When you're shopping for anything, it's important to look at the big picture. Although consumers can often be turned off of high-price items, some goods can actually go a long way in helping you save money. And while people tend to be fixated on the outlay costs of an item, they may completely ignore the potential cost savings they might realize by owning it. Here we look at some money-saving items that may be worth owning. (For related reading, also take a look at The Apple Ecosystem.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

The New York Times ran an interesting piece in late March, "Spoiled by the All-in One Gadget," which addresses the numerous and often unrealized benefits of owning a smartphone. Basically, one of the main takeaway points from the argument was that a refurbished iPhone 3GS has a total cumulative two-year cost of $1800, but allows for savings of $2000.

Some of the everyday products which an iPhone 4 can replace include: music player, GPS, watch, calculator, portable DVD, camera, camcorder and a generic cell phone. Depending on the quality of the replaced items, their cost could easily amount to well over the initially estimated $2,000. Furthermore, smartphones provide the added convenience of having all of the aforementioned accessories in one compact device.

With the numerous capabilities offered by the iPad, tablets can also serve as a replacement for many consumer goods. Savvy technology buffs can use the iPad for many similar purposes to those offered by a computer. Tablets can serve as convenient substitutes for laptops, electronic picture frames, basic handheld gaming device and e-readers. Since Netflix, YouTube and iTunes are also easily accessible through the iPad, it can even be used as a replacement for the television. These few items alone can cost nearly $2,000 - more than double the amount of a 64 GB iPad.

The array of available apps presents another means of saving money on every day products. For example, rather than buying Microsoft Office for $150 (student edition), consumers can purchase the trio of iWorks programs: Pages, Numbers and Keynotes for only $30 to have quick access fundamental business software programs. The number of cost saving applications continues growing daily to include such applications as DJ and drawing programs.

Additional Considerations
While many of the apps offered on tablets are fairly sophisticated, they generally offer a good starting platform for users in addition to a certain level of convenience. Professionals, on the other hand, may still require the expensive versions of the programs. Despite that the free DJ Mixer Pro app might be sufficient for novices, seasoned users might find paying $330 for OtsAV DJ Pro 1.85 worthwhile.

TUTORIAL: What To Know About Credit Cards

Plug-in Hybrids
Although the discussion has focused mainly on Apple products, the same type of reasoning can be applied to other items such as plug-in hybrid
cars. For example, the manufacturer's suggested retail price for a Chevy Volt is currently $40,280. After factoring in the $7,500 federal tax credit, plus any state or corporate incentives, the cost realized by the consumer can drop to approximately $30,000. This price tag is $1,600 greater than that for the average new car purchased in the U.S.

Based on the fuel efficiency offered by plug-in hybrids, the payback period for the Volt to the comparable average automobile level can be around one year. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives 13,476 miles per year. With estimated average automobile fuel efficiency in the states at 23.2 miles per gallon and gas prices hovering around $3.80, the average American spends over $2,200 per year on gas.

The Volt, on the other hand, lets a driver travel 40 miles per day solely on electricity at an approximate daily cost of $1.50. As 40 miles is close to what the typical American drives on any given day, a common driver will incur a yearly car charging expense of $550, for annual savings of $1,650. For those who are unable to attain state or corporate tax credits, the payback period would generally be around four years, after which steady significant annual savings would be realized. (For more on the volt, see How Does The GM Volt Stack Up?)

The Bottom Line
When making a purchase for a big item, do not immediately be turned off by the price tag; instead, consider the potential long-term cost savings of the item that you'll experience.

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