USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Jen­nifer Jolly @Jen­nifer­Jolly Spe­cial for USA TO­DAY

In life, some­times things are sim­pler than they seem, and the same is true for tech. You might think your smart­phone, flashy HDTV or com­puter is as good as it can get, but it’s prob­a­bly not.

So grab your notebook filled with pass­words, barely charged iPhone and badly be­hav­ing Web browser and let me show you just how sim­ple it can all re­ally be.


If you’re one of those peo­ple who fills sheets of pa­per with lo­gins for your email, Face­book, bank ac­counts and so on, you’re not just mak­ing life more te­dious for your­self, you’re ac­tu­ally putting your­self at a huge risk. Not hav­ing im­me­di­ate ac­cess to your pass­words on the go and leav­ing a pa­per copy be­hind, even in your home, is a danger­ous habit.


This sounds coun­ter­in­tu­itive, but in or­der to get a grip on your count­less dig­i­tal ac­counts, you’re go­ing to need to cre­ate just one more. LastPass is the best pass­word man­ager on the mar­ket be­cause it’s fast, se­cure and free to use. Down­load LastPass on your phone or com­puter, in­put your ac­count de­tails for ev­ery­thing from Best Buy to Face­book, and you’ll never have to re­mem­ber your pass­words again. 1Pass­word and Dash­lane are also great op­tions, but I’d rec­om­mend try­ing LastPass be­fore giv­ing the al­ter­na­tives a try.


How old is your router? If you had to stop and think about the an­swer for more than 30 sec­onds, it’s prob­a­bly too old to give you the per­for­mance your smart­phone, TV, stream­ing box and game sys­tems de­serve. Mod­ern gad­gets throw huge amounts of data back and forth, and if your router is the old­est gad­get in the of­fice it’s prob­a­bly hold­ing you back, mak­ing Net­flix lag, on­line games stut­ter and bot­tle­neck­ing the In­ter­net speeds you pay big bucks for ev­ery month.


You don’t have to take out a loan to re­place your router, and a shiny new, su­per speedy one can cost you less than fill­ing your SUV’s gas tank. TP-Link is one of the most re­spected router man­u­fac­tur­ers around, and you can pick up the seriously speedy Archer C1200 for as lit­tle as $59.99. It has dual-band Wi-Fi so your network won’t bog down and three an­ten­nas to boost your wire­less sig­nal to ev­ery cor­ner of your home. Want to re­ally go all out? Net­gear’s Nighthawk X4 is even faster, with ad­vanced soft­ware that op­ti­mizes speeds for the de­vices you’re us­ing so you never have to com­pete with other gad­gets in your home for band­width. At $195, the X4 is an in- vest­ment, but if you’re a gamer or love 4K video stream­ing, you’ll def­i­nitely ap­pre­ci­ate it.


Why does it seem like phone bat­ter­ies just aren’t get­ting any bet­ter? Ev­ery year we’re promised bat­tery life that bests what’s cur­rently on the mar­ket and af­ter six months we’re back to hav­ing dead smartphones be­fore we even have a chance to dig into our lunch. The bad news is be­cause vir­tu­ally ev­ery smart­phone re­lies on recharge­able lithium-ion bat­ter­ies, and that par­tic­u­lar tech­nol­ogy has a habit of de­grad­ing in a big way over time. The good news, thank­fully, is that you can take steps early on to keep your bat­tery in the best shape for a longer time.


First things first: Bat­ter­ies get worse over time be­cause recharge­able tech can only han­dle a lim­ited num­ber of recharges and full dis­charges be­fore it starts to poop out. Let­ting a lithium ion bat­tery dis­charge al­most to the point of dy­ing is ex­tremely bad for it, and the uni­ver­sal con­sen­sus is that you should do ev­ery­thing in your power to keep your phone from fall­ing be­low 20%.

If you make a habit of let­ting your phone hit 2% be­fore recharg­ing it, it’ll de­grade faster than nor­mal, and you’ll soon see your phone bit­ing the dust right in the mid­dle of your day.

OK, so what do you do if you’ve al­ready got a busted bat­tery and your phone is one of the many that don’t al­low you to ac­tu­ally swap it out? You have a few op­tions, but your best bet is to grab a por­ta­ble bat­tery pack — the ones built into cases, such as the Mo­phie Jui­cepack, are a great op­tion if you’re prone to los­ing things, but you can also go for a sep­a­rate ac­ces­sory like those from Anker, which can pro­vide sev­eral full backup charges.


You should al­ways shop around when you’re buy­ing any kind of ser­vice — ev­ery­thing from ho­tel rooms and car rental to plane tick­ets — but did you know that hop­ping back and forth from site to site can ac­tu­ally cost you cash? Some travel web­sites keep tabs on how many times you’ve vis­ited a spe­cific page, and if they see you re­turn mul­ti­ple times they’ll know that you didn’t find a cheaper price else­where and jack it up a few bucks, just for kicks.


A friend of mine did this re­cently and saved more than $1,000 on a ho­tel room and air­fare around the big Con­sumer Elec­tron­ics Show in Jan­uary. The more she shopped around, the higher the prices went. The minute she cleared her cache, the prices dropped. Here’s how to do it:

In Google Chrome: Open the menu by click­ing the three dots in the up­per right hand cor­ner of the screen. Click “More Tools” and then se­lect “Clear brows­ing data.” When the list of data to clear pops up, make sure “Cached images and files” and “Cook­ies and other site and plugin data” are se­lected, then click the “Clear brows­ing data” but­ton. In In­ter­net Ex­plorer: Click the lit­tle gear icon on the top bar of the win­dow and se­lect “Safety” and then “Delete brows­ing his­tory.” When the list pops up, make sure “Tem­po­rary In­ter­net files and web­site files” and “Cook­ies and web­site data” are se­lected, then click “Delete.”

In Fire­fox: Click on the menu but­ton and then se­lect “Pref­er­ences.” Se­lect “Ad­vanced” and then click the “Network” tab. Un­der the head­ing “Cached Web Con­tent” click “Clear Now.”

Mod­ern gad­gets throw huge amounts of data back and forth, and if your router is the old­est gad­get in the of­fice it’s prob­a­bly hold­ing you back ... bot­tle­neck­ing the In­ter­net speeds you pay big bucks for ev­ery month.

Pass­words can be a pain to re­mem­ber, but LastPass, 1Pass­word and Dash­lane are sev­eral apps that can man­age all your ac­counts.



At-home Wi-Fi sig­nal bad? It might be time to up­grade your router. A new one can cost less than fill­ing your SUV’s gas tank.

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