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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Technology Part I

Talking about technology and frugality often brings up a bit of a catch-22. Technological advances can make certain items less expensive (like downloading movies instead of going to a theater) -- however, it's also very easy to spend more on your gizmos and gadgets than is really necessary, if you're not careful.

A Vicious Cycle

Technology can either be your budget's best friend or its worst enemy -- it all depends on how you use it. For example, the fact that I can do my banking online (even going so far as to deposit checks by scanning them into my computer) is both a time-saver and a money-saver for me -- no more postage for mailing in bills, no more gas wasted on trips to the bank, and no fees for any of it. "Virtual financial management" is definitely the more frugal option for me.

But technology can burn a hole through your pocket when you're paying for services you don't need, spending money on unnecessary gadgetry, or racking up overage charges. Technology is only truly useful when you treat it as a resource -- using that resource wisely, making conscious decisions about which advances will serve you best and which you could live without. It's time to regain control over your electronic life -- here are a few suggestions for doing that:

  • get off the treadmill (it's easy to get caught up in the idea that you MUST have the newest, latest, sexiest, most advanced technology in order to keep up with the rest of society -- but that's bollux, a lot of Silicon Valley marketing nonsense designed to keep you spending money -- until the technology actually changes, like the switch from VHS to DVD, you're generally fine sticking with what you have -- don't buy into the hype and put yourself into debt for a new computer, flat-screen TV, game system or MP3 player, when you don't actually need it)
  • technology is about saving time (on the other hand, you don't want to be hampered by old, outdated, slow technology -- if you spend most of your work day waiting while your 10-year-old computer processes, that's wasted time -- if your land line internet has to think about it for 15 minutes before loading a web page, that's wasted time -- if you can't run the software you need to do your job because your system is too old, that's wasted time -- there's a fine line between being frugal and shooting yourself in the technological foot -- if upgrading will help you be more efficient, it's worth the money -- you'll get more done in less time, which is always a wise investment in and of itself)
  • be smart about software upgrades (another arena in which manufacturers try to bully you into spending more money every year is software upgrades -- while certain new features will make your use of that program easier and more effective, I've found that most upgrades are just the same old utility with a new graphic look -- honestly, version 2.01 is never that much different from version 2.0, it's only when you get to about version 4.0 that you see substantial changes in functionality -- so try to avoid that knee-jerk "I have to upgrade" response every time a new version is released -- take a breath, evaluate the improvements, and determine if that's really going to be the best use of your money, or if you can wait a bit longer to move forward)
  • avoid being unsupported (on the flip side, you don't want to keep limping along with outdated software until such time as it's no longer covered by technical support -- there's always the chance that any program you're using is going to glitch, and you need to be able to holler out for help when something goes wrong -- but after a certain number of years, manufacturers stop providing technical support of any kind for older versions of that software -- it's important to at least stay upgraded enough that you fall within the window of what's supportable -- the good news is that, instead of having to buy the absolute newest version, you can often find a slightly older version that has all the functionality and is still supported and for a lot less money -- of course, the manufacturers don't want you to do this because they can make more by pushing the most expensive option, so you won't find older versions at the store or on the publisher's website -- but you can get them through online merchants like Amazon -- as with buying a car, you avoid software "depreciation" by shopping for a 1- or 2-year-old model -- again, a fine line between saving money and ending up with data that you can no longer retrieve from your system)
  • don't pay for anti-virus protection (I hesitate to use the word "scam" here, but I will say that one of the biggest rackets in the tech industry today comes in the form of anti-virus software -- folks like Norton, McAfee, and Trend Micro have folks convinced that if they don't pay for an annual subscription to an anti-virus program, their computers will be decimated by hackers -- not true -- you do absolutely need anti-virus, malware, and firewall software, but there's no reason to pay for it when there are so many highly-rated free options available to you -- Microsoft Security Essentials is a great free anti-virus suite that is updated regularly just like the programs you pay for -- if you think that anything with MS in front of it is evil, you can always go with Avast or AVG, which are also windows-based -- and even though you Mac people are less prone to viruses because of the way the operating platform is set up, you're still susceptible to malware -- two free ways to scan for those little buggers are iAntivirus and ClamXav)
  • go open source (this brings me to another point of contention amongst programmers -- the question of why you should pay for software just because it has some big company's logo on it, when you can get essentially the same program for free -- I'm not talking about stealing or pirating software, I'm referring to open source programs -- open source is software that is developed by an entire community of users and programmers -- the code is made available to anyone who wants it, for free -- you can then copy, modify, or distribute the software without having to pay any fees or licensing royalties -- the goal is to make computing technology more flexible, more affordable, and more democratic -- and nearly every program that you currently pay for is available in some form of open source -- I personally ditched Microsoft's office suite years ago and have been using Open Office ever since -- the spreadsheet program functions just like Excel and the writer program functions just like Word -- you can open documents sent to you from MS programs, and even save your documents in .doc and .xls format -- and there are free substitutes for plenty of other programs as well, like Gimp in place of Photoshop, Inkscape instead of Illustrator, Thunderbird instead of Outlook -- don't have the time to hunt up all these individual programs online and install them on your computer? -- you don't have to -- Ninite lets you run through a checklist of available free programs, choose the ones you want, and install all of them at one time)
  • be willing to switch (whether you love your technology service providers or not, it's a smart idea to shop around for better rates each year --  cell phone companies, internet providers, cable and satellite services are always offering special promotions just for new customers -- call around and find if you can get the services you already use for less, and without any cancellation fees, connection fees, or having to buy new equipment -- at the very least, gather information about what else is available and then present your data to your existing provider -- see if they will match these offers in order to retain you as a customer, and you could still save money)

read the original post of this blog

posted on: 8/16/2011 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Simplify Your Life

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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