Reflection and Resolutions
As the clock ticks closer to the end of a new year and the start of another, it’s a good time to reflect on what has been, and what you can do for yourself to make things better. Putting a little technology twist on things, I am going to focus on service subscriptions which became a bigger part of my life in 2013. Your list may differ from mine for various reasons , not limited to choice of OS or personal preference. But hey, it’s my article, so keep quiet and keep reading.
Office 365 – $99.00/year (5 users) – By far one of the best decisions I made this past year. A one year subscription, 5 user license, to all the Office 2013 products; Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access & Publisher. Not some silly online version of the software, but real programs on up to five different PCs, Tablets (well, Windows tablets) or MACs. Plus added bonuses like; 20GB of SkyDrive storage, an hour of Skype per month, and online access to temporarily download any or all the Office applications to any computer in the world. And the 5 subscriptions are not limited to just your personal machines. So you can install Office 365 on your spouses machine, your parents machine, your kids machine, your office machine. Basically any computer you have access to for 10 minutes to download the suite of programs. After that everything runs on auto-pilot.
Being a daily user of Access, and frequent user of Publisher, I typically had to go for Office Professional at $450+ for a two device license. As I always have at least 3 working PCs, I would typically fill in between years with an Office Home & Student license for the other machines. Then I would have to juggle different version of Office or be limited by what I could do on each machine. Now that’s all just a bad memory. This is one of those “silly not to” things. Just do it.
XBox Music – $99.00/year – I have been a subscriber to Zune/XBox Music for a few years now so this isn’t new to me. (Actually, I am still grandfathered into the $149/year plan which includes 10 tracks per month (a $9.90 value), but that option is no longer available to new subscribers.) Sure, there are quite a few music services out there, but XBox Music works best with my chosen platform, Microsoft. Download and stream your choice of music to multiple devices, including; PCs, tablets, XBox, the web, Windows Phone, Android or iOS. Listen to what you want to, when you want to, where ever you want to. What’s not to like.
XBox Live Gold – $59.99/year – If you have an XBox and don’t have a Gold subscription, well, you really only have an Box, or about half an XBox. Your XBox Gold subscription unlocks a world of change, like; multiplayer gaming, access to premium apps, Internet Explorer, Skype, and more.
Netflix – $8.60/month – $103.20/year – After activating the trial I didn’t think I would be keeping Netflix around for long, but it has grown on me. Sure, there are a lot of crappy movies. I have seen some of the absolute worst SyFi/Horror movies, that couldn’t come close to the B flicks of the 50s and 60s. But I have also found a good number of gems. Or other movies that you can find on network TV, with 30-40 in commercials, and 15 minutes of scenes clipped out. It was a real pleasure watching Christmas Vacation in its entirety last week, all in about 1.5 hours.
Amazon Prime – $79.00/year – I added this to my list of subscriptions in 2013, primarily to gain access to movies through Amazon Prime on XBox. But I never realized how many things I actually purchase through Amazon, now with the added benefit of discounted/free expedited shipping. A check of Quicken reveals that I made 26 purchases via Amazon since activating Prime in March 2013. Most of those purchases included free, expedited shipping. Add in many dozen movie/show viewings and the Prime membership is a real steal. At least for me it is.
Webroot Plus – $69.99/year (5 users) – I have been attacked a few times by a virus or malicious software/malware, but aside from some time I have never lost anything as a result. Webroot is light, and easy to install/manage. It does not bog your machine down, but still maintains silent 24/7 protection. This was the first year I actually had to pay for Webroot (they gave me a free year last October for switching from Prevx, a product the acquired) and was glad to do so. Like Office 365, you can use the 5 licenses on any machine you prefer. All you need to do is enter the key after installing the small, downloadable application and you are all set. I use licenses on my PCs, my work PC and my nephew’s PC. No problems. There is also a 3 user option for $44.99 if you don’t think you need 5 licenses. Don’t wait until after you get whacked. Add some prevention today. Just sayin.
Hotmail/Live – $19.95/year for each – I added these to round out my subscription list. Prior to Windows 8, I spent quite a bit of time on Outlook.com. It is especially frustrating to have a sidebar of ads when using a 4:3 monitor, which is what I have at the office (primarily for development compatibility with most of the monitors in the building). Now that most of my mail activity occurs on the Windows 8 desktop, paying to remove ads may not be all that important. But for $19.95/year, with the added benefit of more storage, I will probably keep these around for 2014.
Adding the above together sums out to $552.06/year for all my subscriptions. Looking at several of these individually, or all of them as a whole, can cause many to hide their wallet/purse. But I like to break things down into more manageable pieces. It makes them easier to swallow.
