Budgeting Your Electronic Gadget Billings : Part I

What Electronic Gadget Services Do You Want To Budget?

Are electronic gadget utility bills a major budget concern for you? Do you want to save money on your electronic gadget service provider bills each month? Can you drastically reduce the amounts you are paying now? I will relate what I did and how you can do it as well!

In 1984 we got our first computer. It was a Zenith by Heathkit model with an all-inclusive keyboard, computer screen, and floppy disc drive. It was hard to use and very slow. Add to that the fact you could not store much data on it. Successive upgrades have taken us through IBM PC’s, Hewlett-Packard desktop models. Now we have our laptops, iPads, and smartphones.

I don’t remember when we first got cable tv. It sure was so much better than using an antenna for the limited network programs you were stuck watching. And big heavy television sets were not producing very good onscreen images. What a difference time makes when technology ramps up the stuff we have today.

I knew ahead  of time that before moving to the country lifestyle I would have to find out what type of services were available. To operate the electronic gadgets we were used to having in the city, research goes a long way.

I am going to name providers because it ties in with my story. It also makes it easier to delineate between a service that works and is cost-effective and one that doesn’t fit the bill. Sometimes you second guess yourself, but decisions properly made usually work out in the long run.

Mobile Communications Preplanning

I had Sprint mobile service for a long time only because I started out with Nextel. The giant cell phone provider bought them out. I loved the Nextel 2 way walkie-talkie feature. Doing work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina wiped out regular mobile phone service for a while.

In time my relationship with Sprint deteriorated due to poor service and misleading promotions that forced me to threaten them with legal action if not corrected. On top of that, the research I did for the area I was interested in moving into gave light to a big problem. Sprint had poor coverages for my cell phone and that I would possibly be on extended service or roaming in certain areas of the Panhandle.

That type of restricted service reminded me of a time when we visited our son and his wife in upstate New York. My carrier had no direct service in that area and when we used our phones, we found out later that our signal was being received and transmitted from Canadian cellphone towers. They charged Sprint and we got those extra costs placed on our monthly bill.

I did not want anything like that to happen again. So I did my fact findings and decided Verizon was the best choice. Their site map showed virtually complete coverage for the same area. Their initial rates were competitive with Sprint and their different plans were well laid out and easy to customize. On signing up, we got 2 new iPhones when we switched and traded in our old phones for credit. We allowed for the financing of the phones to be added to our monthly bill, and we would pay them off over two years. It turned out to not be the best decision we could have made.

Budgeting Your Cell Phone Plan  

We did have a decent mobile usage plan that would have fit our budget, but financing those 2 phones with Verizon cost an extra $70. per month. Granted, I got maxed out phones that worked well for our business endeavors, but retirement found the extra cost burdensome. However, I hung in there and finally paid them off.

One thing in our favor was that most of our data usage came through the internet service in our house. We did not use the cell towers for the “Cellular Data” function that kicked in when there was no “Wifi” working nearby. So I was able to take our plan down to 2 gigabytes. The included an unused data carryover feature from the previous months billing cycle. That move saved me an extra $40. per month because I was carrying 8 Gigs before.

However, I wanted more cuts after completing our plan. So I called a customer rep and asked where we could have additional savings. After some tweaking, he was able to get our monthly charge below $100. which suited me fine. We are careful with our data usage, now, and use local WiFi outlets in restaurants, shopping outlets, etc. where feasible.

WARNING:
Most experienced mobile phone users know this, but I will mention the danger of background programs running on your phone.

 

I had a real eye opener happen to us when we visited my sister and her husband in the New Orleans area one summer. Inexperienced with controlling data that is fed directly to a cell tower, I did not delete multiple background programs that were running on my iPhone for the first 2 days of the trip. To my horror, our 2 gigs of monthly data allotment disappeared in a heartbeat. The carryover data was all we had left. I panicked and turned off all the data connects for each App on both of our phones.

 

Learning from that experience, I only leave connects open on things like Maps, 1 internet function, and a few others. And I regularly get rid of background programs that continue running and eating expensive data.

