Minimalism in a Techological Age

It’s becoming harder to be a financial minimalist, each day another thing that used to be free now costs money.

We were sold a bill of goods.

When the personal computer arrived on the scene we were told it would reduce our dependency on paper.  Combine the personal computer with a printer and figures show that we use more paper than we did before the use of computers.  Consider the fact that we no longer subscribe to a daily printed edition of a newspaper or magazines like we used to and the fact that we no longer write and mail letters this means our paper use is from printers, boxes from online shopping and packaging materials. Two of the three paper sources are directly linked to the internet and computers. Put another way, the increase in paper products is a direct result of technology.

Our waste streams are overburdened. There’s the paper and boxes, that are often thrown out but also all our gadgets as they break down or become obsolete when newer technologies become available.

Then there’s the internet. We were told the internet would be free, Google plans to bring free internet to parts of the planet where it’s currently unavailable with the use of satellites.  The majority of the area where the internet is currently unavailable is in developing countries. Why does Google want to bring the internet to these countries? My guess is it’s another way to reach a new market for sales.

When I first  heard about the internet I heard it was free, other than your ISP connection. We signed up when dial-up was the only way we could access the internet. I found it truly was a gift to us, a home schooling family.  My sons accessed information that would have been hard to find at home or our library. The computer reduced the number of books we bought for educational purposes and saved me a lot of gas running around to find answers to my children’s questions in their studies.

At first what we viewed was free. Then I began to notice ads on the side bar, I could ignore those. Then the ads began to appear in the content and on images which bothered me when reading. But now it’s gotten out of hand.

The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.  ~~~ Bill Gates

I see the internet becoming the ATM of this generation.   Banks promised the ATM machines would not have a cost to the customers, it was only a way to lessen demands on the teller’s time.  Today if I want money from an ATM it costs me five dollars per transaction because there isn’t a machine locally provided by my bank. Of course by lowering demands on the teller the banks were able to reduce the number of tellers, but that’s another story. I got smart, and began to ask for cash back from cashiers to have spending money on hand, now stores are charging a fee to give you cash back.

Just like the town square, opportunities for and incentives to purchase continue to grow in this technological age.  What I believed was a new free resource to access information is now the shopping mall of our day and it doesn’t stop when we turn our computer off.  Amazon now sells cell phones that have ads on them. I know because when my last phone died and I couldn’t find a used replacement he suggested this was the best value.  Now my phone has multiple notifications from Amazon a day for things I might like.

I limit the amount of news I see by reading the Guardian once a day. I enjoyed the ad-free experience.  Now they are  asking for funds.  One day they had this banner that read. “If you use it why not pay for it. It’s only fair.” I found the last three words rude.  They’ve changed their banner, but now it’s almost a threat.  They remind you that they can make their content pay only if they don’t get enough to support their work. Many news sites already block their content unless you pay for access.  This practice isn’t limited to news sites, many sites including for medical information also block content unless you subscribe.

Like China, the Internet is a huge new market. It’s up to you to figure out what to do with it. Use it as a prospecting tool, make connections with people, add value for your existing customers. ~~~Larry Chase

The online marketplace isn’t reserved to just those sites we knew were solely there to provide us with items to buy. It’s invaded every aspect of the internet. Even this blog has ads at the end of my posts put there by WordPress to entice you to make a purchase and increase the bottom line for them.

Here are a few more ways you will find yourself being asked for money while using the internet.

YouTube changed its algorithm a couple of months ago which determines who earns advertising from their videos, so now YouTubers are asking for money to support their videos or they will block their content from those who don’t pay for it.

Of course YouTube doesn’t need individuals to make money now that they have created YouTubeTV where subscribers can get local television programming for $35 a month.  What do they care that the people who counted on an income from YouTube can no longer make ends meet.

Many who make their living through video creation and even blogs are now turning to Patreon to make money.  Bloggers are beginning to save their best content for view only through Patreon for subscribers.

Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, made a remark about people who don’t pay for prime that, to me, was insulting. In his annual letter to shareholders Bezos stated the $99 a year subscription price to Amazon Prime was “such a good value, you’d be irresponsible not to be a member.” He went on “There’s a good chance you’re already one of them [Prime member], but if you’re not, be responsible — join Prime.”

While Amazon Prime has included free videos, music and some free ebooks to its offer that began with free two-day shipping, being a Prime member might not be a good thing.  If you are shopping regularly online and use the free two-day shipping every package costs the environment.  My mail carrier explained that Amazon now has Sunday delivery through the US post office. He said Amazon demanded Sunday delivery or they would ship all their packages through another carrier. His words were, “They held us over a barrel and blackmailed the post office into Sunday delivery.” The added Sunday delivery puts more vehicles on the road on a day they hadn’t previously been in use.

