I’m not known for owning the latest gadgets and technology, but as a Millennial, I still keep up with the times. Whether it’s my Nintendo Switch, Google Pixel smartphone, or any of the other technological marvels in my possession, they have one thing in common: they are super expensive.
Small frugal actions, like skipping Starbucks in the morning, can add up to big savings in one month. But it’s hard to save money if you blow $1,000 on a new phone.
Sometimes you have to upgrade your technology, but even when you do, it busts your budget wide open. All those little actions, like cooking at home or wearing thrift store clothes, pale in comparison to the cost of new gadgets.
7 tips for buying tech on a tight budget
What’s a money-saving maven to do? Here are a few tricks I use to get better deals on technology—without buying a cheap hunk of junk.
1 – Don’t buy the cheapest gadget
Speaking of hunk of junk gadgets: don’t buy the cheapest thing on Amazon.
I was once tempted to buy the absolute cheapest smartwatch I could find. I just needed a simple pedometer and I figured, “Hey, it’s only $20!”
The thing is, the cheapest options are cheap for a reason: they aren’t that great. I didn’t buy the $20 pedometer because I realized I would have to replace it every 3-6 months. Dropping $20 every few months would be way more expensive over time than just buying the $70 smartwatch that would last years.
Spend the right amount of money to get the features and quality you actually need. I only recommend buying the cheapest gadgets in a true emergency, like if you need a phone for work but don’t have any money for a decent phone. Life happens and I get it—but unless this is an emergency, focus on quality.
Cheap stuff breaks often, and it’s more expensive over time. Wait a little longer and save a bit more so you can buy a higher-quality piece of technology.
2 – Track prices and earn rewards
I use the Honey Chrome extension to earn points and rewards when I shop online. But it’s good for something else: tracking prices over time.
This involves a bit of a waiting game, so price-tracking works for want-to-haves instead of need-to-haves. If you want the latest iPhone but don’t care when you get it, price tracking is a great way to save money.
You can tell Honey to track the pricing history of that gadget over time. It’ll alert you when the price has dropped and when it’s a good time to buy. You can also check prices manually if you don’t want a browser extension, but it takes more time.
3 – Buy an older model
I don’t mean you need to buy an iPhone 4 or anything. But if you buy a reasonably modern but outdated gadget, you can get it for a great price.
I wait until they announce the latest technology and buy the previous year’s model instead. For example, when Google announced the Pixel 3, I bought a Pixel 2, which was on fire sale after the Pixel 3 announcement. I snatched up a new phone for $500 off list price. Not half bad!
If you don’t care about having the latest and greatest gadgets but still want a decent, modern piece of tech, buy the old model when they release something new.
4 – Research before you buy
Please, oh please, don’t buy any technology without doing your research first. This stuff costs a ton of money and you owe it to yourself to do a little detective work beforehand.
I conduct research by looking for:
- Unboxing videos
- Demos and walkthroughs
- Pros and cons lists
Check out Amazon reviews, Google reviews, and any YouTube unboxing videos for the product in question. This way, I know about any unpleasant surprises or unwanted features before I pull the trigger. Research ensures I buy the right gadget, as well as any accessories that make it more user-friendly (like Bluetooth headphones for my jack-free phone).
I also space out when I research and when I buy the gadget. I make sure to sleep on the decision so I don’t do anything hasty.
5 – Clean up your existing devices first
It’s hard buying new gadgets on a limited budget: make sure you truly need an upgrade before spending money. For example, if your phone or laptop is running slow, you might not need a new device.
Have you tried defragging your computer? Or deleting photos, files, and apps from your phone? Restoring your device to factory settings can also help.
Exhaust every avenue to improve your existing device before you upgrade, especially if you have a tight budget.
6 – Sell your old gadgets
I used to toss my old phones into a junk drawer. You know, just in case.
But over the years, I’ve collected more and more phones and they’re taking up tons of space in my desk. Instead of hanging onto old tech that you’ll never use, sell it!
Many Walmart stores have device recycling machines. Wipe your device and restore factory settings before dropping it into the machine and it’ll spit out money in exchange. You won’t get rich doing this, but I’ve made $60 a pop with these machines. You can apply that money to a new device and free up space in your drawer—it’s a win-win.
7 – Buy from deal sites (carefully)
I’ve bought used technology from Groupon before and it worked out, but you have to be careful. You only want to buy used electronics on Groupon that are certified manufacturer refurbished. Otherwise, any guy off the street could have refurbished this old iPhone with superglue—that’s not where you want to spend your money.
Manufacturers’ deals are usually better because they’ve taken the time to improve their own product and resell it. You get a sweet discount on these older or formerly faulty products as a result.
However, don’t buy from deal sites unless the product includes a manufacturer’s warranty. Without the warranty, there’s a good chance you’re paying for a pile of junk. With a warranty, you can at least get a replacement if your device breaks during the covered period.
The bottom line
Device upgrades are fun, but the finances aren’t. Technology costs a pretty penny, but we need it to do our jobs and go about our lives. Use these 7 tips to upgrade your devices while sticking to a budget. You’ll still spend a good amount of money on a gadget, but if you can spend less, why not?
Contributor’s opinions are their own. Always do your own due diligence before investing.
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