10 Things Not To Buy in 2015

Category: Finance

Do you make New Year's resolutions? It's a good time to set goals, and since everyone wants to save money, I've got a list of ten things you don't need to buy in the coming year. Some you can get for free, some have much cheaper alternatives, and some are just completely unnecessary. Check out my list and see how much you can save in 2015...

Save Some Cash in 2015!

Evey year I make the same resolution: Gain forty pounds and start smoking. So far, I've failed every year on both counts, and that's a good thing. But I do like to save money. Like car insurance, routine tech expenditures should be reviewed annually to see if a better deal has come along. Due to the forces of technology and competition, many products and services are available much cheaper or even free of charge if you're willing to accept a different way of doing things.

There are things that nobody should buy, ever, because they are not worth a nickel. Then there are things that were once valuable (or just expensive) but are rapidly becoming obsolete (or superseded) by cheaper or even free alternatives. Here is my list of things not to buy in 2015:

Don't Buy This Stuff!

1: CABLE TV: The average monthly bill in the U. S. now exceeds $100, and it’s been rising 6% annually for the past decade. No wonder more than a million subscribers per month are “cutting the cable” and switching to online streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Youtube and other options that are free, or cost less than ten bucks a month. Gadgets like the Roku, Google Chromecast, and Amazon's Fire TV stick make it easy. See HOWTO: Connect Your PC to TV, Wirelessly!

2: MUSIC: Long gone are the days when we trekked to the music store to buy vinyl records. Even CDs have seen their day come and go, now that digital music stores like iTunes, Amazon Music, and Google Play offer a la carte downloads for about a buck. But I've found that my needs are satisfied by free online music streaming services like Slacker, Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio.

3: BRAND-NAME PRINTER INK: OEM (original equipment manufacturer, or brand-name) printer ink cartridges can be a huge rip-off. A single black cartridge, rated for less than 1,000 pages, can cost $60 at an office supply store! Remanufactured ink cartridges cost less than $20 each from uncountable small suppliers. You may have to deal with false “out of genuine ink” warnings from OEM software, but you can click them away while counting your savings. Contrary to rumors perpetuated by OEMs, using non-OEM ink cartridges does not void your printer’s warranty. See The Truth About Discount Ink Cartridges.

4: CREDIT MONITORING and/or identity theft protection programs offer peace of mind, but that may already be yours for free. Most banks offer limitations of liability for unauthorized card charges. Many offer free transaction alerts via email and SMS messages. Credit reporting agencies will “freeze” your credit history so no one can open a new line of credit unbeknown to you. (See 10 Tips: Identify Theft Protection)

And if you’re one of the hundreds of millions of Americans whose financial data has been stolen by hackers, the companies that were supposed to keep it safe routinely pay for a year’s worth of credit monitoring. Also, never pay for a credit report; learn how to get one for free whenever you need it.

5: EXTENDED WARRANTIES have been foisted onto consumers since automobile undercoatings were invented; they have always been a scam. A recent variation is the “connected device insurance” being pushed by some phone vendors and internet service providers. Read why I call these programs scams and how to insure every electronic device you own for one annual premium that’s less than your monthly Internet access charge.

6: DEDICATED FAX MACHINES make no sense for home or small business users anymore. You can send or receive faxes for free via the Internet. If you must send or receive a paper fax, all-in-one printers include fax functions and a phone jack.

7: DIGITAL CAMERAS: Clunky dedicated digital cameras are dispensable for the average consumer, and even for serious amateur photographers. The mobile phones of five years ago had wimpy 1.3 megapixel lenses, but the high-resolution cameras and photography software built into today’s smartphones and tablets are more than sufficient for non-professional uses. On the high end, the Nokia Lumia 1020 sports 41MP capability!

8: STORAGE MEDIA: Cloud storage and computing is making a lot of tech obsolete. Who needs shiny plastic CD/DVD discs these days? USB thumb drives should be avoided at all costs given recent revelations about their inherent security vulnerabilities. Every conceivable kind of software is now available as a cloud-based service; the days of downloading and installing programs locally are drawing to a close, and shrink-wrapped software is a distant memory for most people.

