Many different things contribute to the cost of electronics. However, the initial price of your electronic devices is a huge expense.
Add the need or desire to replace that gadget every couple of years with a new device, and you drive up your spending.
On a smaller scale, the price of your electricity bill plays a part. The more gadgets you have, the more electricity you will ultimately use. In addition, any digital subscriptions or app payments count towards the cost of your device.
To zoom out for a minute, where does this desire for new technology come from? People are surrounded by advertisements every day. We see commercials on TV. We hear them on the radio and our music streaming service. We even see them when we do a random web search.
These ads do not say how much your device will cost you long term. They don’t tell you about Planned Obsolescence and the need to replace your device in a few years. They don’t tell you about the price of electricity or the apps or services you pay extra for.
In short, what we are saying is…When you buy a phone, you buy additional apps, insurance for the phone, a case for the phone, streaming services to maximize the phone’s functionality, and so on…Its a whole economy around one device.
Your electronics are costing you money. Unfortunately, it is more money than most people realize. This article looks at how our electronics cost us money and how we can save money.
The 3 prongs of planned obsolescence
Today’s modern world is full of products that are made to be temporary. Fifty or sixty years ago, you bought something, and it lasted for decades or longer. However, things have changed since then.
Many things contribute to Planned Obsolescence. Planned Obsolescence means that a product is made obsolete in a year or two and needs to be replaced. Any item’s durability, Functionality, and desirability all play a part in Planned Obsolescence.
Many people blame corporations and their greed for the state of things. However, there is more to it than that. Corporations wouldn’t make money on Planned Obsolescence if consumers weren’t willing to buy the newest, shiniest toy.
The durability of an item plays into Planned Obsolescence. If an item starts to break down or stops working after a year or two, consumers will begin looking to replace the item.
In some ways, it is a vicious cycle. People want shiny new toys, so many companies come out with a new product every year.
Electronics especially are not made to be durable. Fragile designs enable smartphone companies like Apple and Samsung to funnel their consumers toward additional products like protective cases, screen covers, and protection plans.
Consumers expect electronics to be fragile and breakable. Unfortunately, this gives the company absolutely no incentive to make them more durable.
Many electronics today are more complicated to repair than those of past years. Just look at cars. In the 1900s, even as late as the 1990s, most cars still had engines that your average mechanic could fix.
Nowadays, it would help if you had special machines to check a car for what is wrong. And mechanics also need specialized training.
The same can be said for computers, laptops, tablets, phones, and more. They often require specialized training in taking them apart and repairing them.
In addition, you often can’t get the manufacturer to help if something else goes wrong once it is repaired by someone not associated with the manufacturer.
You used to buy a new battery and replace it to solve battery life problems. Instead, you must get a whole new device or take it to a repair shop to replace the battery. Battery replacement is often an expensive process.
The third prong of Planned Obsolescence is Functionality. As a device ages, its function decreases. Some of this decrease is due to normal wear and tear.
However, certain parts of functionality are planned to become obsolete. Some examples include device software upgrades. While some companies continue updating and upgrading software, even on old devices, others only do this for a few years.
In addition, as a device gets older new upgrades and updates use more of the device’s memory and processing speed. This means that other things have less memory to operate.
A recent example became apparent in 2020 when thousands of people started working online. Internet providers had to make upgrades to handle the increased traffic.
Devices needed updates and upgrades to operate programs like Zoom. Older devices couldn’t run the new software, creating problems for people working from home.
Always plugged in
While Planned Obsolescence and the price per new device are the most significant expenses related to electronics, they are also the expenses you have the least control over. However, there are some things you can control.
One of the expenses of having electronics is the electricity they need to work. This is so obvious that many people overlook it.
We don’t unplug our charging cords unless we take them somewhere or move them to use our electronics in another room.
What this means is that we are constantly using electricity. Even if your phone or laptop is not plugged in, electricity is being used if the charger is plugged in. The loss for something as small as a charging cord is relatively minuscule. Depending on how many devices you have plugged in, it uses only a couple of dollars a month or year.
If you have a smart device like an Alexa, you keep it plugged in all the time so it can respond when you ask a question or give a command. Alexa uses electricity constantly.
One way to save money on electricity is to unplug things or turn the power off completely when you are out of the house. Your fridge should remain on, but does your microwave need to be plugged in?
Does your Alexa need to be on if you are out of the house? Do your chargers need to be plugged in? You may not save a lot of money, but every little bit helps.
Digital subscriptions are a considerable cost over time. Each weekly or monthly payment may only be a few dollars but add that up over a year and see how much you spend.
Are you reading all those magazines you get on your Kindle? Are you using that app enough to make the price worthwhile?
It is a good idea to check any subscriptions or app fees and see how they fit into your budget. For example, if you order one magazine a month, you probably have time to read it. However, if you are ordering 10 magazines a month, are you reading them all?