Searching for peace of mind, I use ad blocking software.   Companies are getting smart, I found this out when clicking on a link for a news article.  Their software knew I was using ad blocking software and restricted my access unless I turned it off. I found another source for information instead.

I get it, the economy sucks. Everyone is looking for a way to supplement their income or seeking a bit of security in a volatile job market by working for themselves and the internet affords one a wider audience, but for the average user of the internet who believed this was a low-cost way of getting news or learning skills the internet I have to ask if it might become an empty resource unless you want to pay for content.

We can ignore subscriptions sites for videos such as Netflix or Hulu because we know their content is subscription only but to have news and medical information only available if one pays for the access is frustrating to say the least.

How can we achieve financial minimalism and still use the technology available?

The first thing we need to do is decide before we connect to the internet what value we may receive from paying for information.   If we’ve cut the cable do we need Netflix and YouTube TV to replace it?  Will subscribing to these services save us money or was the cable bill a better offer? Are we willing to spend the time to find free answers to our questions? In a time when everything is available at the click of a button the best thing we can do is walk away and think about a purchase.

The best advice I ever heard was to postpone any purchase decisions, big or small, for twenty-four hours. If after twenty-four hours you still feel the item is a necessity for you, then go ahead and buy it.  While that advice was originally intended for in-person shopping decisions, it’s just as valuable today. Don’t click that buy now button today wait a day and see how you feel about it after sleeping on the decision. The same holds true for our gadgets. If you phone still works don’t run out and buy the newest version just because it is available.

We’ve entered an age where every thing has a cost attached it’s up to us to determine which, if any, requests for our money will add value to our lives.

Everything you want in life has a price connected to it. There’s a price to pay if you want to make things better, a price to pay just for leaving things as they are, a price for everything.

~~Harry Browne

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20 comments

  1. Technology certainly is pervasive. Life is so different than just 15 or 20 years ago. As a retired couple my husband and I evaluate what is really important to us in our budget and that is where our $$$ go. We used to take a big vacation every year. No more. We don’t work so we don’t need to vacation from our retired lives. There are other things that dropped off our budget – just not worth the dollars spent.

    But the $$$ saved are now spent on a cable package that includes TV, internet access and phone. That cost goes up periodically and we think it eats up too much of a chunk of our budget. Unfortunately right now that cable bill pays for our connection to the world, our entertainment, our way to purchase things (yes, Amazon) without visiting store after store after store on our own in our car using our gas to find what what we are looking for, a way to connect with our bank to manage our assets and pay our bills and to connect with friends and family. Yes, there are other ways to do all those things – if you are geographically positioned well, but for us, that cable bill will remain because we couldn’t do what it does cheaper any other way.

    Does that fact annoy me? You bet it does. But we accept the positives – knowing there are negatives. And just to name a few: I hate that there are stores that are closing and people are losing their jobs because they cannot compete with Amazon or the big box stores. I hate that technology sometimes isolates you instead of getting you out of the house with other people. I really hate that social media has made rudeness and hate easy to circulate because you don’t face the person you are talking to.

    No easy answers. And there are no ‘right’ answers either.

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  2. yes, agree with all.

    re purchases…if I am in a store, and buying something besides food, I will often carry said purchase around/or in my cart, for quite some time. I find, that I often decide I can live without the expenditure.

    along similar lines, my big gripe, is the “modern” eco green items, or energy conserving items. I am totally convinced it is a HUGE scam, to make someone, or maybe many someones, MUCH more money.

    very few of these eco or energy saving items, are made to last. At most they are suggested to have alife span of five to seven yrs. If you get them to last that long, you will be lucky. And, they do not (eco folks etc) take into account the “life cost” etc, of where the various parts or “ingredieints” for the parts are mined or processed, before they are shipped to north America etc..

    ex…I grew up hearing all sorts of folks (adults etc) speak of fridges that lasted fifty or more yrs, ran well, needed little if any repairs, etc…Now one is lucky if a fridge lasts five yrs.

    we and friends have run through a sad litany of fridges/dishwashers/washing machines/dryers/toasters/kettles/microwaves/ etc..

    and it is all much the same. They conk out soon. Or if one has a warranty plan, one gets to be on a first name basis with almost every repair tech on staff, etc…

    and these complaints of mine/friends involve some pricey appliances.

    my best advice/personal experience, if one is stuck needing to purchase any appliances..(SERIOUSLY)

    buy the very cheapest one can find, with the fewest features one can find.
    We have had better luck that way.

