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How much should you spend on tech? (according to the dollar-per-use rule)

Gadgets, how much can you spend and still get your money's worth?

Obviously, I think investing in the right smartphone, tablet or computer can have a positive impact on our lives. But How much is too much?

Here's a tool which should help determine what your budget cap should be according to the 1$ per use rule. It's definitely not a new rule and it simply boils down to this: Before making a purchase, ask yourself "Will I use this at least once for each dollar it's costing me?"

It's a simple rule, but unless you're tracking your gadget usage carefully, it can be hard to estimate how much we actually use them.

This Quiz will first help you answer that question. We will then consider how much you have to spend to keep your gadgets running and determine a budget.

On a regular day...

Let's start with a typical day. How's your time spent?

How often do you check on your messages?

For instance: Email, Instant Messages, Texts, Skype, etc.

How often do you check on Social Media?

For instance: FaceBook, Twitter, FlickR Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Etc.

On a typical weekday, do you use your own device(s) during the day?

Maybe you work from home, or you use your own laptop or smartphone at the office.

On a typical weekday, do you work in the evening?

Maybe you like to catch up on work from the comfort of your home, look up recipes for dinner or maybe the kids use it for their homework.

How often do you play games?

Doesn't matter if you play Facebook Games or the latest Big-Budget title.

When you play games, how long do you play for?
How often do watch on-demand movies online?

For instance, if you spend time on YouTube, NetFlix, Lynda.com, Crunchy Roll, etc.

How much time do you spend watching live online content?

For instance: watching sports or gaming channels like ESPN or Twitch or other live streaming services like Periscope or Youtube Live Events?

On your day off...

How do you spend your free days? Do you disconnect and spend time outside or do you watch shows and play games?

Do you disconnect during the weekends?
Do you disconnect during the summer?
Do you disconnect during your holidays?

Form incomplete

At least one of the required field above is empty. Please complete this portion of the questionnaire to move on.

Preliminary results

So, on a regular day, your gadgets get used roughly times. If we were to allocate 1$ per use, we get the following results:

Typical Daily Uses Yearly Uses
Regular Days
Regular Weekend Days
Holidays
Summer Days
Summer Weekend Days

But let's not get excited yet; gadgets don't run on thin air. Let's also consider your other technology expenses.

Regular Expenses

Let's factor your monthly service bills. For your convenience, I pre-filled this section with middle-of-the-road numbers to get you started. Being precise here will improve the final recommendations, but don't worry about it too much.

  • $
    (How much do you pay to use your cell phone, monthly? typically: $30-115/m)
  • $
    (How much do you pay to access the internet at home, monthly? typically: $70-105/m)
  • $
    (e.g. Netflix ($9-11-14/m.), Amazon Prime ($7.42/m.), Google Music ($10/m.), Spotify ($10/m.), World of Warcraft ($16.33/m.), Xbox Live Gold ($5.83/m.), etc.)
  • $
  • $
    How much do you spend on games monthly? Including game purchases but also in-app transactions.
  • $
    Any other expenses? Do you tip content creators or use services like Patreon and Kickstarter? Do you change your phone case every other month?

Resulting budget

Based on your usage and existing expenses, we are starting to see how much you can spend on technology according to the dollar-per-use rule.

Dollar-per-Use Budget Regular Expenses Budget for Gadget Acquisition and Maintenance
Monthly
Yearly

But those numbers still need to be put in perspective.

Negative budget

It looks like your regular expenses alone exceeds the dollar-per-use rule.

If your internet service come bundled with TV and/or Home phone services, make sure to only include the internet portion of the bill in the "Internet Service" field. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend looking into lowering your monthly expenses.

Budget allocation

Now, let's try to spend your money the way you spend your time. It's pretty common to have more than one device (a smartphone and a laptop for instance) so we have to determine how the budget will be split.

For each device type, select the option which best describes how much time you spend on such devices. The following table also accounts for a device's life expectancy so you can keep replacing each of the devices you need over the years.

Amount of Use Median Cost Typical Lifespan Recommended Budget Cap*
Smartphone $500 2 years
Tablet $700 2.5 years
Laptop $800 3 years
Stationary Computer $1000 5 years
Game Console $450 2-4 years get suggestions

Those numbers, of course, are just suggestions. Feel free to play with them. The idea here is to determine how much you can invest into something and get your money's worth based on your usage profile. You might not have the means to spend that much or you might feel like spoiling yourself is worth it in some cases.

If the numbers seem abnormally high to you, try to keep accessories and furniture in mind. If you get high numbers, it's obviously because you spend quite a bit of time with your gadgets. It would therefore be wise to also invest in being comfortable while you're at it.

Would a better chair, keyboard and mouse make using your computer more pleasant? Maybe you would be better served by investing in a larger TV or getting a laptop or tablet stand? Those expenses should figure on your tech budget too.

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