$10.62/week – That’s what it will cost me per week to reap the benefits of the seven services above. For many, including me, that’s a good chunk of change. But what can I/you cut out of our weekly budget to justify these costs?
$2.21/workday – That’s what the above will cost me per workday (assuming 250 days per year). Is there anything I can cut out of my daily budget to soften the blow of these subscriptions?
$1.51/day – And finally, the cost per day, every day. To gain all the benefits provided above; unhindered access to the full Office suite on every machine you use, access to tens of millions of songs to stream and download, an unlocked, fully functional XBox console, movies, more movies and free fast shipping, virus/malware protection everywhere, along with a general peace of mind.
– If you’re a smoker this is easy. Even if you are a light smoker. Stop! That will pay for all of this and more. You can put the rest towards your retirement, which you may actually get to experience someday.
– How about cutting back on the calories. This is my big one. I have always carried 30-60 more pounds than the charts say I should. If you equate calories to dollars this starts to make sense. I started last year by avoiding the “evil” vending machine at work. I had gotten into the habit of depositing $0.75 to $1.50 per day, adding 300-500 calories a day to my belly. I stopped that when I added several of these subscriptions and have only fallen off the wagon two or three times in the past six months. That, along with some exercise has helped me knock off about 12 pounds so far, but I have a way to go. As an added benefit, people now come to me with small change looking for quarters. That small change winds up in my piggy bank, so I actually am indirectly putting cash aside for theses subscriptions. When you do buy food/snacks, look for smaller, less costly portions. The few cents here and there will add up quickly.
– Bring a bag lunch to work. I know, there is no inflation, but every time I go into a restaurant, or buy any kind of food, the prices are higher. My bag lunch provides me with a predictable, balanced portion, which helps me lose weight, save time, and save money that I can use for the things above that keep on giving 365 days a year. My diet soda only costs $0.27 (sometime less) on sale vs. $0.50 out of the “evil” machine. That’s $1.15 a week right there. See how easy this is.
– Shop smarter. Doesn’t matter if it’s food, tools, gifts, gas, whatever. Look for deals and take advantage of them if they make sense (or cents). Every dollar coupon or discount adds up at the end of the week, making other expenditures possible and plausible.
– Consider alternative brands – As if you don’t already know, I am a big “brand” guy. Been using the same brands for decades. But the truth is, sometimes (but not always) it doesn’t matter that much. If you find something that it in the same container, made in the same city/state, it was most likely made by the same people. And all you are paying for is the branding, and advertising that goes along with it. This alone can get you all the savings you need to enjoy many of the options above.
Now see how easy that was. And I bet you can come up with several more cost reduction/redirection measures. Sure, it’s a little bit of pay me now, save for it later. But not nearly as silly as the budget Congress just passed. You can balance those added perks/subscriptions with healthy and practical ways to reimburse yourself for them. You just need to give it some thought.
Great ideas. Now I need an Xbox.
Here’s a resolution I should (but probably won’t) try to follow: Get off the damn computer and spend some time with the wife, at least while we’re still young.
Maybe I’ll take her to see that Scorsese/DiCaprio Wall Street movie today, looks pretty good.
Regarding your smoking suggestion, my advice is move to New York City while Bloomberg is still in office. Me, I was a 2/3rds-a-pack-a-day smoker, and when exhaustively coercing my then-girlfriend to become my wife within a year or so of living in sin (old-fashioned term for cohabitating, which is an old-fashioned term for dating), we made a nuptial understanding that I could continue to smoke until we tied the knot, though with a secondary agreement that were I to slip and smoke behind her back, that I would confess and try to get back on the wagon.
So I smoked, enjoyed it, smoking faster and faster, my last cigarette at 11:59pm the eve of our wedding.
You’d think I’d be jonesing like crazy and not able to enjoy the wedding and honeymoon, just as I’d need a smoke within an hour or so after the last, but I lost the urge entirely just like that — I think, possibly, because it had solidified in my mind that this was a deal that were I to break it it would cost me way too much marital capital, so my neurons or whatever were at peace with the impending sudden cessation. It’s been over three years and I haven’t had a puff since.
While I’m rambling, part of the reason I was willing to accept this deal, well above health reasons, was that I wanted to marry a girl that would not appreciate (or possibly not tolerate altogether) a smoker as a prospective husband. Anyway, we’re doing the happily-ever-after thing. Though regarding health, because I love her so, Jim, I want to outlive her so that she doesn’t have to be the one to endure the slowly-dying spouse. That’s no fun of course, but I’ll sign up for that instead. If that’s not true love right there on my part, I don’t know what is.
But yeah I should probably get off the damn computer a little more and stop thinking about our final days.