Sour economy causes some Americans to cut back on tech spending


Megan Wiseman feels like she probably should buy a video game console or two, plus a handful of games — she works as a technical writer for a video game company and needs to stay on top of the industry.

But with the stock market plunging, job losses increasing, and the threat of greater inflation, she’s resisting. The Raleigh, North Carolina resident dumped her cell phone plan in favor of a cheaper pay-as-you-go phone.

“I kind of miss having a gadgety phone and I’ve been kind of trying to think of how I can work that back into my budget but it just hasn’t really been possible,” she said.

It’s not just the cell phone. Wiseman’s also saving money on television.

“I used to have digital cable, you know having a DVR and nifty technology where you can record and fast forward and back up,” she said. “And I just couldn’t afford that so I just have plain old basic cable.”

Wiseman and other members of American Public Media’s Public Insight Network recently responded to a questionnaire about how the economy is forcing them to change their technology spending habits.

Derek Hansell, who staffs a technology help desk at a biotech firm in Clinton, New Jersey, said his tech spending has fallen by the wayside. If it weren’t for the bleak economic outlook, Hansell said he might now be the proud owner of a 3G iPhone and a new computer graphics card.

“Splurging on technology was something I did readily even just a few years ago,” he said. “Those kinds of things just aren’t happening anymore.”

Hansell is even cutting back on small purchases like 99 cent songs from iTunes.

Ellen Crain, a home-schooling mother from Hudson, Wisconsin, feels she needs to save money to soften the blow of a deep recession, so she’s nixing any new cell phones, and found a creative solution to the recent demise of her DirecTV receiver.

“I ended up calling my parents who had had the same satellite service and had switched over to cable and they shipped me their old box that had been sitting in the basement,” she said. “So we’ve upgraded to my parents hand-me-downs.”

Scary economic news actually prompted one person to make a big purchase. Software writer Lisa Twede of Burbank, California bought a computer so she could work more hours outside the office as a way to boost her standing in the eye of her company.

“I had to buy a laptop so I could work from wherever and it’s turned out to be quite a blessing because I can kind of like take even more vacations now because I can just take the laptop with me,” she said. “I just went to Canada and I just worked there for a week.”

An urgency to spend money before it’s gone prompted Anna B. Scott, an assistant professor of dance history and theory, to requisition a much-needed external hard drive from her school, the University of California Riverside. She’s afraid her budget is about to dry up.

“So I just went ahead and found an external drive that came in under $250 and I’m going to use some of my research funds to get that,” she said.

Not everyone is cutting back on technology of course. Some people told us they’re vetoing other household budget items to protect their need for tech.

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