Practical Technology

for practical people.

Spending money for the best and newest isn’t always the best idea

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It’s the holiday season, and if you’re like me, you’re being tempted by new toys. Who wouldn’t want a shiny new Apple iPad, a Motorola Droid II or an Amazon Kindle DX e-reader? I do — but I don’t actually need any of those things. I can still get a lot of use out of my first-generation Apple iPod Touch; my prehistoric, dumb-as-dirt cell phone; and a pile of paperbacks I haven’t read yet.

I recently wrote about Verizon’s latest ultra-high-speed home broadband plan, which offers a monthly deal of 150Mbit/sec. down and 35Mbit/sec. up for $194.99 a month. For me, with three Internet-compatible TVs and a LAN with two dozen PCs and servers, that kind of money can be justified. I’ve paid more for less — for example, having a fractional T1 with frame relay laid into my home office. For other people… not so much.

A friend of mine recently had a lot to say on this topic, and I’d like to share some of what she said: “I still own and use vinyl and VHS and cassettes, and a PC that has IDE cables and a floppy drive and a monitor that weighs more than a bowling ball. With my ever-shrinking, lower-middle-class income and my disdain for the must-have-new-toys, slavering, materialistic mentality of suburban America, I absolutely will never engage in this dance we do where the minute we buy things, they are already obsolete and their successor is on the way. We were raised by a generation of parents who would shriek to hear we need a new $200-to-$500 gadget every two years just to keep up. I haven’t left my roots. I also didn’t lose my shirt in the recession. I was already being frugal out of need.”

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