By CARLA Y. BUSH
While not everyone goes for an annual check-up at the doctor's office, they probably know they should and certainly know what that means. Another type of check-up is the financial check-up. But with all today's technology, there's another check-up you may need to consider-that's a tech/gadget check-up.
Gadgets and their upgrades can be tempting, but they can also strain the budget. Here are several ways to manage technology spending for you and your family:
Do you need or want the technology? Son going to college and need a computer to do communicate with classmates and do his work or does he just want it to play games? Would a smartphone help you with your work or give you a way to pass the time playing games? Do you just want to keep up with the Joneses? Ask yourself what real purpose the technology will serve for you.
Decide how the cost fits into your budget. Electronics and their accompanying month charges can take up a majority of your discretionary spending but may not be part of your spending plan. Determine how much you comfortably can commit to the purchase and upkeep, then don't go over that amount. If your children's wants exceed the budget, consider having them pitch in on the cost with their own money.
Determine the basic function you need and then figure out what gadget will perform that function sufficiently. Can one component accomplish the jobs of many? For example, can a smartphone or tablet substitute for your landline, laptop, digital camera, wireless Internet service and TV? If your family member's cellphones and cellphone services are an integral part of your lives and the costs add up, you might determine to drop your landline.
Don't fix it if it isn't broken. If you don't really need an upgrade, resist buying a new version just because you can. If something breaks, determine if you can use an old version or live without the technology until you really need it.
Find the best deals: Comparison shop online and wait for sales or until the price of a newly released gadget drops. Buy an older model, one with less memory or lower resolution. Determine whether you can save money by bundling with a family or couple's plan, or by switching from one service provider to another. Take the time to regularly evaluate all of your current plans. If you can get a better deal somewhere else, and you can handle whatever cancellation penalties are associated with your current contract, go ahead and make the switch.
Clear the clutter. Get rid of old gadgets taking up space in your home. Consider trading them in for collateral at big-box stores such as Target and Best Buy, or selling your stuff on Craigslist or eBay. If selling isn't an option, donate or recycle your gadget.
For ways to keep spending in check and be realistic about your shopping habits, visit www.smartaboutmoney.org. You can also enroll in Personal Financial Management Made Easy for more detailed insight into being a wise consumer.
Carla Y. Bush, MVTE
UT Extension, Cannon County
Family and Consumer Sciences
614 Lehman Street
Woodbury, TN 37190