We’re all big fans of saving a few dollars here and there whenever we can. But guess what? We’re also big fans of technology.
We know, treading that fine line between getting the latest and greatest gadgets versus spending sensibly can be challenging and most of the time, it is a practice of restraint and impulse control.
Thankfully, you can start saving money now by spending your money on tech smartly.
By avoiding a few pitfalls and looking at areas where you might actually be wasting your resources, you can still retain your “tech fan” title without sacrificing much.
Here are eight dumb ways you can be wasting your money on technology right now:
1. Not using money-saving coupons on Amazon.com, Walmart and other online stores
Who wants to pay less than they have to at the store? Everyone, of course!
That’s why retailers used to get our attention by putting coupons in the Sunday paper and then dedicated coupon circulars.
Well, coupons save you money, that’s why. If you find and utilize coupon codes regularly, it can all add up to sizable savings in the long run.
With the internet, money-saving coupons are online and much more convenient. You just need to know where to find them.
When you’re in the shopping cart on a website, you usually see the words “promo code.” A promo code, short for promotional code, is a digital coupon. You “clip” it by copying a random string of characters from an email or website and pasting it into an online storefront during checkout.
Promo codes unlock all sorts of special deals, such as instant savings on one item, a percentage off of your entire purchase or even free shipping. Many of these deals are exclusive to online shopping and save you big bucks.
Where to get coupons
So where can you find promo codes? You can sign up to get emails from retailers and they’ll send them to you. You can also visit one of the websites that collects promo codes so you can find big savings for your favorite online stores in one spot.
CouponCodes.com even has dedicated sections for each store like Walmart, Amazon, Target, Sears, Macy’s, etc. for easy browsing.
Additionally, in case you didn’t know, Amazon lets you use coupons on qualified items as well. The online shopping giant has a section dedicated to coupons for this purpose. Here, you can find discounts in many categories including grocery and gourmet, electronics, office and school supplies, and several more.
Better yet, Amazon offers coupons that are available to everyone as well as an entire section only available to Prime Members.
Applying an Amazon coupon to your purchase is easy. Just “clip” the coupon of the item you want to purchase and the discount will be automatically applied when you checkout.
2. Buying music when you can rent it or get it free
With the rise of music streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, Google Music, Rhapsody, YouTube, Pandora, Tidal and Amazon Music, the days of purchasing digital music are winding down.
With so many options to stream music nowadays, an entire universe of music is readily available to stream for free or at a relatively low cost.
Diehard collectors of vinyl records, CDs or high-resolution music tracks may argue otherwise, but for the casual listener, streaming music for free or for cheap is definitely the way to go.
Music subscription services have huge libraries made up of millions and millions of songs. They’re basically an eat-all-you-can smorgasbord of virtually everything you would want to listen to, as opposed to the a la carte way of buying a single album or track from iTunes, Google Music or Amazon.
Spotify and Pandora even have free tiers so if you’re not really particular about the quality of your streams or song selections, you can pipe in music all day without paying a dime.
It gets better if you’re already an Amazon Prime member. Did you know that many people enjoy their first year of Prime membership without ever knowing they can download music for free?
That’s right: download. Yes, you can also stream songs the same way you stream music on Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora, but you can also choose from more than a million MP3s to keep forever on your phone or computer.
3. Falling for in-game purchases
Video gaming has changed these past few years. With always-connected gaming platforms like consoles, handhelds, tablets and smartphones, features such as multiplayer, downloadable content (DLC), preorder perks, in-game purchases and update patches are now the norm.
Game companies quickly recognized that they can build a lucrative industry around these features so they started integrating nickel-and-dime schemes within their games.
In fact, popular free-to-play games like Game of War were designed for this purpose – hook players into paying to quickly level up and be more competitive.
Sadly, this business model is creeping up on paid games including the ones on consoles and PCs. Some game levels were designed to be difficult on purpose unless you pay up for a quick upgrade or for in-game items that allow you to beat said difficult level.
If you start noticing tactics like these on a game you’re playing, don’t fall for them. Don’t reward shady game developers by giving them your money for shortcuts they designed themselves.
Anyway, with games that are fair, if a level or a puzzle is too difficult, you can always search online for a guide or a FAQ. Also, if it requires skill, then practice until you become good enough. For most gamers, that’s where the fun really lies.
4. Buying crazy new gadgets
The tech world moves so fast that the next big thing is always waiting in the corner. But for every hit, there are hundreds of duds that are destined to fail one way or another. These crazy gadgets can be too off-the-wall, too niche or even pointless or stupid.
Think specialized equipment and appliances with tacked-in “smart” features like panini makers, smart cookie ovens, USB bread heaters, fitness tracking chairs or a toothbrush with a built-in camera.
