AdviceFrugal Living

Home Electronics: Use What You've Got

Kelly Ann Butterbaugh
Category Advice

Friends of ours recently splurged to purchase satellite radio hookups for both of their cars and their home. They also purchased a surround sound package for their living room to give the 'movie theater affect' to their TV. While these are certainly fun upgrades, I got to thinking. I already have the same luxuries; I just didn't realize it. I decided to look around my home and make the most use from what I already have.


Surround Sound

Without getting too electronically technical, most people have the capability to have something similar to surround sound in their homes. Do you have a stereo with four speakers and a Video In plug on the back of the tuner? Do you have an unused auxiliary plug labeled Audio Out on the back of your TV? If you answered yes to both, then you have the potential to surround yourself with sound that is much better than the built-in speaker on your TV. Granted, this isn't the most advanced setup, nor does it have the exact effect of true surround sound, but it is free.

With a simple audio cable, plug one end into the Audio Out plug on the back of the TV and the other end into the Audio In plug on the back of the stereo tuner. Instead of setting the stereo to CD, tape, tuner, etc, set it to video or auxiliary, depending on your system. When the stereo and TV are both turned on, the sound from the TV will come out of the speakers of the stereo.


For best sound, reduce the volume of the TV speakers; there might be a delay causing the 'stadium effect.' Also, spread your stereo speakers around the room for optimal sound; they can even be mounted on the wall or on bookshelves like the authentic surround sound systems. If you only have two speakers, as many do, an adequate set of bookshelf style speakers can be purchased for around $40 at most stores, but two speakers still sound great. Keep this in mind: as the price for speakers increases, so does their quality.

Satellite Radio

Don't have a home docking station for your satellite radio? Save $50 or more and use what you have first. Don't have satellite radio at all? You might if you have cable TV. Look at the channel lineup offered by your cable company. Many cable TV companies are providing music channels with their packages. These channels offer diverse listening choices such as classic rock, kids music, top 40 songs, dance favorites, and more.


All the while, they play without commercials, uninterrupted. Hook up your stereo to your TV, and you've got the equivalent of satellite radio in your home already. Make the most of the cable TV prices.

Phone Features

Many people are paying for extras that they don't need, but it's a shame to pay for things you already have. For instance, do you pay for the call waiting feature on your phone bill? Do you also have a cell phone? Why pay for call waiting, which can be $7 a month, when a person can call your cell phone in an emergency. Tell friends and family that, if a call is important and the home line is busy, to call the cell number. If you're on the phone at home and the cell rings, take a minute to see who's calling. Likewise, if you're expecting a call at home, make other calls throughout the day from your cell phone instead. Cell phone plans usually come with call waiting as an included feature, so give that number out as the emergency contact at your child's school or at work and you'll never miss the emergency call.


Another phone savings is long distance. Again, if you have a cell phone, see what your calling area is. Nationwide calling is a popular standard on cellular plans, yet people still pay extra for long distance calling on their home phones. We live literally a mile away from the next area code. Often, ordering a pizza is a long distance call. By simply making it a habit to call using our cell phones, we're putting our plans to better use and saving money on our overall home phone bill.

Inspect what you have and think of how to use it to the best of your advantage. Look through the instruction manuals for your electronics and read the notices in your utility bills to see if you're missing out on included features. After all, you're paying for it; you might as well get your money's worth from it.


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March 29, 20090 found this helpful

Kelly! You nailed it! Used some of your suggestions & they work great. The surround sound through my nearly 20 year old stereo system sounds great. Actually works too good sometimes. Gunfire & explosion sound effects sound like the real thing getting neighbors a little on edge. V/R Tom

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