The New Year is upon us and with it comes those New Year’s resolutions. If one of yours is to cut costs to save and invest or pay down debt, we have good news. There’s a bunch of things you don’t have to buy anymore and here are nine of them.
Are you still paying for a landline? Many people have given them up and have gone exclusively to cell phones. One recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that two in every five US homes (40%) had only wireless phones. And about 38% of the total US population or 90 million adults are now wireless-only. If we were to give up our landline, and believe me I’ve discussed this with my wife many times, we’d save about $75 a month or around $900 a year. Giving up that landline doesn’t mean you’re limited to just cell phones, either. Skype is free and even allows video chatting from and to any place in the world via your computer or smart phone.
2. GPS devices
I can remember when I was excited to get a GPS navigation unit I could use in my car. It was a little unwieldy to use but certainly easier than juggling maps. Today, you don’t need one of these devices at all and I’m always surprised to see them for sale. In fact, the demand for these systems has basically plummeted. They sold about 18 million here in North America in 2009 but only 7.5 million in 2012 according to recent research from the Swedish firm, Berg Insight. Of course, drivers still need navigation systems but they can be had for a lot less than the usual $70 to $300. Map apps are available for most smartphones and many can be downloaded free. Or maybe your automobile has a built-in navigation system as many of the 2013 model-year cars had them.
3. Cable or satellite TV
Are you still spending $100 or more a month on cable or satellite TV? You don’t need to. Nearly 58 million US households currently subscribe to cable TV but that’s a decrease of 17.6% from 10 years ago according to the research organization IHS. Why is this? It’s due to the many families who have “cut the cable” and gone to lower-costing options such as Netflix and Hulu that offer a lot of the same programs at a tiny percentage of the cost of cable or satellite service. If you have a computer you could buy a Chromecast dongle ($35), Apple TV ($99) or Roku ($39.95) and stream cable shows, sports, news and all kinds of other content to your HDTV and for just pennies a week.
4. Blu-ray and DVD players
The sales of Blu-ray and DVD players were down 20.1% in 2012 from 2011 or down 24.8% from 2010. You really don’t need either of these types of units when you could be streaming movies from Hulu, Amazon or Netflix to you HDTV. If you’re a gamer, you could use your Xbox One or Playstation 4 to stream films to your TV.
Just as cable TV is becoming less and less of a necessity, so are two-year cell phone contracts. The problem with them is that they come with more negatives than advantages. You can’t upgrade to a new phone without getting hit with a big fee or signing another contract. And a number of these plans come with fine print that could leave you paying more than the starting monthly price you were quoted in the store when you purchased the phone. Fortunately, that old consumer’s friend called competition has caused some new options. For example, you could chose to pay full price (the “unsubsidized” price) for a new phone without a contract. The phone will cost you a lot more than one that comes with a contract but your monthly service bill should be about half of what you’re now paying. You can find these devices at stores such as Best Buy, Walmart and Virgin Mobile as well as some of the regular wireless carriers.
6. Desktop and laptop PCs
We see stores still selling desktop PCs and always wonder who buys these dinosaurs. We see no good reason to buy a desktop computer when you could have a laptop and take all of your computing with you. For that matter, you may not even need a laptop, what with all the tablets now available. They offer most of the same functions as a laptop – watching videos, sharing photos and surfing the web – but are a lot less expensive. Apple’s iMacs (desktop computers) start at $1299 and MacBooks (laptops) start at $999, while you can get an iPad for $299. Of course, tablets aren’t for everyone. If you’re a graphic designer or stock trader and need a big screen, you may find it hard to give up that desktop or laptop computer. However, it’s interesting to note that the shipments of PCs worldwide fell 4% in 2012 compared to the year before and that this is lowest level since 2009.
7. Hotel rooms
The demand for hotel rooms continues to rise and so do their costs. The daily rate for US hotels averaged $110.59 in 2013, which is up 4.1% from 2012 and 12.6% from 2010. And it’s expected to increase to $115.68 this year. This has forced many travelers to seek alternative places to stay when they vacation such as renting an apartment or a home in their destination area. These options not only cost less per night than a hotel room but also provide more space. There are services like Airbnb and Vacation Rentals by Owner where you can choose from a collection of homes to stay in. Some of the owners of the apartments and houses even offer free airport pick-ups and drop-offs. However, there is one downside to this and that’s you may have less security.
Some of the credit card providers have been boosting their rewards or points programs the past few years. But it’s now better to stay away from any cards with these rewards. Why is this true? Many of them require their cardholders to spend more money to receive the same “free reward” they would have earned previously with fewer points. In addition, many of these rewards cards come with annual fees that can range from $30-$75. What you might consider instead is a credit card that comes with “cash back.” This is a much more straightforward deal. You spend a certain amount of money on the card and get anywhere from 1% to 5% cash back. Plus, you can spend the cash anywhere you would like instead of being tied to airline miles or certain offers.
Remember when those little, sleek-looking, point-and-shoot digital cameras were all the rage? They made picture taking — you should pardon the expression — a snap. But today the demand for these cameras is slowly disappearing. It’s estimated that about 11.5 million were sold in 2012, which is down 44% from the prior year. This is according to the Consumer Electronics Association. The problem is that cameras are having an identity crisis. If you want top-quality photos you could enlarge to sizes like 2′ x 3′, you would want one of the larger DSLR cameras. If not, you would probably be happy to stay with one gadget – your smart phone – that also takes pictures. Plus, there are now cameras designed for specific kinds of people like those thrill-seekers who choose cameras such as a GoPro that captures action instead of just still pictures.