Satellite TV Can Really Eat Into Your Budget

Years ago I had Direct TV but did not like the programming. I would have had to pay extra for high-definition TV at that time. So I switched to Dish. Our plan includes a main DVR recorder with a main hub modem and 2 joey receivers for operating TVs in 3 locations. Since the main hub is the only one that requires a coax feed, we did not have to deal with running wires to the other parts of the house.

This decision has worked out well. Except for thunderstorm outages, we have been happy with our service. But the cost went up when we moved to our new house in the country. That bill was too high being in the neighborhood of $144. per month.  Our new budget was getting hit hard.

I decided to call a customer service agent and see what I could do about it. Well, it turns out that I could eliminate certain channels that I wasn’t watching and start there. Also, if I agreed to another two-year contract, I could have additional savings. We were already with Dish TV for 6 years and did not have any plans to change.

As a result of this manipulating, the monthly bill dropped to $108. This is a savings of $36.00 a month and now we have another expense that fits within our budget.

Unlimited Internet 

I had to ask my son, Eric, for advice on this one because he owns a computer repair service. He has extensive knowledge with internet providers. Without his input, this one could have been a costly mistake.

My choices for our rural home were the CenturyLink, Spectrum, and HughesNet service providers. Eric told me about the horrific performance speeds and periodic billing up charges with HughesNet. He encountered similar problems with Spectrum, getting his input from some of his customers who used those services.

I knew nothing about CenturyLink, and he didn’t either. But I took a chance on them and it paid off. I got their promotional package at $73. per month for the first year of service. This was okay for my budget at the time. Since we operate everything on WiFi we do not need direct connects to run gadgets. The technician only had to run a feed wire from the in-place outside junction box. It went into our office to locate the modem for transmission.

Their service provides 25 mbs performance and “unlimited data usage”. This was very helpful when our daughter and her husband (with Kindle-toting kids) lived with us for a year. They used the internet exclusively for communication and a fixed data plan would have easily creamed our utility budget.

Getting The Internet Savings We Longed For!

At the end of the promotional period, their price went up to $93. per month  with an extra $14. charge if you paid your bill late. I was tempted to explore the special offer Dish TV made if I hooked up with Hughes Internet in a package Deal. Century Link had a similar one with Direct TV. What to do!

After consulting with Eric on the current status of HughesNet, I decided to stay with what I had. But I still needed to cut the Internet bill to stay within budget. So I kept researching any new promotions from Century Link and finally found one that would cost me $45. for life with a $10. add-on charge for rental of a modem. Now I was really within my cost savings area and they even sent me a new updated modem a year later when the first one started to fail, at no additional charge.

 

NOTE ABOUT MODEMS:

You can save money in the long run if you purchase your own modem but I chose not to. I had one fried (along with a PC computer and cordless phone), done in by an electrical surge running through our house in Orlando, probably caused by a nearby lightning strike. Costing anywhere from $100. to $180., a new one can be ruined in a heartbeat, and you’re on the hook for a new one.  That creams your budget! 

In severe lightning saturated thunderstorms, I disconnect TV’s and electronic chargers to avoid damage. And cooked rented units get replaced by the service provider, usually only costing the price of shipping.

Conclusion

I guess there are a good number of homesteaders that do not need mobile phones, internet, or cable television. You can pass the time reading books, gardening, cooking, chores or projects around the house. It’s nice listening to some favorite music. We love to do all those things as well.

But I now love writing my blogs on my iPad and laptop. I use my phone on the go for map functions, local information, and weather. My wife communicates with friends and we both pay bills online.

Everyone seems to have a cellular phone these days. There are all sorts of budget-friendly plans out there to make it all easy for individuals to sign up. Maybe that’s all you need, or want.  That scenario helps keep your particular expenses more inline with your income, if saving money is a priority.

But most people seem to have all 3 services. It makes sense, then, to get the monthly costs in line with your available income. And in doing so, try to find providers that give you good service as well as billing procedures. Don’t allow for them to sneak in new or hidden future charges when you least expect it. It is all well worth it!

ALSO SEE:  Budgeting Your Electronic Gadgets Billings: Part II; Budgeting Your Electronic Gadgets Billings: Part III; Budgeting Your Electronic Gadgets Billings: Part IV

 

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