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10 ways to waste money on technology

You'll be a lot richer if you don't blow money on these common tech moves. How many are you guilty of?

By Stacy Johnson Jun 22, 2012 2:29PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWhen 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: In 2004. Never. Never. Can't remember. I essentially have all these things and more in my pocket -- on a 5-ounce device a third of an inch thick.

Smartphones save us time, gas and money. But technology also makes it easier to waste funds. In the video below, Stacy Johnson takes a look at five dumb ways to waste money on technology. Check it out, then read on for other tech traps.

1. PC tuneups

Image: Old computer equipment © Image Source/Getty ImagesComputer 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 real solutions are offered, this is something you can easily do yourself for free. (See "6 free ways to save your digital life.")

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.

Why would you pay a fee to "see who's searching for you" when everyone you've ever met is already on Facebook?

3. Optional CDs

When you buy software, you sometimes get the option to purchase a physical copy on a CD for $10 or more. Provided you have the right drive, you can easily burn a copy of the download yourself. But since thumb drives are now basically giveaways, I can't remember the last time I had to use a CD.

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, making a purchase 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, you can make a custom ringtone for free.

Of course, you're also at risk of buying all kids 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 weekly payments of $40. Rent-to-own is the most expensive way to buy something, because you can end up paying the equivalent of 300% interest before it becomes yours.

You'd be 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%. 

Know what I do when I'm 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. 

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 yet 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 a modem so that customers can connect to the Internet. Ma Bell used a similar concept, renting phones to unwitting customers for decades when they could have bought their own for $20.

Modems typically cost less than $100 to buy and will therefore quickly pay for themselves. No cash? Call the cable company 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 in on an unlimited data plan -- which you may lose when you upgrade devices -- take a close look at your next billing statement to see if you could safely drop down to a lower pricing tier.

When your device is 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, share your insights below.

More from Money Talks News and MSN Money

Jun 22, 2012 9:10PM

Fist, if you keep shoveling junk into your technological device and never release it, of course it will slow down and one day blank out when you least expect it to. Make a set of restore disks the day you buy it and reformat that hard drive completely every year or so. If you really really really need it, why is it in your device and not backed-up or on a reserve disk?

More importantly, we spend tons of cash on machines that are regularly improved, buy up and stash the old one in the closet. SELL IT. Old technology has value but it has more value when it is recent old technology.

Most important-- read up. There ae plenty of advertisements touting the latest greatest. Is it? There is  ealth of information online validating the claim or calling it lame.


I couldn't find any reference for this, but I thought that the first telephone in the U.S. produced as an "aftermarket" model came out in the late 60's or early 70's. Prior to that time, there were no other telephones to buy other than the models to rent from the phone company. Since Ma Bell was broken up in 1984 and you could only buy a different telephone about about 15 years before that, it doesn't amount to "decades" of the phone company tricking people into renting phones.


AT&T/Ma Bell didn't permit outside devices to be connected to their network for years because they thought it would damage the network.


Ma Bell may have been taking consumers for a ride, and I don't dispute that. But I think it's dishonest to say that there were "decades" of people renting phones when there were $20 phones available for purchase, because there weren't $20 phones available.


Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Jun 23, 2012 9:06AM
The "tip" about burning downloaded stuff to CDs is not true. A lot of the sites are preventing you from doing this and making you pay a fee to keep the software active even though this is illegal in some states. It's still safer for now to buy the software on CD than to risk the maker not allowing it to be saved on a CD. That's why I don't trust them. What if your computer requires you to reinstall it and the download disappears? They ask you to pay them AGAIN.
Jun 23, 2012 9:03AM
I purchased an Acer All in one computer with touch screen from HSN Home Shopping Network On TV. Also a  Viper spy checker for life with a two year warranty.  What a piece of crap they both are. And HSN could care less. What a greedy group of s****ing pigs at HSN. Stay Away From  HSN.  They sell the cheapest crap they can buy from China & India and dump that junk on the American public. HSN just gave me the run around to blow me off.  I hade  the warranty information in my hand with the packing list and invoice, which i gave them. HSN Sucks! Don't Shop HSN - They Just Want Your Money, Everything After The Sale They Just Don't Care. They Are Full Of Fraud,Fraud and Fraud. Stay Away From Those Bottom Feeding Pigs. HSN Will Screw You If You Are Not Happy With Things You Buy. I Wanted To Go On HSN Live & Let The HSN Customers Know That They Are Getting Screwed With HSN, But No Luck Doing That. Stay Away!!!
Jun 23, 2012 9:52AM

I disagree with the "cleaning your own hard drive" advice. I am not a newbie and have gotten into trouble trying to clean up those pesk "leftovers" from deleted programs, files and folder. I currently run Windows 7 Ultimate  and it does a super job all on its own but still doesn't catch everything.


My son is a tech and told me to get Errorfix which he uses on his commercial accounts. Best progrm I ever used. No, I don't own or have a stake in it. It just works and "SHOWS" you what it found with a description of what that item does. I had cleaned, scanned for errors ( a 3 hour process ) and defragged my hard drive and still had issues with a damaged file.that I could not delete, repair, or replace. I downloaded the free version of errorfix and was so impressed that a purchased the 3 year Pro version.


Again. I have nothing to gain, just sharing what I know about a program that actually works.

Jun 23, 2012 9:07AM
Did i say that HSN does suck a lot!
Jun 23, 2012 7:52AM
I can't for the life of me, understand why these kids pay for those stupid apps and ringback tones. 
Jun 23, 2012 6:22AM
BlackBerry compresses data so you can get by with a cheaper plan and be productive at the same time.
Jun 23, 2012 7:14PM
Jun 23, 2012 6:22AM
BlackBerry compresses data so you can get by with a cheaper plan and be productive at the same time.
Jun 23, 2012 6:42PM
Software is another major waste.  People spend money on the latest MS Office when they can get a free equivalent that does virtually everything from OpenOffice.  Also, when I want to find something like a program that will burn a quick video DVD for me, I look for freeware from CNET or giveawayoftheday.  I was looking for something I could use to keep my daily schedule on my computer and found the free VueMinder. Now a semi-transparent monthly map sits on my desktop with reminders for mowing the lawn, appointments, etc. - exactly what I wanted.
And if you look at the results at the site of the independent testing company av-comparatives, you'll see that free antivirus products often do better than the for-pay products.  I have the following, all freeware, and it beats Norton or Symantec suites:  Avira Antivirus, Comodo Firewall, WinPatrol, and for browser protection: Keyscrambler (makes typing incomprehensible to keylogging viruses that steal passwords, etc.), AVG Linkscanner (looks for viruses as a page loads - forming a double-whammy with Avira), and LinkExtend (which uses Norton Safe Site, McAfee Siteadvisor, and 16 other services to screen for known bad webpages).

Jun 22, 2012 10:04PM
Actually, being "an adult" and paying cash for everything can actually cost you money.  Many stores have up to 24 month/no interest financing, either with or without monthly payments.  If you're smart enough to play by the rules, paying up front is actually throwing away free money.
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