|HIGH TECH Low Rent
Author: Richard Singleton
It’s Tuesday about 1:15 p.m. and I find myself staring blurry-eyed at a massive project I thought was completed yesterday, but that through some strange, enervating twist of administrative fate, has to be completely redone – completely redone and finished before the mail runs on Tuesday afternoon.
Chinese food to the rescue.
Yes, I admit it. There’s a little dive not too far from my office that provides MSG-infused comfort, on-demand and for a pittance. Honestly, it’s not the Kung Pao chicken or broccoli and beef that keep me coming back for more – it’s the value. There’s always a steaming vat of complimentary spicy chicken soup at the front of the store and the tea – sweet, of course – is thrown in, too. The food is not five-star, but it’s savory. It’s satisfying. And, it wards off spreadsheets and deadlines like there’s no tomorrow!
So, back to Tuesday. I’m in line, mouth moistening, eyes glinting as they scan across the sea of succulent choices. And, just as I order my cauldron of vegetable soup and start thinking about my complimentary spicy chicken accompaniment, my attention is broken by a question that’s happened a lot lately: “Is that an iPad mini?”
Another admission: I’m tethered to the Internet like a red suit, black boots and a bad fake beard is to a storefront Santa Claus.
“No,” I let the nice lady know, “It’s a Google Nexus 7. It’s cool like the iPad mini, but it’s about half the price.”
“Oh,” she says, dragging out the word just long enough to convey a subtle assertion that I’ve yet to arrive at “cool kid status” and that I may want to sit with my back to the other customers lest they see that my shriveling attempt at savings has left me trading technological glory for electronic austerity. Did I mention the Jethro Bodine breakfast-bowl sized soup was just a few bucks?
I promise, I’m not cheap. I’m thrifty, frugal, downright parsimonious!
So, I snaked off to my seat, somewhat downcast at my failed attempt to show off my Google gadget. I’ve been thinking about it since then…obviously. No, I’m not brooding. I’ll still go back for the Schezwan shrimp. I’ll still take my tablet. I’ll still get the complimentary tea and soup. And, I might even do it more often since I’ve learned how to save a few bucks here and there on gizmos and gadgets.
It’s the holidays and, like many others, you’re likely looking for ways to stretch your dollars. Gas is expensive. The grocery bill is expanding and any attempt to cut a few pennies here or there can add up. Here’s a few thoughts, and like my enormous comfort food menu, I’ll put them in numbered format for easy perusal!
Look for economical alternatives to the more expensive brands of technology. I’m not suggesting that you never buy an Apple product.
They’re great; great company, great products. But, if you’re trying to stretch your bucks, maybe you save up for the iPad while you enter the market with a Nexus, Nook or Kindle Fire. You may lose your hipster status, but maybe you were more concerned about how to pay for all the holly and jolly anyways.
Craigslist isn’t just for furniture. My wife and I have bought our fair share of really nice furnishings through Craigslist, but I know many stories of friends and colleagues who’ve found great technology for pennies on the dollar. You have to be wise, of course, but it’s worth investigating. Do thorough research and save tons of dough.
Wi-Fi is your friend. You may be able to save precious dollars by finding ways to use free Wi-Fi hotspots out and about and certainly in your home, cutting your data bill on your phone or tablet. In some instances, you may elimanate the need for everyone to have a full-blown, bank-breaking data plans.
If you’re still paying a fortune for a landline, you really ought to explore dousing that flame with a huge bucket of broadband bundling services or with an economical voice-over IP phone plan through a company like Vonage. You may even explore cutting ties with a home line altogether. You could save hundreds, if not thousands, per year by going with a mobile-phone-only approach. It’s not for everyone, but it might be for you.
Consider a subscription to Amazon Prime or Netflix for your media consumption fix. My family loves having family movie night. We huddle on the sofas; we fire-up the flat screen and we stream the latest family flick over the Internet; gone are the days of DVDs in our family. For just a few bucks a month, we have access to volumes of movies. I prefer Netflix; my wife prefers Amazon Prime. There are limitations, and there’s still the occasion to go watch something on the silver screen, but we’ve saved enough through the added feature of free shipping on Amazon to pay for the subscription to both services many times over and to have the convenience of having access to our movies anywhere we go – on laptops, SmartTVs, tablets, phones, etc. -If you don’t have a SmartTV, there are cheap adapters that you can buy, like Roku, Google or AppleTV that can help you achieve an economical approach to media consumption. You might even find that you could pare down your cable subscription and save even more!
Maybe sometime in early 2013, when I’m trying to escape the spreadsheet jungle and trying to douse my stress in a bowl of chicken soup, I’ll be able to say, “Why yes, this is an iPad. I finally saved enough and splurged. So, ma’am where’s the cool kids’ table?”
“Uh, sir, it’s over there, but I think they’re all using the Galaxy Note II!”
“Okay, scrap the soup! I want orange chicken, two egg rolls and a cup of wonton. I’ll be in the back…the guy facing away from the other customers.”
All joking aside, money is tight for a lot of folks and I hope these suggestions will help you make wise technology decisions for the holidays.
And maybe, just maybe, those decisions will help you and your family escape a little financial stress as you look forward to a new year full of new hopes, new opportunities and new horizons!
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the Executive Director at STARRY in Round Rock.