See also Ten Free Cloud Backup Services to learn how you can get over a TERABYTE of free online storage.

9: OFFICE SOFTWARE: Speaking of open-source software, many home users and even businesses find that they can get along just fine without Microsoft Office. Free alternatives (both traditional and cloud-based) are available. My article Alternatives to Microsoft Office will point you to the best of them.

10: ANTIVIRUS: And finally, are you still paying for internet security software? There's nothing wrong with the Norton or McAfee antivirus that came with your computer, except for the price tag. My article on Free Anti-Virus Programs will clue you in on several alternatives that provide excellent protection.

HERE'S A BONUS, which I mention last because it's not really a tech-related thing. Brand-name razor blades have been a rip-off since they were invented; the plan has always been to sell razors cheap and make immense profits on blades. Gillette's cartridges sell for around $3 each, but now there are numerous low-cost competitors available online. The Dollar Shave Club made a big splash online about two years ago, offering blades for about $1.50 per cartridge. But I learned that I could order from their supplier Dorco USA and get them for half of that.

Let 2015 be the year you stop spending money that you don’t need to spend. Review all of your frequent purchases, services, recurring subscriptions, etc., and take a good look at the free and/or lower-priced alternatives. Did I miss anything? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment about using the Internet to save money...

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Most recent comments on "10 Things Not To Buy in 2015"

(See all 29 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

31 Dec 2014

Thanks, as always, for such practical information!

Posted by:

31 Dec 2014

I stopped paying for cable recently and have no regrets. I bought an external antenna (this one: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00DIFIO8E/) that I have mounted on the wall and can still get the local broadcast channels in hi-def for free. I still mostly watch streaming services through my Roku box as I hate the incessant commercials on broadcast TV.

Posted by:

31 Dec 2014

I was making my own prints at home. Then I got smart and now I take my memory card to Walmart and have them print them. Also, Costco now can refill your ink cartridges for much less than buying new ones. Great savings either way.

Posted by:

31 Dec 2014


The inkjet stories and the razor blades are closely related for the same reason!

Posted by:

31 Dec 2014

Another good article, Bob - thanks. Several of your comments however assume availability of consistent high speed internet service - wish that was true everywhere, but it's not. So for me cloud storage, 4g phone service and video streaming are still things to read about.

Happy New Year!

Posted by:

01 Jan 2015

Thanks for the tip on the razors. I cannot believe what I was able to purchase so cheaply.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2015

Bob, your comments may be spot on for those that have access to real high-speed internet. But for those of us living on the wrong side of the digital divide here in the US (i.e. rural) and whose only real option is still satellite internet...anything depending on the "cloud" and unlimited bandwidth simply does not apply. Can't stream video or audio, can't move/store many large images, can't do online backups...I have almost 2T of data on my system and I could never back it up with my upgraded "Pro" satellite internet service that offers a whopping 20GB/month. Yes, this is still the US, not Timbuktu...no offense to Timbuktu, they probably have better connectivity.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2015

I'm doing pretty good as I quit watching TV in 2000. Straight razor and a shaving brush and mug keeps shaving cheap since the downturn. I run Linux so AV, office suites and such are no problem. I agree with Phil though, cell phone cameras are no match for a good DSLR with good lenses. Best quality prints come from best quality inks. That being said not all printing is of equal value, hence photo printer, production printer. Nothing lost as the speed game is at play here. Same with music, MP3's and streaming are horrid, I had better sound from my 65' Fairlane's tube radio and dash speaker. Of course the Fairlane won't fit in my pocket, neither will my home system, so there are trade-offs. Great article, even for those of us that are admittedly getting a little eccentric.

Posted by:

Gregory McGonigal
01 Jan 2015

Always love your articles Bob, they pretty well describe my life style in most cases. I notice from the comments that most people who dissagreed with you did not realy read your words. You said your sugestions were for the "average user" or "non professional user". Then the professional user said he had to have better. duh!
As for keeping the cost of the internet reasonalble, I live in an old building divided into 4 apartments and all of us use the same internet hub/connection. We are in the +50 age group so are not heavy hitters on the data, therefore we all get all the internet has to offer at a quarter of the normal cost. Sharing has it's advantages.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2015

"Digital Cameras >> Probably for most this is a good recommendation but [IMHO] there is nothing like a DSLR with interchangeable lenses and flexibility for composing the proper photo. Plus the fact that I am the only person left in the US that still refuses to own a smartphone."-Randi O

And I thought I was the only one. I hate smartphones and am not a big fan of tablets either. One factor is their size-too small, uncomfortable and/or clunky to carry around.