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    • My dishwasher died just this last week. I knew it was on the way out when I moved so it wasn’t a surprise but knowing things are built to break down today doesn’t make choosing the replacement easy.

      The only time I’ve ever regretted not making a purchase it was a piece of art. It was an antique made with painted tile in blue and white. I spotted it at a friend’s antique store. It was reasonably priced but I kept talking myself out of it. One day I decided I’d been looking at it long enough, nearly two years, and went back the next day to buy it and it was gone!! I can still picture it but have to laugh at myself for holding out so long.

      As for buying a new dishwasher I will be getting a cheap model because I want white to blend in with the cabinetry and white is not popular any more. Lucky for me.

      On eco products there is so much green-washing that you have to look first at what company is making it and read labels to see if it measures up or is just marketed to gain entrance to the environmental buyers. I don’t worry about it much because I don’t shop often. The only cleaners I buy are the occasional dish soap (just finishing my first bottle in this house) and powder for the dishwasher because my diy powder was a huge failure.

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  3. This is a many layered issue that has both good and bad aspects. However, there is one thing that really annoys me. The video ads that really slow down my computer. Maybe they aren’t that bad for people who have the latest equipment, but that’s not me.

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    • I’m with you on the video ads, have you come across the ones that if you scroll down they move the video to the side bar and it follows you? The other thing that annoys me are pop ups for subscription. I would be okay with them if it was only on the home page but every page you click?

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      • Annoyed, annoyed, annoyed. In general, it also annoys me that they make things move just because they can. It slows everything down and it is hard to concentrate on any of it–content or ads.

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  4. Yes, and an interesting read, thankyou.
    Although a lot of this applies mainly to the US, typically it all eventually spreads to Europe and Asia and subsequently the rest of the world.
    Personally, I don’t mind paying for internet and phone, the prices are higher than the “cheap” deals in some countries but as with most Swiss things, it is a steady quality deal I don’t feel I need gripe about. I did cancel my landline because I didn’t use it and got too many sales calls in recent years. We don’t have a TV but there is (still) a free streaming service where I can watch hundreds of European channels online (i only occasionally watch some UK ones myself) which means that I also pay a radio/TV licence fee annually but again, it seems “fair”. As for the inundation of ads, I’m pretty good at ignoring them – to be honest I have never noticed there are ads on your blog page. But I agree it’s annoying when they block the screen and truly, news-reading is difficult and frustrating when interesting articles are only accessible by subscription. However, I usually find plenty of alternative sites if I need the gist of news (my mom most often goes to Reuters, who pass news on to the newsmakers and therefore usually most up-to-date…).
    Yes, it’s all definitely problematic.

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    • I’ve never heard of a radio/tv license fee. How does that work?

      Currently, we are waiting to hear if the US is going to lose Net Neutrality. That combined with the fact that my ISP can sell my history make me mad. If my provider can sell my history to make more money by targeting specific ads to me then I should receive a discount for my service. Not to say the service is something I can’t afford, it’s just feeling that as a customer I am not being treated with respect.

      You may not see the ads as a WordPress subscriber, I’m not sure who they show them too, but it’s the cost of having a free website.

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  5. So very true Lois, I just unsubscribed from Photobucket, I joined them in 2007 so ten years I have been putting my photo’s I like on there, now they have changed their rules, And unless you buy a subscription now you can not share them as third party hosting, So those I used on WordPress direct linked to Photobucket, appear as a message now to upgrade.. Well they did, as Now I have closed my account.. But it means me going through years worth of blog posts now to rectify and delete where I had put images on the posts..

    The amount of adds that were on one page and that would pop up , you just could not work upon a photo. It is all about Money today.. Everything is money and profit orientated. xxx
    And yes even WP as I hold a free account has its adds.. As the Author we do not see them unless we sign out.

    But I also heard from people who paid for an account to get more Media space, the improvements were not much better than a free account.. And they wished they had kept it as it was.
    Never mind Lois we keep on keeping on and its the price we pay ( or not for the Free Accounts )

    Love and Hugs xx x

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    • I paid once to upgrade WordPress and don’t think I’d do it again. After combining my past blogs with this one I now have to go back and add photos it’s a job I start but never seem to get very far, I can’t imagine how much of a head ache you are dealing with to remedy your photos. I wish you the best with that task. For me, it’s probably a job I will finish in the middle of the winter when there is more time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your blog with me. I love hearing about others journey to minimalism.

      Balance….so many of us are out of balance in our lives, so much so that now we hear about work life balance. I was thinking one day when coming across this phrase yet again how past generations had that perfect balance without having to find it.

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