Technology Moneysavers

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How to Spot a Technology Money-Waster

In technology purchases, there are some money pits you should avoid. Some are obvious, but others masquerade as bargains. You may save now, but you'll definitely end up paying later.

Not enough RAM: Skimping on RAM to keep the price of a new PC low, thinking you'll just add memory later if need be, is fine if the system has open RAM sockets. But many PCs--laptops in particular--arrive with no spare rooms at the memory inn. Consequently, you'll have to discard the existing modules to make room for the new ones--so an upgrade from, say, 2GB to 4GB of RAM will cost you the full price of the 4GB of RAM.

So a word to the wise: If you plan on equipping your system with, say, 4GB of RAM, buy it with 4GB of RAM. (And remember, you'll need a 64-bit OS to address that much RAM.)

Cheap printer, pricey ink: A budget ink jet printer can turn out to be a money sink if you don't look closely at ink prices. Take the Epson WorkForce 40: It costs only $130, but a regular-size black ink cartridge costs $17 and yields only 230 pages--meaning you're out a whopping 7.4 cents per page. If you print in volume, buying a cheap printer without considering the cost of consumables is almost certainly a recipe for regret.

Counterfeit hardware: You've heard of counterfeit bills and counterfeit diamonds, but counterfeit cell-phone batteries? Yep, they're out there, along with bogus laptops, flash drives, and PC components. These bargain-priced items are not only unreliable, they're potentially dangerous: A shoddy battery could overheat and burn your phone--and maybe you at the same time (see "Fakes!" for this and other horror stories).

How can you steer clear of counterfeit hardware? Buy only from reputable merchants and avoid too-good-to-be-true deals.

You may get a come-on like this after you complete a purchase. Think twice.
"Free" money: You've seen these come-ons before: After you buy something online, a pop-up promises you, say, $10 off your next purchase if you'll complete a short survey. Sounds reasonable, right? Just one problem: To get the credit, you have to agree to receive offers from one or more other companies. Translation: A landslide of spam awaits you. Is a mailbox packed with even more junk mail worth a measly 10 bucks? Think twice before you click on that offer.

"Free" shipping: I'll admit it: I'm a sucker for Amazon's "free shipping on orders over $25" deal. So what if the book I want is only $10.95? All I have to do is order another $14.05 worth of stuff and I'll avoid that $3.99 shipping charge!

Yeah, math was never my strong suit. Obviously, $10.95 plus $3.99 equals something well below $25. Don't let the appeal of saving $4 con you into spending an extra $11 (or whatever it works out to be). Stuffing your shopping cart makes sense only if your preshipping total comes within a few bucks of $25--and you can find a worthwhile item that brings the total to around $25 even. Then it's like getting a freebie.

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