Some apps are free, or they have a free version. It is a good idea to check and see if the free app gives you what you need. Why pay for an app if you don’t need the extra bells and whistles you are paying for?
Games that you download as an app on your phone or tablet can also be costing you money. How often do you pay for extra gems, energy, or whatever you need to complete a competition? Do you need to complete that competition? Do you need the extras that got you to the finish line?
- Check where you are spending your money. Is it one dollar here or three dollars there?
- Check your budget. How much do you make? How much do you spend? How much do you need? How much do you want?
- Cut any unnecessary expenses. Be truthful. If you aren’t using what you are paying for, why keep paying?
How to save money
The good news is that there are ways to save money on your electronics. The key is to look at how much you spend on your devices. To get started, ask yourself these questions.
- How many devices do you have?
- How old is each one?
- How often do you typically replace each one? Every year? Every other year? Every five years?
- How much do they cost to replace?
- How much are you paying for extras? (Such as protection plans, protective gear, etc.)
- How much do you spend on subscriptions or apps that you use on each device?
Once you know how much you spend, it is time to decide where to cut your expenses.
- First consider, unplugging devices when they don’t need to charge. Also, unplug their charging cables. Then, it isn’t that hard to plug them back in when it comes time to use them again.
- Next, check your subscriptions and app expenses. Again, any device you are not using can be cut out. So don’t waste money on something you aren’t using, especially if the chance of your ever using that thing is low.
For all other app or subscription expenses, take time to decide if you think they are worth it. Then, cut them if you can if you can’t find other ways to save.
Save an old device
Saving an old device is a great backup plan for new devices. If your old appliance still works, but you want and can afford a new device, keep the old one. The old device works as an emergency backup in case of a lost, stolen, or damaged new phone.
Doing this also allows you to save money on a protection plan that replaces your new phone if lost, stolen, or damaged. Unfortunately, these plans often don’t kick in immediately, or they have specifics that state if you are the cause, then the phone is not replaced.
Trade in your old device
You may be able to save money on a new device by trading in an old machine. You can save anywhere from a couple of bucks to a couple hundred. Make sure to do your research on trade-ins. You want to make sure you are getting a good deal.
If your device is only a few years old and the company isn’t offering a good trade-in, consider selling your device. However, be aware that selling may not make you any more money. And the money you do get won’t be automatically deducted from a new device. Typically, a trade-in is a better deal than selling an old device.
Sell your old device
You can sell your device to someone on eBay, Amazon, etc. you can also donate it if it is so old you want to get rid of it. Donation won’t make you any money, but it might be tax-deductible. However, selling your phone is not tax-deductible.
Keep your device for 5 or more years
The number of years you want to keep your device will vary from device to device. For instance, phones you want to keep a minimum of two years. However, given the price of phones, the best way to save money is to keep your phone for four or more years.
For computers, the average replacement is every four years. So you will save money if you can get your computer to go for six or even eight years.
Here are some numbers. These prices are in the general range. Some phones, tablets, and computers will be more, and some will be less. The price per year comes from taking the purchase price and dividing it by the number of years the device is kept. The longer you keep it, the less you pay for it per year.
|Device||Starting Price||Price if replaced after two years||Price if replaced after four years||Price if replaced after six years|
|Smart Phone (iPhone)||About $600||$300/year||$150/year||$100/year|
|Tablet (iPad)||About $400||$200/year||$100/year||$67/year|
Buy last year’s model
Another way to save money is to buy last year’s model. Don’t buy the phone that just came out. Supply and demand mean that the brand-new phone or tablet, or computer will be more expensive than a year or two older.
You can buy new phones that are a model year or two older. This happens because the supply outpaces demand, and they still have devices to sell even though they just came out with a newer version. You can often get the old model on sale because the company wants to make room for the new model.
Buy a refurbished model
Devices that have been traded in will go through a refurbishing process. In this process, the manufacturer fixes anything that needs fixing. They also replace old hardware with newer hardware so that the refurbished device can handle new updates and upgrades.
Refurbished models are cheaper than brand new models. Sometimes they are also more affordable than last year’s model. Other times a refurbished device will cost more.
Do your research and compare
Lastly, to save money, spend time researching and comparing devices. Then, make sure you are spending money on a device that will get you the most bang for your buck. You will need to avoid spontaneous purchases.
If you see something you want to buy, tell yourself to wait. One week, one month, however long it takes you to think it through.
Does your old device still work? Why do you need this new device? Do you need whatever new feature the device has? Or do you just want that feature? And lastly, can you afford the new device?
Now that you are informed, it is up to you to decide. Where and how can you save money? Is buying that new device worth cutting back on expenses somewhere else?
If we as consumers can stop and think before buying, perhaps we can turn Planned Obsolescence around. Maybe we can’t go back to where we were before, but do we need devices that need replacing every couple of years because they become obsolete? You can start being savvy about your money today by making informed decisions.
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