Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cheap tip, period: technology ideas

These aren't necessarily green tips, but they are money-saving ideas that I'd like to pass along.

Net10 for cell phone service: About two years ago, I had completely had it with most traditional wireless phone services. I was tired of the poor customer service, the sneaky add-on fees in the bills, the two-year contracts with hefty early termination fees, the way they'd extend your contract without your knowledge every time you called to ask for any change in your services (often times to reverse a change that they'd made without informing you), and on and on.

I'd considered pay-as-you-go phones, but most seemed to work best for people who use them rarely. For the amount of minutes I used--typically about 450 a month--most pay-as-you go phones would be pretty costly for me.

Then I learned about Net10. The 10 stands for 10 cents a minute, which is what the phone costs to use (with minutes purchased in $20, $30, $60, or $100 increments). I've now been using Net10 for almost two years, and I love it! All of my complaints about typical cell phone plans are non-existent. And even better, you can add minutes online, saving both the environment (by not buying the disposable plastic cards to reload minutes) and money. Net10's best monetary deals are available if you pay online, so I now pay $25 a month for 750 minutes (which I never use up). And if I ever choose to discontinue service, I can just stop paying.

The best part about Net10 is the fantastic service. My husband became a believer this weekend. We took a trip to the Cascades to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and while in the mountains, his T-Mobile phone had no reception. As usual, my Net10 phone's reception worked perfectly. Net10 even offers a smart phone, the LG900, which is what my husband plans to switch to as soon as his T-Mobile contract is up. And for $50 a month he can get unlimited service, which is half (when you include all the fees) of what he currently pays for unlimited service with T-Mobile.

One caveat: Net10 offers excellent service at really cheap prices by saving money on the physical phones themselves, which aren't as well made as phones offered by other wireless carriers. I've had one phone that broke into pieces after 9 months, and my current phone has little quirks, such as occasionally freezing up (I have to turn it off and on again to restart it).

Netflix plus Roku in place of cable: Cable TV is another service in which I had been increasingly frustrated. Countless channels with at times nothing good to watch, the lack of ability to select only those channels we really wanted, poor service, and big jumps in cost after an initial startup period. No thank you! So we dropped cable about two years ago. Netflix, in contrast, costs $7.99 a month for unlimited movies and TV shows. I've read a few articles recently noting that several American households are like mine: they've opted out of cable for the much more affordable and more personalized services of Netflix instead.

The Roku streaming player device allows you to watch Netflix on your TV. It's pricey--we paid $79 for ours--but it's a one-time purchase.

But what about Internet? Since many people obtain their Internet service via their cable provider, foregoing cable means finding an alternative for getting online. We use Clear, a 4G wireless Internet provider, which doesn't require cable or installation. Monthly at-home service is only $35, and if you add an on-the-go device (allowing you to use your Internet service anywhere), the price goes up to $60 a month. Note: Clear isn't yet available in all areas of the U.S.

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