Friday, March 11, 2011

Using Technology to your Financial Advantage

DIY DVR, cell phone savings and no cost home phone with Google Talk

After completing a recent home audit of the subscriptions we utilize that carry monthly fees (DVR service and cell phone plans) I did some investigating to determine what we could do to save money using technology we already have in house or that could be acquired inexpensively.
Even though a home phone will be new to us, I'm including the "savings" in our total annual cost calculation to give readers a better feel for what they could potentially pocket each year -- $1,275.

Here's an overview of what we did:

Cable Guide, DVR and Cable Remote

Goal: Get rid of the Cabl
e DVR and Cable Remote and save on monthly rental and service fees

Materials Used: XBOX 360, Windows Media, Laptop, USB TV Tuner, Logitech

Results: Using an old laptop, and a USB TV Tuner, we installed Windows 7 Home Premium, and placed the laptop in the new space once occupied by our DVR on our media/tv stand. We fired up the XBOX and navigated to Windows Media Extender and retrieved the code to pair the XBOX with the laptop. After entering the code into the Windows 7 laptop, we successfully paired the two devices. Using our remote, we can turn the whole system on with the press of a button and watch TV, view TV Schedules on the built-in
guide, pause live TV, and record a program for later viewing.

Approximate savings: $24/month (approximate costs for DVR rental, DVR service, and Remote rental)


Goal: Find a lower cost smartphone option/plan. Our existing plan for 2 Verizon Droids with 1400 shared minutes and unlimited surfing was approximately $188/month.

Materials Used: Virgin Mobile Optimus and pre-paid no contract monthly plan.

Results: Virgin Mobile offers a truly outstanding smartphone plan that can save you a lot of money.

Cost: $130 for phone and $40
/month per person for 1200 talk minutes and unlimited texting and web.

Approximate savings: Waiting for the final bills for an official number but estimating $57/month.

(One of us did drop talk minutes but wasn't ready to leave Verizon and his soon-to-happen phone upgrade)

Home Phone

Goal: We've been using cell phones in lieu of a landline for over 6 years now but wanted to add a home phone given that we've dropped our cell phone minutes and can do so for $50.

Materials Used: Obi110 and Google Chat.

Results: We're currently waiting to receive the Obi110 from Amazon, but given the reviews, we think it's going to be fairly painless (It also helps my husband is a software engineer).

Price: One time cost of $49.99 + Free Shipping and free monthly service

Approximate Savings: Relationships -- more time to chat with friends and family without the fear of burning cell phone minutes.
All things considered, these have been essentially painless changes to our life style, and in the case of a home phone, a welcome addition. My only regret has been not taking action sooner. I'd recommend taking a serious look at your technology usage vs. expenses to determine what cost savings you can find and what cool new purchases you may be able to negotiate (Logitech remote comes to mind) given the savings you'll soon see.