Admittedly, some of these are cool and novel ideas but do you really need a Coke selfie bottle right now?
Even worse, some of these “proof-of-concept” projects start their lives on crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and many end up as vaporware. In other words, you lose your pledge money and you don’t get the finished product at all.
5. Not getting rebates when it’s so easy to do now
Here’s another rarely used way to get cash back from your purchases. If you’re patient and diligent enough to search and wait, you can try your luck with rebates.
And it’s easier than ever. Manufacturers, wireless service providers, merchants, and others on Amazon.com use mail-in rebates to offer the best possible price on new items.
Perhaps you remember when we’d send a slip of glossy paper bundled with receipts to some random address and waited for weeks to get a rebate. Those days are long gone. Nowadays, Amazon makes this process much faster and more predictable.
What are rebates?
What’s the difference between a coupon and a rebate? While a coupon offers instant savings during checkout, a rebate can only be redeemed after the purchase of an item, usually at full price.
Amazon actually has a special section for checking if an item you have purchased on the site qualifies for a rebate. You’ll need to have your order number and the email address on your Amazon account handy.
You should also have the packing slip that was delivered with the item you purchased. You will use these documents to complete an online rebate form.
Unfortunately, rebates can take from 12 to 15 weeks to process but they are another good way to get cash back.
6. Going over your data usage and paying up the nose for more
The advent of the smartphone has changed the way we go about our daily lives.
Along with the normal communication functions that you expect, smartphones are able to perform many other tasks.
I use mine to stream movies and music, make financial transactions with my bank and even plug it into my car and use it as a GPS.
The downside to all this activity is the excessive use of data. Any time that you go over the amount of data that comes with your monthly plan, you will be hit with an overage charge and this can get pricey.
To prevent expensive data overage charges, you will need a solid idea of how much data you really need. It’s a good idea to find out how much you’re already using during a typical month. That way you can compare the amount you use to the amount that comes with your data plan.
The best way to track your data usage is through your mobile provider’s app. These apps allow you to do several helpful things like keep track of data usage, contact support, and check out the details of and pay your bill.
You can also use a data calculator to estimate how much monthly data you consume then get a mobile data plan that can cover that amount then stick with that limit.
To avoid overages, mind your data usage when you are on the go and reserve high bandwidth activities like video streaming and video calls for whenever you have a Wi-Fi connection. Video streaming services like Netflix, Vudu and Amazon now offer downloads for offline viewing and make sure you take advantage of that if you’re planning on watching on the go.
7. Getting a new phone whenever a new model comes out
Now that most mobile carriers have stopped offering a free upgrade when you sign a two-year contract, is it a smart move to upgrade whenever a newer model comes out?
The short answer is not necessarily. Smartphones have gone a long way and nowadays, even a 2 or 3-year-old gadget is still perfectly usable for most tasks.
Just keep its operating system and apps updated, protect it with a case and a screen protector, clean out its storage regularly, and you’ll be surprised how well your old phone holds up.
To save money, the frugal way is to avoid getting caught in the yearly upgrade cycle trap. Think about it and wait for the upgrades and features that you really can’t live without.
Phone makers introduce new technologies by increments anyway and you won’t be missing much by skipping a year or two.
8. Paying for overnight shipping when you don’t need it
Do you really need those pair of shoes you ordered online first thing in the morning?
There’s a big premium to pay when you opt for expedited next-day deliveries instead of standard or even two-day shipping. On the average, you will have to shell out four times more for overnight shipping versus other shipping methods.
Unless it is a mission critical item, for example, a replacement hard drive for a failed business computer, then that overnight shipping premium is not worth it. It might be cheaper to just drive to a brick-and-mortar store and get the item if it’s in stock.
In most cases, if you want an online item earlier than usual, two-day shipping makes more economical sense. Just patiently endure a few more hours of waiting and your package should be at your doorstep in no time.
Now, if you shop at Amazon regularly, think hard about getting a Prime membership. Not only will you get free two-day deliveries, you will also get free or discounted same-day deliveries on select orders.
Bonus: Leasing your modem and router from your ISP
We talk a lot about saving on your cable bill because it’s one of the bigger ones you probably have. However, even when you’ve cut it down as low as you can go, there’s a charge on your bill that you might not have noticed: modem rental.
Yep, your cable company is charging you $3 to $4 every month for that years-old modem collecting dust on your desk. On the plus side, if something goes wrong with that modem, the cable company will replace it.
On the other hand, you can buy a new cable modem with the latest technology for $85 to $100 that will give you more than four years of service. Leasing a modem from the cable company for four years at $4 per month will cost you $192. I guarantee you that your cable company pays nowhere near that much for the modems it provides, so much of that fee is pure profit.