Saturday, February 14, 2009

Geek-onomics: 5 tips on how to save a few bucks by being a geek

you don't need to be a financial guru to know that the financial state of the world is not a pretty one at the moment.  so why not use our vast geeky knowledge and resources to help save a few more bucks?

this can be even easier and more realistic lately by industries making the shift to the net.  in this post i plan to outline a few easy ways to save some money in ways you may not have thought of before.  however, like any money saving tip, there are always going to be sacrifices in your choice to save a buck (my disclaimer).  lets get started!

Tip 1. Ditch your cable, go Hulu, Internet TV!

On average, most cable bills run about $50 -$100; combine that with the cost of high-speed internet and a digital home phone line; your total bill could easily exceed $200!

The internet has grown up the last 5 years and TV services online are really maturing. is a great example and probably one of the best in my opinion.  Hulu is basically a TV on-demand website.  It uses a flash based video player to deliver tv episodes and clips for almost every popular network tv series (heroes, my name is earl, 24, fringe, the office, family guy, simpsons, etc).

Hulu does have ads, but the way they do it is very well done; only 4 breaks in a 30min episode; the ads themselves last only 30 seconds (already, compare that to cabletv ad/commercial breaks of 5mins! dvr costs extra you know!). They offer videos at 480P resolution which is a pretty decent quality.  Sounds pretty sweet eh? This may not work though if your into sports; live sports video streaming is still an untouched area due to the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc and their stranglehold on viewing rights/permissions.

So now your probably wondering, how do i get them on my TV? If you have  newer HDTV, you probably already have a VGA input or a DVI.  Just hook up your VGA out to your HDTVs VGA in.  Or, you could purchase a cheap dual output video card so you could leave your pc hooked up to your monitor and just have the extended desktop go to the HDTV (move the hulu window to it when you watch tv).  Otherwise if you have an older TV, you may need to get a cheap video card that can output to atleast S-Video (here is order of video output quality from highest to lowest: HDMI, Component, S-Video, Composite).

Tip 2.  Use Deal RSS feeds to monitor tech/gadget bargains and add them to your portal site (ie iGoogle,MY MSN, Yahoo)

main thing, just use Deal sites! they can have some killer deals and by having them on your customized google, yahoo, msn page you can usually get in on them before being sold out.

some one's i use include:

speaking of customized homepages; do you use them? if not, try it out for a week. its nice to have a central point that you can go to and get all of your info at a page glance (plus, having the google reader widget for iGoogle homepage is sweet for instant news reading)

Tip 3.  Repurpose older tech, computers.  

Do you have a laptop that has a bad lcd? Or a desktop that is over 4 years old?  Repurpose your machines and if you do decide to dispose/get rid of it; do so in a proper way since most computers contain hazardous materials such as lead.

however, you can salvage harddrives and in turn buy an external harddrive enclosure to make your own usb harddrive for under $15.  or use the memory to upgrade another pc or sell or keep as parts.

if you got a laptop who's lcd isn't working,  why not just use an external monitor with it. in a way, you still have a fully functional pc but you also get a bonus added benefit of battery backup (UPS systems are still pretty spendy) with the fact that the pc was once a laptop.  If your feeling ambitious, you could also remove the LCD from the laptop base to have a super slim desktop pc you could in turn hide or use in our Tip 1. to run Hulu to an HDTV.    :)

if you have a pretty old pc and have a multimedia need, you can run a bootable/live version of XBMC (xbox media center). more info can be found here.

It may not be a huge savings but more of re-adding value to otherwise worthless items. ;)

Tip 4. Turn off services you don't use/ haggle for cheaper prices.

Do you have netflix? but are you noticing your not sending back movies on a weekly basis or even monthly? maybe its time to quit for a while, there are no penalties for quitting since there is no contract with netflix.  its a pay per month.

how about your cell phone? do you really use your unlimited for what it costs? do you really need to have full email access? some of us this is a DEF YES while others it may not be for the cost.  however, be sure to remember that with most carriers if you are grandfathered in on a plan that once you change that aspect of your plan you lose your the grandfathered-in plan (ie having the tmobile $5.99 unlimited data and then changing to the 50mb, you lose that $5.99 plan forever since it no longer exists; however you get to keep it if don't change your plan ever. )

do you really watch HBO or Cinemax enough for justify the extra $10/mo ($120 per year)?  call your cable company to try to haggle them for a promo for a few months.  usually they will give in at some point, i admit that when i did have full cable i would call and if i didn't get a promo deal i'd hang up and call right back to see if i could get a rep who would offer the deal.  being cheap isn't always a fun thing.

i've saved about $45/mo by dropping my data plan down and by going to just basic cable (prev had HD DVR w/extended channels) and using hulu or my pc as a DVR for over-the-air channels/shows (NBC, ABC, FOX, etc).

do you have a cell phone and a landline? do you need the landline? yes, the landline is the most reliable in worst-case scenerios.  landline phones will work when there is no electricity since there is power conducted through the lines themselves, so they work in almost all emergency situations.

however, for me in the city in my apt building, a landline does not seem like its needed.  another thing to note too is that most jails will not let you call a cell phone, only landline and older door buzzer systems will only work with landlines too.

as a pc alternative, skype is still free for skype to skype users, it works rather well and can save money if you talk with friends/family that live a long ways away and have a pc w/a mic/webcam.  you can also use skype on an ipod touch too with Fring.

so again, it depends on your situation but another area one can save money.

Tip 5.  Consume less, use common sense

My last tip is one that is obvious but people really don't get it until they have to.  Use your common sense, if a deal is too good; it probably is.  No one gives away millions of dollars of money.  If you have to pay to get more money, you know its a scam.  Pyramid schemes do not work and a lot of times are laid out in way so it does not appear to be a pyramid scheme.

If you need to save money, consume less.  Do you really need that extra mocha? Try to replace expensive habits with cheaper alternatives; try DIY projects but also know when your far too out of your element (ie if its electrical related; leave it to the experts!).

Finally, we can not forget to give even though times are tough.  charities and those less fortunate still need our help even though things seem bad.