Your cash is more precious than ever now that the economy's sinking, with or without a federal bailout. So let's take a break from talking...

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Your cash is more precious than ever now that the economy’s sinking, with or without a federal bailout.

So let’s take a break from talking about cool new gadgets to buy and think of a few ways to save on the technology front.

Here are a few ideas that could save $200 or more, if you’re willing to make a few compromises.

A lot of people are worried about identity theft — so worried they’re paying up to $15 per month for online credit-monitoring services.

There are better things to do with $180 per year.

Especially since a new law took effect in Washington, giving you a more economical way to restrict access to your credit reports. As of Sept. 1, you can have the big three credit agencies “freeze” your credit files for $10 apiece.

This is different from short-term fraud alerts used when, say, your wallet is stolen.

Credit freezes are perpetual. If you decide to get a loan or a credit card, you’ll need to unfreeze the files for another $10 fee. You can also temporarily unfreeze them while you apply for a loan, with 15 minutes’ notice, for another $10.

Who is getting loans now, anyway?

Metro bus driver Greg Woodfill suggested I remind people about the law, which he’s been talking up with friends and family.

“I don’t want to pay $150 a year for these monitoring services — I’d rather have it where nobody can contact a credit agency and get information on you,” he said.

The state Attorney General has details at

You also might try saving money on computer-security software. If you bought a new PC this summer, you’re probably already getting nagged about subscribing to the bundled security software.

Before clicking yes, you might want to explore free alternatives.

Higher-end security software is a better idea if you’re using your computer for business.

But if you’re a careful home user and a do-it-yourself type, the savings might be a worthwhile trade-off for the assurance and convenience of a security subscription.

Some also think their computers run better with a few free security programs, rather than an integrated suite. Larry Hardison, of Des Moines, said it took him two years to dig out all the bits of a Norton suite after he switched to free security products. His suggestions: Alwil Avast antivirus; a free firewall from Online Armor or Zone Alarm; and Spybot Search & Destroy or Spyware Blaster.

Microsoft also offers free security tools, including the Windows Defender spyware program (it’s built into Vista, but not XP) and a malicious-software-removal tool that’s updated once a month.

A last suggestion applies to mobile phones, especially hot new models like the G1 that T-Mobile, Google and HTC just unveiled.

T-Mobile said the G1 would cost $179, but some customers who tried to reserve one were told it would cost $299 to $399.

It turns out the $179 price was only for customers who hadn’t received a new, subsidized phone within the past 11 to 22 months. Until that subsidy is amortized, they’ll pay more for the G1.

Lots of tempting new computerlike phones are coming to market. The trick will be buying them with the maximum subsidy, even if it means waiting to upgrade.

Until the economy picks up, it’s going to be hard to justify spending an extra $200 to be the first one on the block with the latest gadget.

Brier Dudley: 206-515-5687 or