How I Keep My Technology Expenses Super Low

Even my very basic setup results in this mess of cords behind my tv. Bonus points if you can spot the rabbit ear antenna I pull out on Sundays, which allows me to see the games in HD (on Saturdays I typically watch the Badgers let us down as always with the local alumni association).

Happy Monday, Folks! This is yet another post in my annual expense series. I’m sorry it’s been a little boring, but we’re nearly through! And hopefully I’ve helped you save at least some money. Today I’m going to tell you how I keep my technology expenses much lower than most people and still get everything I need. I’ve already written posts that address this, so this will be a quick one as a good portion of the information is already available at the links I will provide. Over 2017 and 2018, I averaged $500 a year on technology services. I believe a bare minimum number could be as low as $350 a year if you were trying to save every penny.

Step one is simple. I don’t have cable and I don’t recommend it for anyone. Instead, if I were the type who watched tv much outside of football season, I would simply figure out which streaming services had the shows I liked and subscribe only to those, only when those shows were on. Or just use Kodi. But I didn’t say that… So anyway, the only technology services I need are internet and cell phone.

For internet, I use whichever option is cheapest. The dirty little secret of this industry (at least the one most relevant to saving money) is that you need a hell of a lot less bandwith than most people think. Unless you’re streaming video on multiple devices in your home consistently, 20 or so Mbps is plenty. Even then you could get by with it. Those 100+ plans are the internet equivalent to driving a Ferrari on a road where the speed limit is 65 anyway. Last year, I was paying about $40 a month for AT&T. The year before that, I was paying $15 a month for a very minimalist Charter (formerly Time Warner) plan in Wisconsin. This year, I’m paying $30 a month for Comcast Xfinity. I do have my own router and modem, which I spent about $100 total on and should last several years. AT&T provided their own unit and while they didn’t come out and say they were charging rent, their service was about $10 more per month than Xfinity, which means they probably were. But since they didn’t separate that out on the bill, there was also no option to not have it. However, I was able to negotiate $200 in Visa gift cards up front, which made the difference for me and got me to sign up for a year. What do I do when the “promotional pricing” period ends? This. I don’t EVER reward the shenanigans that seem to be standard practice in this industry by paying more.

That leaves cell phone service. Everyone offers unlimited talk and text for basically nothing now, knowing that data is the choke point. So how do I slay the data demon and ultimately spend so little? I know how much I actually use (very little when not on WiFi, which is almost everywhere now) and I use services that provide minimal amounts for minimal money. Previously, and for all of the years 2017 and 2018, which the average above was calculated on, I had been using Republic Wireless. But when their new pricing scheme came out, it effectively doubled the price for a minimal user like me. So I switched to Mint Mobile when I got a new phone and would have had to start participating in that pricing scheme. Either service is a much better option than the contract carriers for most people and I’ve had zero issues with either. The key is taking the time to figure out how much data you actually need. For most people, it is actually a lot less than you think once you factor in that most of it is on WiFi.

That’s it – everything you need to know to pay a small fraction of what most people do for technology and still get everything you need.   

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