En español | While many complain about the high cost of some consumer electronics today, many of them can save you money, both in the short term and the long run.
Bah humbug, you say? Sure, sometimes an initial investment is required, but other cases offer completely free alternatives to paid software or services.
Three shopping apps that we mentioned earlier this year are still good ways to save. Here are a handful of other tech ways, both hardware and software, to ease the tension on your wallet.
Save on electricity; help the planet
You can save money on your home's utility bills all year round while also adding comfort, convenience and control.
• LED lighting. Replacing your incandescent or florescent bulbs with LEDs can greatly reduce the amount of power your home consumes. They sip rather than gulp electricity and have decreased in price since they first came on the market.
An LED equivalent in lumens, the brightness of a light, to a 60-watt incandescent bulb might need only 6.5 or 7 watts of power. The familiar “watts” that we've used for so long to make sure we have a bright enough light for reading are really a measure of energy used, not amount of light.
A bonus: LEDs can last considerably longer, which saves you even more money. Your local home-improvement store stocks a two-pack of dimmable A19 LEDs for less than $7. Those particular bulbs have an estimated 15,000 hours of life, more than five years if you use them eight hours a day.
"Smart” LED lights cost more but can join your Wi-Fi network for automation and app or voice control. And some can change among millions of colors.
• Wi-Fi thermostats. Smart thermostats let you easily adjust heating and cooling settings from your smartphone, smartwatch or tablet, and many can automatically optimize settings based on when you're home and when you're not.
By learning your schedule and detecting the weather, products like Google Nest ($249) or the ecobee family of smart thermostats (from $169) can save you more than 20 percent on your annual heating and cooling bills. The latest ecobee Smart Thermostat ($249) also has an Alexa personal digital assistant built in and can work with optional sensors to better manage hot and cold spots in your home.
• Switches, power strips. Special switches and power strips also can cut off electricity on demand or via a timer. Belkin has a line of Conserve-branded switches, starting at $10, that shut off power to what's plugged into it either with the flip of a switch or after a predetermined amount of time.
Conserve brand power strips ($39) can cut off any residual power to a device after a specific time or with a wireless remote switch. Supporting up to eight devices, these power strips include outlets you want on all the time while shutting off other plugs.
Get help with a virtual garage sale
Online classifieds sites such as Craigslist, letgo, Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor let you buy new or used items from those around you. They also could help you put a little cash in your pocket if you're taking this year's surprise time at home to go through years of accumulated stuff.
It's easy to create a listing, snap a photo and chat back and forth with interested parties through the app or website. But be sure to meet the buyer in a safe public place for the transaction, such as outside a coffee shop, and remember to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer before and after the exchange.
Comparison shop with browser add-on
With more than 17 million members, Honey is a sweet way to save money. This popular browser extension tool searches the Internet to bring you the best prices, including coupon codes across more than 30,000 websites, according to the company.
To get going, click to add Honey to your favorite web browser — be it Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera or Safari — and shop online like you normally would. Honey will sense where and what you're shopping for and let you know if it finds the best price elsewhere. Or if promo codes are available, it will apply them to your cart. Be aware that to offer you this service, Honey is looking over your shoulder when you to go websites where you can make a purchase. The company says it doesn't track all of your search history or emails.
Go digital for your entertainment
• Electronic books. In the same way Amazon Prime, Netflix and other streaming services have replaced your need to purchase or rent a box-set DVD, prices are often better if you buy a book, or sometimes music, digitally. For example, former President Barack Obama's book, A Promised Land, costs $35 in hardcover but less than half that for the electronic Kindle version at $16.35.
And you can borrow e-books for free from your local library or via several apps.
• Free streaming video. If you don't mind sitting through some advertisements, ad-supported video-on-demand services let you watch tens of thousands of hours of programming on your own schedule without paying a dime. The most popular options are IMDb TV, Tubi and Vudo. You just need sufficiently fast Wi-Fi — the necessary speed can vary based on the quality of the video image — and a device to watch it on.
Marc Saltzman has been a freelance technology journalist for 25 years. His podcast, Tech It Out , aims to break down geek speak into street speak.