ray television, the estimates are that the annual consumption will be 292 kWh, and 310 kWh for a liquid crystal display (LCD) screen of the same size. A 42 in (a typical size for this technology) plasma TV will consume 746 kWh per year."

Thanks, KathyGee

Ms.Moneypenny said...

I think one could make the argument that more is more....
That's not to say that no one should buy an LCD. But we're fooling ourselves if we don't think there's an impact to having the newest technologies.

There's impact in the creation, the use, and the ultimate disposal. And there's cost.

Everyone must weigh their choices...even if 'more' is not 'huge amounts more'.

leann said...

As for the disposal, there are electronics recycling plants popping up all over the place. Not saying it's an excuse to go and buy more because now you can recycle what you have....but at least they're trying!