Love gadgets? Good. There are some that actually save you money without costing much upfront. I get a little frustrated when I look for information about saving money and get suggestions about buying new washers, gas-efficient cars, and such. That’s fine, but how often do you need a new washer? Here are ten inexpensive gadgets that you can probably use- and afford – right now.
1. Programmable Coffee Maker:
Example: Braun KF590 Impressions Digital 10-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker
Price: about $50
It really amazes me how many people spend extra time and money to buy their morning coffee at convenience stores or at Starbucks. It’s so much easier and faster to make your coffee at home. With a programmable unit, you set it up the night before, and you wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Have a couple of lidded travel mugs on hand (can be found at dollar or discount stores). Pour the coffee into the mug, add cream and sugar if you like, and head out the door. I do like that Starbucks taste, so I buy their coffee in bags at the supermarket or at their stores. Tip: if you buy bagged whole bean coffee at a Starbucks store, they will grind it for free, AND you get a free cup of brewed coffee to drink while you’re there. Make sure to ask for it.
A pound of ground coffee ($10) lasts me about a month, for brewing one large mug (16 oz.) five days per week, so that’s 50 cents each time. Assuming your coffee maker lasts five years, the price divides up to about 5 cents per use. So for a total of 55 cents, you get a great mug of coffee, saving you from $1-3 each time compared to buying coffee out (depending where you go). If you save $2 each time, you’ll break even in only six months. I love my Braun coffee maker and it’s been very reliable.
2. Programmable Thermostat
Example: Lux TX9100E 7 Day Programmable Thermostat
Price: about $55
Save money on heating and cooling with a programmable thermostat. They provide very precise temperature control and can be programmed to automatically lower your air conditioning and/or heat use while you’re not home. You can save up to 20 percent on your heating and cooling bills. So, if your electric bill is $100 per month, and you save 10% per month ($10), this product pays for itself in only 5 months. This Lux unit comes recommended by a leading consumer magazine. Okay, it’s five bucks above the $50 limit I mentioned, but well worth it.
3. At-Home Exercise Videos
Example: The Firm: Pump, Jump and Jab
Gym memberships typically cost about $50 month. You can cut the cost down to zero just by running and walking instead, but if that bores you, or the weather is bad, you can get in shape equally well at home with exercise videos. I used videos to get back in shape after I had my son. It was great since I didn’t have to leave home and think about child care, and I could fit it into my schedule. I used The Firm videos; they are challenging and really tone you up. If you love to dance, the Zumba videos are fun. If you’re not sure which videos to get, pay a visit to your local library and borrow some to try out before you buy. If you buy three videos and rotate using them, they pay for themselves in only one month, compared to a gym membership.
4. Tap Water Filter
Example: Brita Disposable Faucet Filtration System
Price: about $45
Why spend money on bottled water? I bought this Brita faucet-mount water filter. No tools required; it was quick and easy to install on my kitchen faucet, and believe me, I’m not handy. This model is disposable and lasts up to a full year with no filters to change. It has an electronic indicator that tells you when it’s time for a replacement. The tap water in my house is pretty funky-tasting and this filter does a great job of cleaning things up. Pays for itself in about 6 months if you have been using bottled water every day.
5. Solar Holiday Lights
Price: $39.99 on sale
Now that the holidays are over, pick up some energy efficient solar-powered outdoor holiday lights; they’re on sale. They they charge up during the day from the sun’s power, turn on automatically in the evening, and stay on most of the night. No electricity required!
6. High-Efficiency Showerhead
Example: Delta 75152 Water Amplifying Adjustable Showerhead
High efficiency showerheads save money by reducing the amount of water that needs to flow through your hot water heater. An average American household can save as much as 15,000 gallons of water per year by installing high-efficiency shower heads. And you save the energy costs which would be required to heat the water.
This Delta model is a water-saving 1.85 gallons per minute, but is designed to feel like the standard 2.5 gallons per minute. So you save water and energy. Break even: about 10 months.
7. Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Example: GE 97659 13-Watt (60 Watt equivalent) Energy Smart Soft White Spiral T3 Light Bulb 6-Pack
Price: $3.24 each ($19.41 for a 6-pack)
Time Until Break Even: 4 months
CFLs can easily save $100 a year. Just replace a regular bulb with a CFL, and you’ll save about a dollar per bulb every two months or so. GE makes them in “soft-white” so you’ll get pleasant lighting that is more similar to regular bulbs instead of a harsh fluorescent look.
8. Solar Powered Pocket Calculator
Example: Aurora HC127 Dual Power Executive Foldable Style 8 Digit Hardcase Calculator
Figure out unit prices, calculate tips, balance your checkbook…there are numerous tasks for this nice, simple little gadget and it will likely pay for itself after just a couple of uses.
This model has extra big number eight-digits and display with an adjustable angle, so even the most nearsighted should have no trouble. Plus it’s in a folding hard case, nice for your pocket, purse or briefcase. Dimensions: 4-3/5″W x 2-2/5″D x 3/5″H.
9. Portable Flash Drive
Example: Kingston Data Traveler 1 GB
Time Until Break Even: 1 month
I love my flash drive. You can back up important files, so you save money on not having to buy and burn CD’s for backup. It’s amazing how cheap flash drives are these days – just $8 bucks for a gig, wow. Only a couple years ago, they cost several times more.
10. Battery Charger
Example: Rayovac Universal Battery Charger for Rechargeable AA, AAA, C, D, and 9-Volt Batteries
Time Until Break Even: 1-6 months
Got kids with battery-powered toys? Got home gadgets? Chances are you’re going through lots of batteries. I have one of those closet stickup lights that I swear needs new batteries almost every week. Time to get myself some rechargeable batteries and use this gadget to keep them juiced.