10 Ways to Waste Money on Tech

Photo (cc) by Images_of_Money

When was the last time you bought a roll of film? An encyclopedia? A paper map? When’s the last time you saw a pay phone?

My answers: 2004. Never. Never. Can’t remember.

Yet I essentially have all these things and more in my pocket – on a 5-ounce device one-third of an inch thick. Smartphones save us time, gas, and money.

But technology also makes it easier to waste money. In the video below, Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson takes a look at five dumb ways to waste money on technology. Check it out, then read on for other tech traps…

Let’s recap what Stacy mentioned, then expand the list…

1. PC tuneups

Computer software can update itself – but computers can’t. As they collect tons of files and run newer, bigger, and better programs, they get slower. You can’t expect a 5-year-old computer to run like new, no matter what you do to it.

But TV commercials and Web ads will tell you otherwise, peddling paid “solutions” that claim to make your computer run better and load things faster. Even when this isn’t BS, it’s something you can easily do yourself for free.

In 6 Free Ways to Save Your Digital Life, I explain how to get a reliable, free antivirus program, automatically update your software, and back up your files online so they’re not taking up computer space – all things that will help keep your computer running smoother for longer. Beyond that, it’s up to you to be a careful user and not install lots of silly toolbars, casino games, or other software you don’t need.

2. Friend finders

There are lots of subscription services online to track people down, look up their phone numbers and addresses, and otherwise stalk them.

But the best, most widely used social networks are free – like Facebook. When I joined Facebook in January 2005, only geeky college kids were on it, so it wasn’t a great way to reconnect with old acquaintances. But now, even my grandparents are among its 901 million active users. (Which is almost a third more users than those claimed by subscription site MyLife.) The question is no longer whether John Smith uses Facebook, but whether you can pick out his photo, job, or location among the hundreds of John Smiths who do.

Why would you pay a fee to “see who’s searching for you” when everyone you’ve ever met is already on Facebook? The only reason I can imagine is that you’re spending too much time watching TV commercials.

3. Optional CDs

When you buy digital software, you sometimes get the option to purchase a physical copy on CD for $10 or more.

Provided you have a CD/DVD-writeable drive, you can buy a spindle of 50 CDs for $10 online and burn a copy of the download yourself. But with Internet connection speed and thumb drive capacity improvements in the past few years, I can’t remember the last time I had to use a CD, anyway.

4. Extended warranties

Adding a year or two of protection to your electronics is rarely worth the cost, especially if it doesn’t include tech support or requires you to mail in the device for repair and live without it for weeks. An extended warranty often costs as much as the average repair job (about $150), so you might be better off taking your chances. Plus, your credit card might automatically extend the warranty. For instance, purchases with an American Express card will add an extra year of protection at no cost.

5. Ringtones and useless apps

How much money do you really want to spend for a few moments of embarrassment when your phone goes off in public? At a buck or two for a 30-second snippet of a song, this just doesn’t seem smart. That money could be going toward your texting or data plan.

If you have a smartphone and own the full version of the song anyway – whether it’s an iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone – you can make a custom ringtone for free.

Of course, you’re also at risk of buying all kinds of ridiculous apps you’ll get a chuckle out of once – and never use again. Stick to free apps and the ones you really need, or at least wait for sales.

6. Buying rent-to-own

Sure, you can buy a new laptop for $40/week from a chain like Rent-A-Center. But rent-to-own is the most expensive way to buy something, because you can end up paying the equivalent of 300 percent interest before it becomes yours.

You’re way better off financing it on your credit card, where even the worst interest rates are much better. But the smart way to buy tech – or anything else – is be an adult and wait until you can pay cash.

7. Paying a techie for simple repairs

If you’re paying a tech store $30 to $100 to perform simple computer tasks such as installing software or burning a DVD, you’re overpaying by 100 percent. (But note that such stores might do those PC tuneups for free.)

Family and friends often turn to me to fix their tech problems, and a lot of the stuff is so routine to me I don’t have to think about it. And I’m not a tech wizard – I didn’t take any classes or even spend a lot of time reading about it. I just learned by doing it.

