Technology is awesome in so many ways. It makes our lives easier, brighter, bolder, louder -- and just more fun. Unfortunately, it’s also pretty expensive. Unless you have an unlimited pile of cash, you find yourself wading through all of the choices, trying to determine what’s worth the dough and what’s a waste of your hard-earned money. We’ve compiled a list of the technology investments we think are worth the cash, along with a little info on how to shop for the one that’s right for you.
Who doesn’t have a smart phone these days? A cell phone is pretty essential in today’s world, but if you really want to get things done, choose a smart phone. They are a bit pricier than basic cell phones, and so are their service plans, but you’ll find that it’s money well spent. Not only can you use it for calls, texts, emails and web surfing, but the apps you download can help you stay organized, on track and on budget! Plus, once you have one, you’ll never believe you were able to survive without it. To save a little money, pay close attention to the memory space on the phone you purchase. Unless you’re going to download several full-length movies or thousands of songs, you probably don’t need the phone with the biggest storage capacity. Also, choose a carrier that offers discounted upgrades every two or three years. This way, it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get the newest model.
Take our Quiz: Do you need a smart phone? >>
At first glance, it’s hard to justify the cost of a tablet. It’s not quite a cell phone, not quite a laptop. After using one for just a few days, you’ll be hooked. They’re great for web browsing and handy for responding to email. The larger screen makes it much more enjoyable to look at than the screen of a smart phone, and it’s smaller and easier to carry around than a laptop. You’ll also find that the battery lasts a lot longer than the battery in your laptop. Basically, while it doesn’t replace your phone or your laptop, you’ll find that it makes a great addition to your little family of portable devices. If you want to save money, opt for one that’s Wi-Fi ready, but without 3G capabilities. You’ll discover that most places you want to use it (like home or work) will have Wi-Fi anyway.
Check out On-the-go technology must-haves >>
If you like to read, invest in an e-reader. They are a little pricey up front, but the books are much cheaper, so you’ll save tons of money in the long run. In fact, you’ll find that there are many e-books available completely free. You’ll also save on storage space because paper books take up a lot of shelf space. Plus, there’s nothing like finding a book you really want to read and owning it seconds later. Most e-readers come equipped with web browsers, so you can even use them for so much more than reading!
Read 5 Reasons to get an e-reader >>
Yes, laptops are pricey. Yes, they’re worth it -- at least for most people. Do you use a computer frequently (at least once a day)? If so, you’ll probably love the freedom that a laptop provides. Do you use your computer mostly for gaming? If that’s the case, you should stay away from laptops because most games won’t run on them.
The price range for a laptop is huge. You can spend $400 or $4,000, so it’s really important to know what you need and what you don’t. Enlist the help of a tech-smart friend if that’s not your thing, instead of going on the word of a salesman. Don’t get a computer with tons of bells and whistles that you won’t use and you’ll find that the cost is totally worth it.
If you like to take pictures, there’s no end to the joy you’ll find from a good digital camera. They key to making yours a good investment is finding one that has all of the features you need and none that you don’t. If your camera is super fancy and comes with tons of bells and whistles, you’re going to pay for all of that. If you’ll use it, go ahead and splurge. If you won’t, skip it. Try to find one with a digital video camera as well, if that’s a feature you may utilize -- it adds a bit to the cost but is much cheaper than buying a video camera as well.
OK, so a DVR may not sound like much of an investment, but it is! You can usually pick up a DVR from your cable provider for a small monthly fee. This little box will bring your whole cable package to life and improve your entire TV viewing experience. What’s the point of paying for cable service if you’re not home (or too busy) to watch the shows that you like? With a DVR, you can record the shows you like and watch on your time. Once you get one, you’ll never watch live TV again! If you have kids, you can record tons of their favorite shows, too. Most parents would agree that it’s hard to put a price on having a library of Dora and Mickey Mouse just a click away.
Have you tried video streaming yet? For a small fee every month, you can have a massive library of movies and TV shows at your fingertips. Depending on the company you choose, you can choose to stream through your computer, phone, video game console or more. How you use it is up to you -- some people choose to replace cable entirely with video streaming, while others use it as a supplement. Either way, it’s a small price to pay to never be able to say “there’s nothing to watch.”
If you can, find a way to test out a gadget before you make a purchase. Borrow a friend's for a day and decide if it's a fit for your life. No matter how well users review an item, it's not a good investment if it doesn't work well for you.
Tech tips from SheKnows