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Shopping smart isn’t just about buying things on the cheap — it’s about investing in services that will prevent you from having to make additional purchases in the future.
This line of thinking is especially difficult to adapt in the consumer tech world, where every company does their best to convince you that this year’s Thing is constantly superior to last year’s Whatever. However, there are certain gadgets out there that can actually pay for themselves in the right hands. Here are a few of them.
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We've taken a look at a bunch of HD antennas recently, and this one from Monoprice provides solid reception at a good price. It's biggest drawback is that it's not omnidirectional, so for the best results, you'll need to point it in the direction of a tower to get the best reception.
I've never paid for cable, but bought an HDTV antenna recently and am very pleased with the results. You don't get nearly as many channels as you would with even a basic cable subscription, but on the other hand, you're not paying for cable every month. This is the perfect investment if you're looking for an inexpensive way to watch big network TV shows and events, like 'The Big Bang Theory' or the Oscars, live.
Thankfully, a lot of electronics have transitioned away from running on standard batteries. But if you've still got a few stragglers that are still running fine, do yourself a favour and buy a set of rechargeable AA's or AAA's.
These Eneloop batteries from Panasonic can be recharged up to 2,100 times and can hold a majority of their charge for up to 7 years. They're likely to outlast whatever you're using them to power, and a four pack of Eneloop batteries only cost three times as much as a pack of regular batteries that you can only use once. A four pack should suit most people fine, but if you've got kids with lots of toys, it might be wise to step it up to an eight pack.
These batteries don't come with a recharging dock, so I'm also going to recommend an eight-bay dock from EPL here as well.
Panasonic B Eneloop AA 2100 Cycle Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries (Pack 4), $18.51 (US$13.99), available at Amazon.
EBL 8 Bay AA, AAA, Ni-MH, Ni-Cd Rechargeable Battery Charger, $13.22 (US$9.99), available at Amazon.
Leaving an appliance running is both unsafe and energy inefficient. There are a few energy saving outlets on the market, but the consensus is that this one from Simple Touch is the best.
You can set its timer to cut the power to whatever it is plugged into it after one, two, four, or eight hours. For example, if you listen to music to fall asleep, you can plug a speaker, stereo, or radio into the Simple Touch and set it to turn off in an hour or two. The Simple Touch does have a small power draw, but you'll end up saving on your energy bill every month. One thing to keep in mind is that you can only plug in appliances that draw a maximum of 1,000 watts -- so larger appliances like space heaters and washing machines are a no go.
As Tech Insider's Tim Stenovec observed, you're wasting cash if you're renting a cable modem from an internet service provider. That $6.62- $13.23 (US$5- US$10) monthly fee adds up over time, and it's unnecessary when you can pay a flat fee for your own device upfront. The Surfboard SB6141 here is compatible with most major ISPs, and while its $119.09 (US$90) asking price looks intimidating, it will most likely be recouped within a year.
This one may vary depending on how often you actually use your lights, but LED light bulbs are longer-lasting, generally safer, and more energy efficient than their incandescent and CFL brethren. They still cost more upfront, but their prices have dropped significantly over the past few years, so much so that you can get this TCP 6-pack for just $31.76 (US$24). If you use them often, you'll shave a bit off your energy bill, and you shouldn't have to worry about replacements for well over a decade.
You're already paying a lot of money for cell phone service, having to pay for your phone's hardware every month through a contract hikes up the cost. Buying your phone outright costs more money upfront but saves you money in the long run. While this is true across the board, I'm going to recommend considering the Vivo XL smartphone from BLU.
At $198.49 (US$150), it costs $661.64 (US$500) less than buying a 16GB iPhone 6s outright, or 7 months worth of monthly payments to AT&T, if you bought it through their monthly payment plan. On the specs side, the Vivo XL holds up pretty well considering its price; it has a 5.5 inch HD screen, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, a 13 megapixel backside camera and 5 megapixel selfie camera. The biggest hitch is that it's only available on T-Mobile and AT&T.
If you're on those carriers, great. If you're not, this phone probably isn't good enough to switch for. Still, if you've got a kid looking for their first phone, or are looking for ways to reduce your monthly phone bill, this is a safe bet.
This won't be as relevant to those who can get by with their smartphones, but if your home still relies on landline phone access, you can cut the typically inflated costs of those packages by switching to a VoIP phone service like Ooma. Although many ISPs offer their own VoIP -- that's 'voice over Internet protocol,' the Internet-based communications tech popularised by services like Skype -- setups, those are often (and unsurprisingly) too expensive to be worth it.
The Ooma Telo costs $145.56 (US$110) upfront, and you'll have to pay a $52.93 (US$40) fee if you want to port your existing number over to the service (though you can get one from Ooma for free). After that, however, the only thing you should pay each month is about $5.29 (US$4) in taxes and minor fees. (There are a few small, expected special exceptions that Ooma describes here.)
You're capped at 5,000 calling minutes per month, but that's plenty for most people, and you can ring up anyone the same way you would over a normal landline. You still get essentials like call waiting and caller ID, too. And since all of this is done over the Internet, you can get much clearer and sharper calls than what the traditional method provides. Again, the value here depends on your particular situation, but for the right user, it should start returning on your investment within a few months.
The tech industry's dream of turning every home into something out of 'The Jetsons' hasn't come to fruition yet, but there have been some successes thus far. The Nest Learning Thermostat has a steep upfront cost of $330.82 (US$250), but the Google-owned company claims that its product's auto-adjusting abilities can recoup that charge for the average user in about two years.
A first-party study like this obviously has to be taken with a few grains of salt, but the Nest does make it easier to keep your thermostat at less wasteful temperatures when you're away (whether it's automatically or manually from your smartphone), and it gives you useful info on how much energy you're regularly chewing up. Being more mindful of things like this will inevitably to lead to savings on your utility bills at some point.
This article was originally published on 6/21/2016.
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