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 the keyboard, computer screen, and floppy disc drive built in to a single, all inclusive unit. It was hard to use, very slow, and you could not store much data on it. Successive computer upgrades have taken us through IBM PC’s and Hewlett-Packard desktop models. Now we have our high performance laptops, iPads, and smartphones.
I don’t remember when we first got cable TV, but when we did, it sure was so much better than using an antenna for the limited network programs you were stuck watching before. On top of that, big heavy television sets were not producing very good onscreen images. What a difference time makes when the clock is ticked forward and we see how technological improvements and creative thought patterns have gradually entered the picture and dramatically improved the stuff we have today.
I knew ahead of time that, before moving out into a rural environment, I would be faced with the task of finding out what type of services were available. If I wanted our electronic gadgets to have operational capabilities similar to what we had become used to in the city, a lot of research would be required to help me make the right decision.
So, let me begin this treatise by stating that I am going to reveal the names of service providers I have used because their programs tie directly in with the essence of my story. It also helps me delineate between a service that works well and is cost-effective as opposed to 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 Efforts
I had Sprint mobile service for a long time only because I started out with Nextel before the giant cell phone provider bought them out. I had that original service provider because I loved how their indigenous cell phones incorporated a unique 2 way walkie-talkie option that was built in. That all important feature proved itself out as a viable emergency contact system in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina wiped out regular mobile phone service for a while.
In time, after that iconic device was phased out, 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 most of the outlying communities and that meant I would possibly be shuffled into extended service mode or alternate provider roaming charges in many areas of the Panhandle.
This inferior type of restricted service was a feature I considered totally unacceptable. It left me with a feeling that reminded me of a time when we visited our son and his wife in upstate New York. Sprint 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 online research and decided Verizon was the best choice over other possible competitors. Their site map showed that coverage for the same area was virtually complete with a small percentage of “dead zones”. They also advertised rates that were competitive with Sprint and had different plans that 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 so we could spread the hefty price tag over a two year period. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made at the time.
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” outlets working nearby. So, I was able to take our plan down to the cost effective 2 gigabytes level for use when we were out and about.. This plan 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.
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. Since I was inexperienced with controlling data that is fed directly to a cell towers, 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 and a message on my phone warned that I would be charged for overages at prevailing rates. The carryover data was all we had left. When I became aware of this fact, 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 up 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 which allows HD without an additional charge. 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 the disruptions caused by thunderstorms, 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 way too high being in the neighborhood of $144. per month. My restricted budget was getting hit hard.
So, 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 was a savings of $36.00 a month and I was happy that I could rearrange another expense so it would fit within my budget.
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 feed 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 my 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 added 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. I was in a quandary trying to make a decision!
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 so that I could 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 acting up, and did so without adding an 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. Any cooked rented units get replaced by the service provider and may only cost me the price of shipping.
I guess there are a good number of homesteaders that do not need mobile phones, internet, or cable television. They probably have found that their time is better served by reading books, gardening, cooking, occasional chores, or projects around the house. It’s also nice listening to some favorite music now and then. We favor doing all those things as well.
But I now love writing my blogs on my iPad and editing them on my laptop. In addition to receiving calls, I use my phone on the go for map functions, local information, and weather. My wife communicates with friends and relatives via messaging outlets and we both pay all our bills online.
Everyone seems to have a cellular phone these days. There are all sorts of budget-friendly plans out there which make it easy for individuals to sign up. Maybe that’s the only device you need, or even want. That’s fine, because the elimination of TV service charges and those that come with having internet capability in your home helps keep your particular expenses more inline with your budget if saving money is a priority.
However, most people have all 3 services. So, it makes sense to get the monthly costs in line with your available income. And in doing so, you should find providers that give you good service as well as cost effective billing procedures. Don’t give a company leeway to sneak in new or hidden future charges when you least expect it. It is all well worth the effort when you take time and engage due diligence procedures for making a choice!
I am requesting that my readers click on the links provided and download a sample read of each book and give a review on Amazon. You will have free access to the first four chapters of each book. My hope is that you will like the story lines enough to obtain either an eBook version or a paperback copy that you can put on your bookshelf as a masterpiece when you are done. FATE STALKS A HERO I: RESURGENCE, FATE STALKS A HERO II:THE FIJI FULCRUM, and THE SAGA OF HERACLES PENOIT. I will be giving excerpts on these works in upcoming blogs to familiarize you the reader with exciting details about the contents of each one. Thank you!