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Blog: Simplify Your Life
Frugal Living 101 -- Technology Part 2

Last week, I talked about some tips for reducing your technology expenses -- here are a few more suggestions:

  • avoid contracts whenever you can (you've got to both love and hate free market enterprise -- whatever one company is doing is what they all do -- and for a while there, you couldn't get a cell phone account or internet service or cable without committing to a contract and facing a substantial cancellation fee if you changed services before the expiration date -- but now, as providers like Cricket and Virgin Mobile and Metro PCS start offering plans with no contract, hopefully other companies will be forced to get on board)
  • avoid fees with unlimited service (remember when you used to have to pay for long distance cell phone calls, and now you get unlimited calls for free? -- that's the direction technology is headed, with most providers offering some sort of completely unlimited plan, no limits on when you call, who you call, or how long you talk -- if you spend a lot of time on the phone, to the point that you often have to curtail conversations when you're running low on minutes, it might be worth it to switch to an unlimited plan -- and if you tend to go over on your minutes and find yourself charged with excessive overage fees, you're sure to save money regardless, even if your unlimited plan costs a bit more per month -- the same is true with any technology service -- if you use a lot of it, you'll cut down on your expenses by paying to remove all limits, rather than being charged by the minute or GB -- an unlimited plan in one arena can also to save money in another -- for example, it may be cheaper for you to buy unlimited internet and use Skype for your phone calling, which would allow you to reduce your cell minutes -- or conversely, it might be better to get a smartphone with unlimited data usage and tether it to your home computer, possibly allowing you to eliminate your personal internet account -- it's all a matter of how you use your technology, so you have to figure out which approach best meets your needs)
  • look at pay-as-you-go plans (of course, there's always a counter-point -- if you currently have a plan that is more than you need and you never even come close to using all of your minutes or bandwidth or whatever, consider a pay-as-you-go option -- this can be especially useful for technologies that you're keeping around just as a "backup," like that emergency cell phone or long-distance calls on your fax line -- Matt and I did this back when we lived in a house and had DSL -- we needed a land line in order to get internet service, but we were using our cell phones exclusively for calls -- so we got the cheapest phone line available at just $5 a month -- the agreement was that all calls would be charged individually at 35 cents each -- but since we didn't use it for anything but the DSL, there were never any calls -- however, we did have the phone available to us if we needed it for emergencies, like a 911 call or to order pizza when they wouldn't accept a cell number for delivery Wink)
  • bundle only when it makes sense (a lot of companies that used to offer only one technology service are how selling a full range -- you can get phone, internet, cell, fax, cable, and wireless broadband all through the same provider -- and they'll probably offer you a "deal" if you will choose them as your exclusive provider -- however, many times, these supposed bargains include services that you didn't need in the first place and probably won't use even if you have them -- so you have to make sure you're comparing apples to apples when evaluating the savings -- don't just look at what it would cost to purchase all of those services individually -- also look at which ones you would be willing to pay for and would use if they weren't bundled together, and make sure you're not shelling out more for something you don't actually need)
  • let it go if you don't use it (most people are signed up for so many services and technologies, that it's hard to keep track of which ones you actually use and which ones you don't -- do you need call-waiting on your home phone line or access to 600 different ringtones on your cell? -- are you paying for subscriptions to online magazines or gaming sites that you never have time to enjoy? -- is your credit card bill littered with fees for online business services and social networking tools that you've never gotten around to implementing? -- if you don't use it, drop it -- the best way to determine whether a service is important to you is to keep a log -- for example, let's say that you're questioning how much you spend on cable -- for one month, track exactly how much TV you really watch, as well as how much of it you actually enjoy versus the brain-dead vegging-in-front-of-the-tube that people tend to do when they're bored -- if you find that you're paying nearly $100 a month for a premium satellite service that never has anything on you want to watch, perhaps you could cut back to just the channels you care about -- or even cancel that service and spend your cash on renting movies you're actually interested in seeing, instead)
  • put your services on hold (the problem with fee-based services is that, even when you don't need them for a short while, there's the sense that you have to continue paying to keep your subscription active -- but if you're going to be out of town for a month, or just too busy at work for time for television, why continue having Netflix videos delivered to your home or "Two And A Half Men" broadcast to your home? -- contact your provider and find out if you can put your service on hold for a set period of time -- with Netflix-like arrangements, you can usually go for 90 days without paying for or receiving the service, but without losing your queue or plan pricing -- you may be able to talk your internet provider, phone service, or even cable company into the same deal)
  • look for alternatives (sometimes, you think that you need to pay for a more expensive service when there's actually a much cheaper alternative available to you -- for example, when I first started my organizing company, I was told that I should have a business line, separate from my personal phone -- the cost for this was astronomical, compared to what I was earning as a "newbie" organizer -- but when I quizzed the customer service rep at the phone company, she told me I could get a "ring distinction" number for about 1/5 the price -- rather than an entirely separate phone line, I would have two different phone numbers on my one residential line -- the main number would ring once, the one I was using for business twice, so I would always know before answering which type of call it was -- and each was attached to its own voice mail system with a different message -- just what I needed, but I never would have known about it if I hadn't asked for a cheaper alternative)
  • stop duplicating services (is there some reason that you have a land line and a cell phone and Skype, other than out of habit? -- or that you have both a wireless broadband internet card and DSL? -- as technologies change, we often acquire more advanced devices without discarding the old ones -- that leads to a duplication of services, and unnecessary expense -- look around your life and make a list of technologies you're currently paying for -- then compare and see if any of them do essentially what another one does -- pick the one which is most convenient or has the best service or is least expensive, and drop the others)
  • evaluate renting versus buying (when it comes to multimedia, some people will tell you to never buy, only rent because the cost of renting is less than buying -- others will tell you to only buy, never rent because the cost of buying is equivalent to the cost of renting, and you'll have it to enjoy forever -- they're both right -- I find renting to be the better option with an "unknown entity," a film or recording artist that I'm trying out for the first time, and unsure if I'm going to like -- but if it's a movie or CD or video game that I love and know I'll revisit again and again, I go ahead and buy it -- especially if I can find it on sale or for a lot less as a download -- I know that with my favorite television shows like "Arrested Development" and "Mad Men" and "Lost," and especially with Matt's "Fallout" game, which he's now spent over 120 hours playing, we would have spent way more renting than buying!)
  • just say no (one of the biggest money-wasters when it comes to technology spending is the buying of new devices -- we've become gadget-happy in this society, always thinking that some new piece of equipment is going to miraculously make our lives easier and better -- well, guess what? -- it's not! -- most of the electronic doo-dads we buy under this false assumption end up in a closet, garage sale, or box of donations, with the money you spent going straight down the drain -- and most of these buys can be classified as "impulse purchases" -- it looked neat and the description on the package seemed cool, so you picked it up -- but you didn't really need it in the first place, and you would have done yourself a favor if you'd just avoided buying the damned thing altogether -- so whenever faced with a new gadget, spend three days before you buy it imagining exactly how it's going to improve your life -- then after that time, if you still believe it's a worthwhile investment, go for it -- if not, you've just saved yourself a pile of cash!)

read the original post of this blog

posted on: 8/23/2011 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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