There's almost no choice. If you want to fully participate in the 21st century, you're going to need a smartphone, computer, smartTV, tablet and other gadgets. You're going to need access to the internet. Plain and simple.
But, this rise in technology has brought about another trend that, if you're not careful, can cost you big. Manufacturers are constantly pushing "the next big thing," and "essentials you need," as they try to add to their bottom line.
We've done the research, and there are quite a few ways you can waste money on technology without even realizing it. Here are the top five.
1. Computer tune-up software
You've heard it a thousand times before, that ad trying to sell you software that tunes up your computer. But guess what? You don't need it.
We're not saying that you don't need to run regular cleanups for your PC, we're just saying that you don't have to pay for them. What these advertisers are hoping you don't realize is that there are free programs available.
Wise Care 365 is one of my favorites. It's a super speedy download, it's free and makes cleaning your computer easy.
Once you download Wise Care 365, you'll see a big box with easy-to-read tabs that'll show you everything you can do with it. That starts with PC Checkup.
Within a minute (it's that fast), it will scan through thousands of files on your PC and clean up dozens or hundreds of them. Your computer will be given a grade on a scale up to 10, to tell you how sick or healthy your computer is.
A program called IObit Uninstaller will also help you free up space. This free download uninstalls unwanted programs and plug-ins you never meant to install.
As your computer gets older, the Advanced SystemCare feature can optimize its performance by up to 300 percent. It does this by deleting junk files, clearing out private information and disabling unneeded startup items.
2. Renting a router or modem from your ISP
Many internet service providers push you to rent your router or modem from them, but doing this is a waste of your hard-earned money. In fact, there's only one perk we can see. Renting from your ISP can streamline the process of getting connected. But is that really worth paying an extra $8-$10 monthly?
Your ISP isn't offering these rentals strictly for your convenience, either. Analysts indicate that router and modem rentals can generate revenues of around $300 million for your ISP quarterly. And, what happens if you decide to switch to a new company? Basically, you start all over.
Like many things you rent in life, each time you cut the check, you're throwing away money.
There are also other perks to buying your own router. You get to choose the specific features you want, whether you're looking for faster speeds or higher security. We've rounded up three of the best routers you can buy in this article, but there are also more affordable options. The Asus RT-ACRH13 is a dual-band 2x2 AC 1300 router that's under $70.
When you buy your modem and router out right, you can save an average of $120 per year. Plus, you can take your equipment with you when changing providers. Before buying this equipment, ask yourself these questions:
- Would I be comfortable installing it myself?
- Am I going to use this same ISP for more than one year?
- Does my ISP allow customers to use their own equipment? (Some actually don't.)
Psst! Don't forget about the modem. Click here for Kim's tips on upgrading your cable modem for faster speeds.
3. Cables that cost more than $15
With all of the gadgets we own, most of us have a drawer in our home that's drowning with cables and cords. They keep our devices charged up and connected, but whenever you buy them, be sure to compare price tags.
If you're paying more than $15 for cables, you're paying too much. In this case, the extra dollars won't buy you extra performance.
HDMI cables are some of the worst culprits. You'll find some priced beneath $10, while others cost nearly $100. What's the difference? Well, not much. Or anything, really.
Truthfully, it's a marketing gimmick. Manufacturers make great efforts to tell you all the "advantages" of their product, but bottom line: A cable is a cable.
However, there is one exception. When it comes to third-party cables (or cables made by companies other than the manufacturer of your device), you can run into some problems. Those cheap iPhone chargers, for example, can cause damage to your phone, or even be fire hazards. Click here to learn about the risks of third-party iPhone accessories.
4. Car GPS and traffic subscriptions
When you buy a new car, built-in GPS services like Garmin are often sold as an extra perk. They're meant to make it easier to navigate around, but you already have access to free GPS services right on your smartphone.
Google Maps is one of the most popular navigation apps available. It's included with most smartphone models and even lets you save maps and access them offline. And, if your car has Bluetooth connectivity, you can even play these turn-by-turn directions through your car's speakers.
For iPhone users, Apple created its own app called Maps, but it's not one of our favorites. The company has been working to make it more accurate, if you're looking for an alternative to Google Maps, Here Maps and Waze are better options. Waze will even learn your favorite route and give you traffic reports each morning.
5. Cutting edge technology and Kickstarter project pre-orders
Have you ever donated to a GoFundMe, Kickstarter or another online fundraising campaign? The crowdfunding sites allow people to donate funds to help a cause or help an inventor get a project off the ground.
The problem with crowdfunding is once you’ve contributed because of yet another hard luck story, or a new idea that could change the world, you’ll never know how your money is spent.
Focusing on Kickstarter, often the people who donate are the first ones who get to use or view the project. However, some of the projects don't actually make it, or turn out to be scams altogether.
It's disappointing. Once you've funded a great project that is supposed to change the world, you have no idea how those behind the campaign are spending your money.
There are no laws to require audits. No rules to keep them from simply blowing your contribution on themselves.
It's better to carefully select legitimate, well-run, charitable organizations and scholarship programs. Even tech entrepreneurs, like Apple's Steve Wozniak, have had enough with crowdfunding sites - click here to see why.