Digital cameras-there is nothing like a good dedicated camera. How can any all purpose device seriously take pictures with remarkable zoom capabilities, settings that you can set or have it automatically done for you (while you learn how to work a REAL camera), different modes such as nighttime, sunset, and panoramic etc. I could go on but you get the idea. In your defense, I guess for the average person those devices are fine. I fail to see how one can frame a photo decently with them. But if you are the least bit serious about photography a stand alone camera is still the way to go. BTW, I have a 1.3 megapixel one that still works. You should see the pics taken in the micro mode.

Non-OEM ink cartridges - work on and off. One time our printer wouldn't even recognize them.

Streaming music - OK, I guess. I use the services but still nothing like a CD for sound quality. Heck, I even have some vinyls, scratches and all. Streamed music is very sanitized. Sure, the quirks have been smoothed out but it sounds may too "manufactured". This takes away from the raw and real sound that many bands and singers strive for.

But as always, you do a great job. Can't agree more about cable. If I could choose the channels I want, that would be great; but I can't. AMC has been running The Walking Dead marathon for 3 days, while TCM has Crawford, Davis and 4 movies showing Beatles, Stones and Hendrix. Guess which channel I'm stuck with.

Posted by:

01 Jan 2015

Bob, I love your articles. You always give such good information.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2015

IF you really want to save money on razor blades, ditch the goatee and grow a full set. The wife's dressmaking scissors are great for trimming so cost falls to zero.

You think I'm joking? I'm Welsh and we make the Scots look like spendthrifts!

Happy New Year


P.S. Check ebay prices on Amazon (often cheaper).

Posted by:

Gary Brodock
02 Jan 2015

Digital Cameras: I agree with previous posts, there is nothing like a good quality DSLR to get the pictures you want. Your article sums up the thoughts of most people - bigger is better (not size, but megapixels). Just because your smartphone has a 40 megapixel processor, it is a guarantee that the quality of the lens is not anything like a Canon or Nikon lens. So, collect an image through a cheap lens and you will get a blurry 40 megapixel image. That being said, the average consumer probably never connects the smartphone to their 60 inch TV to show the pics, where the lack of quality would be immediately visible. They probably never take a pic and crop a small section to become a new pic - another area where inferior pics just don't work. Smartphones have their place, just understand their limitations.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2015

Good suggestions, Bob, as usual.

"Cable": I can't get rid of my DirecTV. This is our complete entertainment, as we do not go to the movies or out to dinner. When, I say "out to dinner", I mean a real restaurant, not fast food! So, I have learned to wait, for the latest movies, to come on DirecTV. There are a few, that come to DirecTV, right as they are being shown in movie theaters. However, I refuse to pay the price, those are way too expensive, in my book.

"Fax": I learned years ago, to use an All-In-One printer, that has a "stand alone" Fax. I may only need to Fax, a couple of times a year, but, it does save me lots of time and money. I can do it all, at home ... No gas wasted or money spent at UPS, etc. ... No time wasted, either! The only bad thing ... Is when you are out of ink, right when you really need to do a Fax. I solved that problem, since, it happened to me ... I have backup ink cartridges, so, I am never out of ink!

"Anti-Virus": I do pay for the Premium, but, not the most expensive one, either. Usually, there are about 3 different prices, to Anti-Virus Software. I only want the one, where I can schedule scannings, without having to do it manually. Honestly, I am 71 years old and tend to forget, when I am suppose to do things, with my Desktop PC. So, I have not only my Anti-Virus software Pro or Premium, I also have my Malwarebytes Pro and CCleaner Pro, all for the same reason ... I can schedule automated scannings with the paid versions.

