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Home » Budgeting, Debt Management

How has Technology Impacted your Finances Over the Last Decade?

Last updated by on 14 Comments

New Technology Does Not Come Cheap

Being an early mover on the latest technological gadgets can be exciting, get you attention (both good and bad), and possibly lead to increased efficiencies. However, these benefits typically come at a great expense.

Often times over the last decade or so I have felt a little left out when it comes to having the hottest new technologies and services. Before I get your views on ‘must-haves’ and ‘do withouts’, here’s a list of the things I passed on that many other twenty-somethings have embellished on and how much it has saved me.

I Passed on these Technologies & Services

technology cost

  • pager – never had one. Do they still exist? They use to run about $50 with $10 a month recurring fees from what I remember.
  • cell phone – OK, I didn’t pass completely, but didn’t have my first until 2004. Six years of not having one saved me about $3,500.
  • text message plan – I send about 3 a month @ 10 cents each. Most plans I’ve seen cost about $5/mo.
  • iPod – call me old school, but I still don’t have an mp3 player. These guys use to cost $400 out of the box.
  • cell phone data plan – nowadays they run $40/mo.
  • Tivo – DVR costs $150 plus $13/mo.
  • XM radio – $50 for the hardware, $13/mo. for the service.
  • Netflix – Plans vary, but $9/mo. seems to be the standard. This is the lesser of two evils, and if I wanted to go really hardcore, I could rely on the library.
  • XBox, Wii, Nintendo, Playstations – the last gaming system I had was the Super Nintendo (and it still rocks). Not spending a dime on all the latest systems and games has saved me untold thousands. I’ll make a conservative estimate of $2,500.

I estimate that passing on these things has saved me up front costs of $1,500 plus monthly service costs of approximately $8,500 for a total of $10,000.

But… I Couldn’t Resist These Technologies & Services

Despite all of my restraint, I haven’t been able to pass on the following, and it’s cost me quite a bit:

  • cell phone – I’ve had for 5 years. I use a Net10 prepaid phone plan that only costs me $15 per month.
  • cable TV – I’ve paid for it for the last 5 years for a total cost of $3,000.
  • HD service – $10/mo. for the last year. $120 total.
  • HD TV – I dropped $1,000 on a 42″ 1080p. I bought from Costco at a price that was about half off anything comparable at the time.
  • high speed internet – I didn’t make the upgrade to cable until this year, previously DSL. Over 5 years, it’s cost me about $1,200.

Total cost for all of this technology and service: $7,420.

The Lessons in All of this:

  1. Even the very frugal can get caught up in technology and service fees (for me, the service fees have really cut into my savings).
  2. Cutting back on some non-necessities can really save you a ton. Not having the latest greatest thing will probably have no adverse effect on your life. Rather, eliminating that dependency might actually make you happier.
  3. The latest, greatest, quickly become obsolete. Pagers, old gaming systems, flat screen TV’s, cell phones, computers are not built to stand the test of time. While they are here, they can wreck your finances.

Technology Discussion:

  • What technologies and services have you been able to sacrifice over the years?
  • What technologies and services have you not been able to live without?
  • What role does technology take on in your life?

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About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


14 Comments »
  • Kevin says:

    I try not to skimp on service-based fees that enhance my life or my productivity. I look at Netflix as a great example, at $18/mo., it’s not cheap, but I watch enough movies to make this an extremely valuable experience. Plus, I make a point never to buy a DVD, since I can wait 2 days before needing to watch any given movie, I virtually own every movie ever made through this subscription.

    A data plan on a cell phone can be looked at similarly. If my landlord didn’t pay for my internet access, I would simply use an internet-enabled phone with data plan in place. At $70/mo., it’s the cheapest method to get phone and internet. In fact, the Wall Street Journal recently profiled how this type of usage has been a boon for iPhone sales among low-income users.

    That said, I wasn’t out there buying an HD-tv when they were 10k each. I also bought mine at about 1k from Amazon.com. There’s a point at which technology becomes less outrageously expensive suitable only for those w/ boom time wall st. bonuses, and that’s when 20-somethings can make these purchases. After all, I think the biggest place I can save along w/ my peers is in the “Bars & Restaurants” category…

  • Michael says:

    Resisted:
    1) Went without cable TV for years (still don’t have it). With YouTube.com & Hulu.com I’ve zero inclination to get it.

    2) New books. I get all my books used on Amazon or just read it in-store somewhere if it’s not available used for a big discount.

    3) Large apartment. I’ve had 3 efficiencies in a row with the exception of one 1-bedroom apartment that I got at a sweet deal by spending 45 mins making my landlord a website and marketing their other apts on Craigslist. (Current place is down town Ann Arbor 2 blocks from where I work; $400/mo) I think the typical around here is closer to $650-800/mo.

    4) Phone with data plan. Went years w/o one & now have a work-supplied one free… However, if my company were to ever take the phone away I’d have to pick up something with a data plan.

    Caved on:
    1) I did buy a Wii recently, but got my 36″ TV free from Freecycle.

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @ Michael – 36″ TV at Freecycle? Does it work? That’s a good find.

    @ Kevin – good call on Netflix (I added to post). It’s the lesser of two evils. If you want to be a true die-hard you can get Ferris Bueller at the library.