Know what I do these days when I’m (frequently!) stumped by a problem? Go to a search engine and paste the error message in quotes. Or, just ask a question in your own words. Trust me, no matter your problem, it’s been solved many times before. Proof: Click here to see how many people have dropped their iPhone in a toilet.

8. Being a day-one buyer

Living on the cutting edge means paying the most for the least polished version. Early adopters get to look cool, but they’re subsidizing improvements, learning about flaws the hard way, and paving the road to a larger, cheaper marketplace for everyone else.

Waiting even a few months after a product’s release lets you take advantage of user reviews – and if the price hasn’t gone down, it’s not going to go up. Even Apple’s super-hyped products see small discounts days after release.

9. Renting a router/modem

Where I live, the cable company charges $7 a month to rent one of the modems required to connect to the Internet. In years past, Ma Bell used a similar concept, renting phones to their unwitting customers for decades when they could have bought their own for $20.

Modems typically cost less than $100 to buy outright – they pay for themselves in 14 months or less. Of course, renting also means that when you have connection issues, they can’t blame your equipment. If that’s a concern, call the cable company, tell them it’s a rip and ask for a discount. In fact, ask for a discount on your entire bill while you’re at it.

10. Buying a huge data or texting plan

Phone companies like Verizon keep shuffling their business models to keep things profitable as heavy data-using devices like smartphones and tablets fill up more of their networks. So if you aren’t paying attention to your plan, usage, and the latest offerings, you could easily be overpaying.

If you’re not grandfathered into an unlimited data plan (which you may lose when you upgrade devices), take a close look at your next billing statement and check if you could safely drop down to a lower pricing tier.

When your devices are in range of a Wi-Fi connection, change your settings to use that instead of the 3G/4G network to reduce the data use you’re charged for. (Using Wi-Fi for Web browsing will also save battery life, but shut it off when you aren’t using it or you may see the opposite effect.)

We’re all guilty of some tech mistakes – if you’ve learned from them, please share your insights on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
Don’t Pay for These 10 Things: They Are Free With a Library Card
Don’t Pay for These 10 Things: They Are Free With a Library Card

Before you spend another dollar on items and services like these, check with your public library.

4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less
4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less

Here’s how to ditch cable and satellite TV — and save a bundle — without giving up your favorite shows.

7 Other Retailers With Free Prescription Delivery
7 Other Retailers With Free Prescription Delivery

Amazon’s new pharmacy is hardly the first to offer free shipping.

8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill
8 Ways to Slash Your Internet Bill

No matter what price you are paying for internet service, taking these simple steps can lower it.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone
8 Tips for Retiring Comfortably on Social Security Alone

It’s never too early to start learning how to live well while living on less.

Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?
Am I Eligible for My Mother’s Social Security Benefit?

Can an adult daughter tap into her late mother’s benefit?

11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco
11 Generic Products You Should Buy at Costco

Not all generics are worthwhile, but these are among the best from Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand.

This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia
This Surprise Factor Can Raise Your Risk of Dementia

Nearly half of U.S. residents may face this threat.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers
This Gas Station Scam Is Victimizing More Drivers

For the second straight year, a growing number of Americans believe they’ve fallen prey to this scam.

Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds
Organize Your Home With These 10 Thrift Store Finds

Resolve to be clutter-free in 2021 with these secondhand purchases.

11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It
11 Laws You Could Be Breaking Without Knowing It

Seriously? Fibbing about the weather is a crime? This and other little-known legal traps await the unwary.

6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have
6 Legal Documents Retirees Need — but Don’t Have

Few retirees have all of these documents that are crucial to their golden years — especially during a pandemic.

These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy
These Are the 3 Best Used Cars You Can Buy

These vehicles boast reliability, safety and long-lasting value.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free
27 Things You Should Never Pay For — and How to Get Them for Free

When you know the tricks, you can save big on all kinds of useful things that others pay for.

15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
15 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry
9 Small Expenses That Are Bleeding Your Budget Dry

Keep more of future paychecks by eliminating these budget-busting unnecessary expenses.

Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore
Internet Providers Can’t Charge You for This Anymore

Starting this month, your ISP no longer can bill you for this fee.

13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free
13 Things Seniors Can Get for Free — or Almost Free

There are many ways to get cheap or free services and goods after reaching a certain age.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.