This simple tech check-up will save you money and get your tech in order for the new year

  • It's time to do a tech checkup before 2020.
  • By following these tips, you can save money, begin backing up photos and get your home network in tip-top shape for the new year.
  • I saved more than $200 a month doing this myself.

The new year is traditionally a time to take stock and get organized for the year ahead.

It's also a perfect time for an annual tech check-up. Asking the right questions and making a few simple moves could save you money and stress in the year ahead. 

For instance: Are you even using all the data you pay for on your wireless bill each month? Are you still paying for digital subscriptions you don't use? Do you have any old gadgets taking up space? How are you going to make sure all the great photos you took this year don't disappear if your phone or computer dies?

Here are some tips to give yourself a quick tech check for 2020.

Cancel subscriptions you don't need or use

You might be surprised at the number of digital subscriptions you pay for. I just went through my monthly bank account and discovered lots of little bills, like security camera monthly payments, game subscriptions and more, that all added up to about $211 per month in extra bills.

Maybe you're doubling up on services and paying for both Apple Music and Spotify, for example, or paying for news subscriptions you no longer need. Maybe it's time to cancel Sirius XM in your car — especially if a free trial that came with your car is up.

Back up your photos to Apple Photos or Google Photos

I talk to lots of people who still don't back up their photos online. There are two services that are awesome for this: Apple Photos and Google Photos.

I like the latter because it's a lot easier to share with family and friends who use either iPhones or Android devices, and it's free. Just download Google Photos from the App Store on your iPhone, or open it on your Android phone where it comes preinstalled, and it will automatically start uploading photos. If you have a bunch of photos stored on your Mac or PC, you can also go to a web site, photos.google.com, and use the "upload" button at the upper-right hand side to select and start uploading. It will automatically compress all photos to 16 megapixels and all videos to 1080p (high quality) then store them in Google's cloud at no charge. (If you want to store images or videos at their original, higher-quality level, you'll be limited to the amount of storage you have in Google Drive, and might have to pay for extra storage.)

Save money on your cell phone bill

Your cell phone bill is another easy area to save money. I recently went through my T-Mobile bill and found I was unknowingly still paying for data on two Apple Watches, which I never use. I was also paying for an additional 10GB of hotspot data on two lines that already came with 20GB per month. In total, just by checking my bill and canceling what I don't need, I saved $40 per month.

Some tips: check your bill and see which lines are using the most data. Then see if you're using what you pay for. Downgrade your plan if you don't use as much as you need, or switch to an unlimited plan if you've been paying overage fees. And don't pay for things like wireless hotspot capability if you don't use it. Also, check for promotions: Verizon offers many of its customers free Disney+ for one year, and T-Mobile will pay for your Netflix bill, for example.

Check that your home Wi-Fi is running in tip-top shape

If your home Wi-Fi has been acting up, now is the time to do something about it.

I've always found that unplugging my modem and router for about a minute and then restarting the system can improve some slowness. You can test this using Speedtest.net from a phone or a computer and running a quick test.

If it's still sluggish after a power cycle, it may be time to switch your router for a new mesh networking system. I prefer Amazon's Eero 3-pack, which covers my three-story house with a perfect signal and cuts through the plaster walls. I set one up for my parents over the holidays and it improved wireless speeds around the house by about 5x. Google, Netgear and others sell similar systems.

Sell or recycle old gadgets

It's also a good time to go through your desk, or your kid's desks, and collect all of the old gadgets you no longer use. You can sell them on sites like Swappa, which I've used to sell an old phone. The site shows you recent sale prices for the gadget you're trying to sell, and lets you list it in various conditions including mint, good or even slightly damaged.

You might also consider donating old phones to Cell Phones for Soldiers or the Wounded Warrior Project which will wipe them and issue them to wounded service members and their caregivers. If you just want to recycle them, consider trading them in toward a new gadget at Best Buy or Apple (or other manufacturers) or taking them to an EPA-certified drop-off.

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