  • Craig says:

    I am big into technology and the latest gadgets myself and have definitely spent my share of money on most of these items and plans. Could I save a ton of money, of course! Did I need to spend money on a big screen TV or could I have had a standard. Do I need the PS3 when? I could get by happy with a lot of these things, but I also enjoy the experiences I have. I full well know that some of these items only last really 2-3 years. I purchase these items knowing how I will enjoy using them in the time period, and possibly saving up in the meantime when these become obsolete.

    Cell Phone is mandatory now. Netflix is the greatest thing ever. I am a big TV/movies guy so TV is big for me. I love music and listen to my ipod just about every single day.

    I’m sure as I get older I will put things more into perspective about my purchases and savings, but for the time being I enjoy the technologies I use as do most 20 somethings.

  • Craig says:

    Also, if you are looking for electronics. I bought my 52″ TV off of there and probably saved $600. I had no taxes and got lucky that my TV had no shipping. There are other products like that as well.

  • Studenomist says:

    Sorry to say but I feel left out because I do not know anything about netflix, anyone willing to explain?

    Caved on:
    1. cell phone (hows a young guy to network with people?)
    2. ipod (got to kill time)
    3. laptop (read pf blogs)

    Resisted on:
    1. iphone (oh man what can I say, been soooo close but something always stops me. I keep on telling myself that I will drop it and break it so I do not buy one.)
    2. television in general (I rarely watch tv so I do not have any advanced subscription or crazy lcd tv hanging from the ceiling)

  • Craig says:

    @Studenomist

    No problem. Netflix is a DVD mail service. They have several different pricing plans, the most popular is $9.99 a month to receive one DVD at a time and you can exchange it for an unlimited amount. Basically you go online and select what movie you want to rent. They will send you the movie of your choice through the mail for free. You then can hold onto the movie for however long you want. They supply the package and stamp for you to send the DVD back whenever you are finished. Then they automatically send you the next movie you have already set up in your online account. If you get 2 DVD’s a month, it pays for itself. I absolutely recommend it (for saving money). They have a huge selection of movies both in DVD format and in Blu-ray. The only negative for me at least is that it takes away from the experience of actually going to the store and picking a movie at random. That probably isn’t an issue for most people.
    Craig

  • Wizard Prang says:

    My 80GB Gen5.5 iPod (I did not want a Gen6) was purchased refurbished for $200 from Apple; indistinguishable from new, and worth every penny.

    My Tivo was $150 with a $150 rebate. I paid $9 tax and $13/month, which is good enough for me.

    I pay $82/month for cable, Internet and Phone service. I have no gaming consoles and do not rent DVDs (no time to watch them!)

    Too many people are spending their retirement on cell phone plans and cable bundles and other “Entertainment”. Now _that’s_ scary.

  • Mega Champ says:

    Currently avoiding the 54inch Plasama is saving me lots of bucks, but i dont know how long i am gonna resist the temptation of buying it.

  • brian says:

    I was actually able to ditch the satellite service with a PS3, Playon (www.themediamall.com/playon), Hulu and Netflix. Playon takes streaming content from Hulu and my Netflix account and streams it to my PS3. All I pay is $30 for the playon software (one time) and the cost of the Netflix ($10 per month with blu ray). Plus I can watch blu ray on my ps3 with my hd tv. Only thing I am missing is football!

  • G.E. Miller says:

    @Brian – live sports (mainly college bball and football) is the one thing that is keeping me a cable subscriber. Anyone know of alternatives? (I don’t like to miss a game)

  • Best Flat Screen TV says:

    I think you are right. Sometimes you can pass certain technologies by as they won’t necessarily come back to haunt being the non essential nature of the technology.

    It is a brave man who does this and I agree with some (if not all) of your choices. Just don’t tell either my wife or kids.

  • Russel says:

    I canceled the cable not so long ago and I’m surprised that I really haven’t missed it, My wife and I decided to buy a few DVD’s every month instead and now we get to watch a movie whenever we want. I canceled the landline and went with cell phones only, this saved us a fair amount of money but the real saving came when we canceled the cell contract and bought two prepaid cell phones instead. I bought a Net10 phone while my wife went with Tracfone, they are both good and we have saved so much that I’m finally getting a control on my credit card debt. We can’t give up the computers or the high speed internet as we both work from home; all the rest I can do without.

  • Financial culture says:

    Here is good discussion about “How has Technology Impacted your Finances Over the Last Decade?”
    Everyone knows financial status play the big role technology impact.

    Here are few money management tips for women to stay independent and self-reliable.

    1. Don’t take the risk to rely on any individual, like you boyfriend or souse, when it comes to finances. Start learning about how to manage money, do it yourself investment guides, self savings, etc.

    2. One of the most important money management tips for women is having a financial goal. This goal helps them to take control of their earning, expenses, investment, etc., and actively manage them.

    3. Don’t rely on money either. Many females depend on money to make them feel good. If you take away their money management tips for womenmoney, they become miserable. You don’t to be one amongst them. Use money for your benefit, but don’t let it affect your inner feelings.

    4. Here is a secret to be a millionaire women – Earn more, spend less. This is, however, quite a difficult thing to do without having an effective budget. Search all over the web and find ways to derive an effective budget that will keep a track of your expenses, your spending habits, your income sources, and your goal achievement path.

    5. Finish your education. Don’t move out of college without having a degree. Having no professional qualification makes you an introvert individual, less understanding of finances, less respectable, and less rich.

    6. Start building an emergency fund. When you meet with a financial emergency like a divorce, death in family, or job loss, all you will have is your savings, and an emergency fund, if you have built any. This fund gives you the courage to fight any emergency.

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