"OEM Ink": Again, learned that long ago, I only get Remanufactured or Generic Ink Cartridges. I simply, refuse to pay the prices for OEM Ink Cartridges!!! I have also, learned to look for the "bargains" in buying multiple cartridges, to save even more money. Plus, I really do like to have several cartridges, on hand, so when it's midnight and I need to replace some ink, I've got it, in my storage drawer. One of the best bargains, I ever have gotten, was a Brother MFC240CN printer. It was refurbished and only cost $30.00!!! I got it in December 2008 and it literally, just "died", in Summer 2014. I would say, I got more than my money's worth, out of that printer!!!

"Music": Must admit, my streaming Music sounds pretty darn good, on my PC Stereo Speakers! No, it is not like having a regular AV Receiver and excellent speakers, but, it does get the job done for me and trust me, when I say, I LOVE MUSIC ... It is ALL kinds of music, too!!!

"Cloud Storage": While, I do have a couple of Cloud Services, Dropbox and Google Drive, the only thing that I use my Google Drive for, is to backup my LG Smartphone. I got Dropbox, as a benefit from my Avast! Anti-Virus Software. I do keep the Dropbox up to date, but, for my Desktop PC, I prefer to use my Seagate 3TB External Drive.

Again, excellent article, Bob ... 100 AttaBoys for you, on this one! These type of articles, really help so many people and for those of us, who are computer savvy, it is an excellent reminder. Plus, the computer savvy people tell what we do and why we do it. :^)

Posted by:

02 Jan 2015

As a Board member for a cable access program which mainly is financed from cable subscriber fees--as mandated by federal legislation--I strongly disagree with the dump-cable recommendation. Community-based PEG access--Public/Education/Government--is a mainstay nationwide system which not only serves as a training model for community producers, unlike other broadcasting modes, PEG Access systems offer program producers unfettered unlimited opportunities to show anything coming across the transom at least once. That never happens with outlets such as Direct TV, much less "normal" systems. Eliminate cable and PEG access will fade away.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2015

I truly think we have abandoned QUALITY for things easy. Music! This I know because I've played in a band since I was 15. I'm old now! MP3's and itunes are terrible. The best music recordings were Direct to Disk, followed by regular vinyl records. In a stereo shop I heard a Thelma Houston D2D record played through 2 Macintosh tube amps, and a pair of Kilpsch corner horns. Unreal quality.

Cameras! I was a pro photographer. My own studio. Cell phone photos are really not good. Film is best. Film (120 Hasselblad) costs about $20 a roll for film/processing/printing 12 shots. My digital Canon T3i cam is basically free. Are the images the same? NO! But the Canon is easy and cheap. I shoot mostly digital, but I always bag my Hassie 500CM for special shots.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2015

Rel your info on razor blades. If you keep your razor in a small glass of vegetable oil you will get many more shaves out of it. Theory being the blades do not get dull but microscopic rust builds up on them. Keep up the good work,

Posted by:

04 Jan 2015

I agree with Bassman, who says we have abandoned quality for things easy.

CAMERAS: Like several others, I like my digital camera, and no, Randy O, you are NOT the only one without a smart phone! I tend to want to do things at which a camera still excels.

MUSIC: My husband and I both have a musical background. We have a great stereo system, and CDs definitely sound better than MP3s. So while I listen to lots of MP3s, mostly when exercising or at the computer, for serious listening I will keep my CD player.

CABLE: Since we are far from a "local" station, I will also stick with cable. When a tornado is on its way, I want the local broadcast! (A rooftop antenna would get us nothing--the stations are too far away.) We switched from satellite to cable because we were able to lower our costs--to get some of the stations we liked without paying for channels we never watch.

BACKUPS: I am paranoid about losing my files, so I alternate between two external hard drives. Our cable internet is fast, but I still do not trust "the cloud" to be as secure as my own desktop and hard drives.

Posted by:

Oswaldo Gomez
05 Jan 2015

I will be very, very serious in what I'm about to say: I will carefully read this article at least two more times, follow your recomendations and bookmark it for many years to come.
Thank you, Bob. Thank you very much.

Posted by:

05 Jan 2015

Regarding Razors

Per ClarkHoward.com you can actually use the same razor for at least a year if you dry it very carefully after each use.

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