Smart About Money: Would a “smart suitcase” be smart for you?

Nick Maffeo

Being “smart about money” increasingly also means spending skeptically and managing your expectations in a way that lets you on focus what actually matters to you.

Because right now there are so many things out there that promise to save time, money and aggravation. But – too often – they just don’t.

One example – the other day I heard it’s now possible to buy a suitcase that has a built-in digital scale. Nice idea but that “smart suitcase” can be more pricey than a “dumb”/regular suitcase and it’s easy to imagine that built-in digital scale could break fairly quickly getting tossed around the way suitcases do.

Plus a built-in scale is only good for that one bag. A stand-alone digital luggage scale costs about $12 and can be used for multiple bags. Or you can stand on a bathroom scale with your “dumb suitcase” to get an idea of what it weighs. Lower tech, but it gets the job done.

Everyone’s lives are made better by today’s amazing technologies – absolutely. But do most people really need to communicate with their refrigerator by Wi-Fi? Usually not and it can be frustrating when unneeded and unused tech in an appliance is what fails.

The other thing is that many new high-tech solutions seem to be presented as being basically effortless – plug & play. People now have enough experience with tech to know that those claims tend to be overly optimistic.

So that reality has to be considered. Because your time matters. As does knowing if you’re the kind of person who wants to spend the frequently-considerable amount of time it takes to dig in and set up the bells and whistles – or if you know you’re not.

The goal is to not pay more – if you don’t have to – for features that are likely to break quickly or that you won’t ever take the time to learn to use anyway. Before buying any major item, it pays to do a Google search on “reliability of _____” or “problems with _____.” (Learning to discern useful comments in a Google search is a skill which pays huge dividends by letting you see in advance what other reasonable-sounding people have to say about a purchase you’re considering.)

Sometimes people wonder if they should get an extended warranty to cover a “smart” item with expensive tech components that might fail. If at all possible, it’s a better idea to buy for dependability and to create your own “extended warranty” fund by saving the money you would have spent on extended warranties in a separate savings account. That way you have money to cover needed repairs – if repairs are ever needed – with no concerns about being denied on an extended warranty claim.

(Extended warranties can sometimes make sense if the loss is one you know you couldn’t afford. Overall your goal should be to self-insure for most consumer items like appliances, computers and televisions.)

The true cost of an item is the dollar outlay plus the cost of possible repairs and what it will take you to get up to speed with the features you want to be able to use. Sometimes a simpler, older technology with a proven track record will actually save you time, money and aggravation. It’s definitely worth considering.

From the “Smart About Money” Canton Citizen column published on May 16, 2024.
Nick Maffeo is the President & CEO of Canton Co-operative Bank – right next to the Post Office – in Canton.
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