Spending Smart |

Spending smart is tantamount to saving. By paying attention to consumer trends, you can make sure that your money is used for items that will have longevity, rather than those items headed for obsolescence. The trend for the last decade has been the proliferation of products designed to replace mainstays.

Follow these easy tips to make sure that your extra purchases will not end up in the trash before the end of the year.

Purchase energy-efficient appliances, when you need to. Appliances that meet the new federal environmental standards, many of which are Energy Star rated, may use less energy than their inefficient counterparts, however they also cost more. The federal government is offering tax credit up to $1,500 for these types of energy-efficient upgrades, and that credit is available through December 31, 2016 for most upgrades. Even for those that expire December 31, 2010, waiting until the appliance is actually needed allows you time to save up the money, rather than financing and paying interest.

Do not purchase media. Items such as newspaper subscriptions, DVDs and CDs are quietly being phased out. Today’s consumer can access the newspaper for free, in most cases, via the Internet. DVDs and CDs are quickly becoming relics as consumers download favorite music and audio books from places like iTunes and Amazon and watch movies via services like Netflix and the various On-Demand services offered by many television companies.

Home telephone service is not necessary. Almost one quarter (22.7%) of homes in the US have mobile phones and no traditional home telephone service. Even for those people who may live in an area where cellular coverage is practically non-existent, services such as MagicJack, Skype and Vonage offer home telephone service through an existing Internet connection for yearly fees that are approximately as much as traditional telephone providers charge for one month of service.

Avoid last year’s technology trends. Last year’s hot-ticket items, such as “alternative brand” smartphones, external hard drives and compact digital cameras, may not be very good investments.

In the last few years, smartphones have been introduced to the market with features that mimic or rival those of Blackberry and iPhone but have not really hit the mark. Current market share lies overwhelmingly with Blackberry (40%) and iPhone (25%); as a result, developers are not creating applications and other products for “alternative brand” smart phones, such as Palm and T-Mobile’s MyTouch, a factor that makes them less user-friendly over the long term.

Compact digital cameras are a trend that is rapidly coming to an end as consumers look to the slightly bulkier and, for now, more expensive digital SLR cameras. SLR cameras look a bit like traditional 35mm cameras but have the ability to deliver the picture as it appears in the viewfinder, a shortcoming that was never rectified by the compact digital camera market.

External hard drives, once considered a must-have, have been slowly losing favor in the market as companies like JungleDisk, Carbonite and Mozy offer on-line storage options for considerably less than the cost of purchasing a new external hard drive.