It was a real email from Google, not spam. "We wanted to remind you that you have bonus Google Drive storage expiring on Feb 6 2016. The bonus storage offer that’s expiring is: Chromebook - 100GB."
This shouldn't have come as a shock to me; we've known for quite a while that this was going to happen. I have indeed been using my HP Chromebook for two years, and it's still working fine. I see no need to upgrade it or replace it.
But the 100GB of storage, thrown in to attract customers when Chromebooks were new, was not a permanent offer. It was an ex-bonus; it had ceased to be and joined the choir invisible. As a perennial cheapskate, my first instinct was to see if there was some way I could scrounge enough extra storage from Google to keep going.
The big problem for me is Gmail. That takes up just under 25GB, and it's an archive of everything I've done in email going back several years. If I don't take some sort of action, it will soon become an archive I can't use at all.
The tone of the email isn't threatening, but the consequences of doing nothing are spelled out clearly: "Not upgrading your storage plan or freeing up space in Drive can adversely affect your use of Drive, Gmail, Inbox, and Google Photos. If you use Gmail or Inbox, you will not be able to send or receive emails." A quick dig through Help suggested that the problem was even worse than that: "Incoming messages to your account will be returned to the sender." Gulp.
Scoring free space from Google is something of an artform. Just this week, Google was reminding everyone that they can get 2GB extra by performing its security check-up. However, I'd already done that, and 17GB (the standard 15GB plus the bonus) wouldn't get me out of trouble.
There are several other tactics you can pursue to score more space, including making any photos you store smaller, uploading audio to Play Music and converting any documents you've uploaded to Drive into Google's native format. But none of those were going to help me, since I don't use Google for music or photos and documents were not my main problem. It was that 25GB of Gmail that was about to get me into trouble.
So the obvious solution would be to delete some of that, perhaps by using an extension like FindBigMail to identify messages with needlessly large attachments that I no longer needed to keep. But that would be a time-consuming process, and time is something I usually don't have enough of, despite my best efforts (and occasional lectures on the subject).
It was at this point that I decided to check just how much I'd have to pay for extra storage. 100GB of storage (including the "free" 15GB which everyone with a Google account gets) costs $US1.99 a month. It was when I saw that number that I decided to have a stern word with myself.
"Kidman, you can waste several hours sorting through your email and using the slightly annoying Gmail interface to select the ones you want to delete, or you can spend a sum of money you'd happily throw into a vending machine to buy a Coke Zero and make the problem go away. Just do it." So I just did. Even the annoyance of paying in US dollars (which results in an eight cent charge for foreign transactions) is not worth complaining about.
A side note: Google offers 1TB of storage for $US9.99 a month — that is, 10 times as much for only five times the cost. But that's a classic example of decoy pricing: creating a more expensive middle alternative between a cheap entry-level offering and a much pricier top-level option (in this case$US99.99 a month for 10TB). I could afford $10 a month, but I simply don't need that much space. Assuming I continue to use Gmail in a similar way, it's going to be a decade or more before I'll have to worry about it.
As well, history and experience us that storage will be cheaper at that point. Tidying up recently, I found the first storage media I ever paid for: a 360Kb 5.25in floppy disc which I purchased for my very first school computing project back in 1983. From memory, I paid something like $5 for that, which was a lot of money all those decades ago. From that perspective, $3 a month in 2016 isn't worth worrying about at all. Sometimes, however reluctantly, you have to let the cheapskate go.
Angus Kidman is editor-in-chief for comparison site finder.com.au, a former editor of Lifehacker Australia, an aspiring novelist and a man who's usually keen to save money. Follow him on Twitter @gusworldau.