Four areas in your life you can get techy without taking out your wallet
Many millennials and digital natives have migrated their lifestyle online and in doing so have paid the price of convenience. Such convenience has come in the form of a monthly subscription fee to get access to craveable content. While a single subscription fee may have only a minor impact on one’s budget, when coupled with subscription fees across different digital services, the budget impact becomes more severe. This is further exacerbated by the rising subscription costs being charged by service providers and media conglomerates who have realized content is king and have gone on a spending spree in an effort to acquire digital content.
Thankfully, a convenient digital lifestyle doesn’t need to come with a high price tag. In many areas of your digital life, there’s no need to trade cash for convenience as you progressively shift your lifestyle online. In this article, you’ll find ways to practice sustainable frugality in various areas of your digital life. This means getting what you need without borrowing login credentials from friends, illegally downloading the content you love, or managing multiple e-mail accounts in order to rotate through free trials offered by many digital services.
But to reduce the cost of your digital footprint, you must take a mindful look at what content you consume and adopt a willing attitude towards giving up a few things in order to save some cash. Simply put, a frugal move to the digital realm requires some digging through the internet’s ‘free’ bin in order to yield meaningful results. Below we break down some of the best options in each bin, along with the hidden gem we like the most in each category.
Since viewership can be monetized by methods other than subscriptions (primarily advertising), there are a number of completely free streaming services that provide valuable content to the viewer. Two of the more established options include Pluto TV and Sony’s Crackle streaming service. Pluto acts more like a free channel aggregator and provides plenty of news, weather, sports, and even a smattering of movies. Sony’s service is more movie focused and rotates content on a monthly basis.
In addition to online streaming services, many libraries provide a solid selection of recently released blockbusters. Although you need to be physically present to check out certain discs, like Blu Ray movies, the free nature of the transaction puts even the best Redbox coupon to shame.
Speaking of libraries, an increasing amount of digital content is now accessible online with a free library membership, and Kanopy may be the best option when it comes to free viewable content. Although each library has a limit for what you can rent a month, and you may not find everything you want on the service, there’s a solid selection of content that can keep the family entertained for hours.
Hidden Gem: Good old-fashioned Over the Air (OTA) TV is still a great source of watchable content. In most areas of the country, the networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) are accessible via an antenna and there’s an ever-growing number of DVRs that can capture and store OTA content (Recast, Tablo, HD Homerun). Additional digital sub-channels (non-network programming) are increasingly being added to support the re-birth of OTA TV.
With a nearly unlimited number of free options available across the big streaming services, there’s hardly any reason to pay for music. Stalwarts like Pandora are still around and provide quality content, while Spotify, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and hundreds of other services can help fill in the gaps for your music needs.
Hidden Gem: Listening doesn’t just mean music, and oftentimes the hours in your day are better filled by listening to educational podcasts or public radio. If you haven’t already, the best bet for filling your ears with quality content would be to download a podcast aggregator and download your favorite podcasts. Personally, I use Podbean as my podcast aggregator and listen to a different type of podcast each day to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. But more on that in a future post.
You don’t need an Audible or Kindle Unlimited membership to get great audio and eBooks (though they’re both great ways to fill in the gaps if you can’t find what you’re looking for on a free service). Similar to Kanopy, most public libraries provide access to great digital media through services like Libby, Flipster, and OverDrive. While some of these are geared towards the academic side of the spectrum, some have mainstream books that you might find atop the New York Times bestseller list.
Hidden Gem: If you’re interested in more mainstream material, Hoopla is one of the most common library-provided services and has both audio and eBooks for downloading. Like Kanopy, there’s usually a monthly rental limit (for me it’s 7), but I’ve rarely exhausted my quota. If there’s one theme you should be picking up by now, it’s how valuable a free library card can be. Even better, many of these services don’t require you to step foot in the library once you have that card. It may have taken a while for libraries to catch up to the digital age, but they’re now all in.
There may not be a magic bullet to avoid paying for the items you shop for on a regular basis (though some of those extreme couponing sites may say otherwise), but there are ways to benefit from the convenience of technology without paying an additional fee or a premium for the service. I don’t personally recommend online meal services because of the premium you pay compared to a grocery store visit, but you can achieve much of the same end result by leveraging the online ordering and free pickup options provided by most major retail establishments. Most regional or national grocery chains like Kroger and Hy-Vee provide free pick up, at least when you meet a minimum price threshold. So take advantage of the fight Brick & Mortar stores are putting up against online-only establishments, as their services may not be free for long.
Hidden Gem: With all the news around Walmart Grocery it’s a bit of a stretch to consider the program a hidden gem; however, it is worth the hype. Nearly everyone drives by a Walmart on their commute to-and-from work, so stopping to pick up groceries is hardly an inconvenience. Plus Walmart requires only a $30 minimum to wave the pick-up fee, has a pretty solid app that lets the pickers know when you’ll be there, and will substitute for things that aren’t available (which generally benefits the shopper).
Disclaimer: This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.