Affordable Technology for Families on a Tight Budget

Budget, Then Bells and Whistles

Most shopping gurus agree that one of the best ways to decide on what technology to buy is to knock out a budget first. This includes the price of the item itself as well as the costs associated with using it. If you know you want a gaming system, a wireless home network and a digital satellite system but can only afford one of the three, you can start looking at a few creative options.

The technologies you're interested in may overlap and allow you to, say, use your wireless home network to access television programming and games. That way, you can pass on the digital satellite system and gaming console for the time being. You won't get everything you want, but you might be able to manage more functionality than you expected for the price you're willing to pay.

Roku, for instance, is a streaming entertainment device that sells for around $50. It includes links to lots of free programming as well as easy access to paid services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. There is no monthly charge for the Roku box, and it's easy to connect to your television and wired or wireless network. It won't give you access to all the cable stations you'll find on cable or satellite, but it's cheap, easy to set up and gives you endless options for movies and TV show.

Cable and satellite providers typically offer bundled technology packages that can save you having to invest in multiple separate services. One may bundle Internet access, cable, gaming and phone service for a one-stop-shopping solution. This can be a good deal, particularly if there's strong competition between satellite services and the cable provider in your part of the country. Before you start clearing a spot on the coffee table for the new remote, be aware that these types of transactions require signing a contract. A one- to two-year term isn't unusual.