Having the newest iPhone and a 60-inch TV in every room of your house might sound like a dream worth aspiring to, but hold that thought. If you are trying to grow your savings, start investing, or get out of debt, it’s important to scale back all kinds of spending, including on electronics.
In today’s digital world, having access to a smartphone and laptop — not to mention things like Bluetooth headphones, a smart TV, and maybe even a smartwatch — can be crucial for our remote jobs, connecting with friends and family, and staying informed about the world around us.
So how can you buy the electronics you need for daily life without going broke? In this article, we’ll explore, among other topics, the following:
• How to save money on electronics
• How to shop at the right time
• How to sell old electronics
• How to get the best discounts.
1. Buying Older Models Instead of the Newest Models
The joke goes that you could buy the newest smartphone today, and it’ll probably be replaced by a newer model within a week. While technology cycles aren’t quite that fast, companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft do release “newer, better” phones, tablets, computers, and other tech regularly.
Just remember: You don’t always need the newest tablet. You don’t always have to upgrade your phone. If your technology still operates efficiently — allowing you to take decent photos, reply to work emails, and stay connected via social media or phone calls, all without issue — hold onto it longer. With a little money discipline, you could instead use those funds to build your emergency savings, pay down your debt, or start investing.
And when it does come time to buy a new device, consider buying the second-newest generation. Features are likely similar to the newer device, but prices will be lower. This is particularly true right around the launch of the new generation.
2. Avoiding Consumerism
An easy way to save on electronics is to reject the idea of consumerism. Consumerism is the belief that your well-being, happiness, and even sense of self-worth will increase the more that you spend money on goods and services.
But according to the American Psychological Association, the reverse seems to be true. While it’s not fair to generalize, studies typically show that the least materialistic people report the greatest life satisfaction.
Thus, what might feel like an irresistible craving for the latest technology could actually be detrimental to one’s mental health. Consume your technology in moderation — treat yourself to nice things, but remember that spending won’t always lead to fulfillment. In fact, you may find that committing to how much money to save each month brings greater satisfaction.
3. Trading In and Selling Unwanted Electronics
If you have a junk drawer with old smartphones or a storage container with old laptops, you might be leaving money on the table (or in the junk drawer, as it were).
For example, many second-hand stores buy electronics like video game consoles — and they’ll pay you for the controllers and games too. Some smartphone vendors will allow you to trade in an older-model phone when you purchase a new one.
And there’s always the internet. Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and other online retailers allow you to easily sell old electronics, including phones, TVs, and even appliances. You can then use that money when it’s time to upgrade to a new electronic device or add it to your emergency fund.
The resale market is soaring; it’s expected to grow to $53 billion a year in 2023. Now is a great time to start selling your old tech.
4. Considering Needs Over Wants
If you are struggling to decide whether you should buy a new phone or computer, assess your needs. Beyond determining if your current phone or computer works well enough for you to do your job and live conveniently, take some time to look at your budget.
Do you have enough money to cover actual needs like housing, food, and utilities? Are you able to pay off your credit card each month and make student loan payments? Can you cover an unexpected hospital bill or emergency car repair and meet other money-saving goals?
If you’re confident that you can successfully meet your needs without too much of a struggle, it can be easier to justify splurging on a want.
5. Unplugging Devices That Are Not in Use
Have you heard of phantom or vampire energy use? That’s when you leave something plugged in when not in use and it continues to draw electrical power, which you wind up paying for.
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends unplugging certain appliances when not in use to decrease your standby power loads and thus reduce your monthly electric bill.
The daily savings are hardly noticeable, but over time, unplugging certain devices when not in use, like a toaster oven or a laptop in sleep mode, can lead to significant savings — about $100 a year for the average household.
6. Researching and Buying Refurbished Electronics
Refurbished electronics are a great way to get a like-new electronic without digging deep into your pocket. Such electronics don’t always have the luxury of an extended warranty, but many are available with some type of warranty (and maybe even a money-back guarantee).
And you can get a deal on more than just refurbished smartphones. According to Consumer Reports, you can find great deals on speakers, tablets, headphones, and smartwatches.
Just make sure you’re buying a refurbished electronic directly from the manufacturer or from an organization that complies with ISO (International Organization for Standardization) or R2 (Responsible Recycling).
7. Buying at the Right Time
Here’s another way to save on electronics: Sync up with sales. You might find better deals if you are strategic about when you purchase TVs, laptops, and video game consoles. Typically, you can find Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, and the week after Christmas can also be an excellent time of the year to buy electronics.
You can also watch for deals around Tax Day, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. And if you’re buying an older-generation model, try timing it with the release of the newer version for greater discounts.
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8. Utilizing Price Matching
It might be challenging to get cell phone providers to match prices of competitors, but when shopping for other electronics, like computers, video game consoles, TVs, and appliances, you might have luck getting big-box retailers to price match.
In fact, some popular stores have official price-matching programs — and may even price-match the deals you find on Amazon. Try price matching when shopping for electronics at stores like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy.
9. Shopping Around and Being Patient
Shopping is usually not a good time to be lazy. While it can be tempting to buy your coveted electronic at the first place you see it, it can be important to do some research. Comparison-shop online, research upcoming sales, and utilize coupons and store discounts to get the best deal at the right time.
10. Taking Advantage of Savings Codes
You won’t always be successful, but it’s worth browsing online for savings codes before any major purchase. Sites like GroupOn, RetailMeNot, and Savings.com all offer discount codes that you may be able to apply to your purchase.
You can also look for promotional codes in circulars that arrive in the mail, during podcasts, or from influencers on social media.
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11. Utilizing Student Discounts
If you are a student, it can be a good idea before any purchase to ask if the company offers a student discount. The worst they can say is no. Just keep your student ID in your wallet for verification.
You can also ask about other common discounts you might qualify for, like a military discount or senior discount.
12. Not Always Going for Brand-Name or High-End Products
A brand-new iPhone and Samsung TV may sound like the height of luxury, but if you’re trying to be smart about how you spend your money on electronics, consider skipping the most popular brand name or top-of-the-line product options.
A lesser-known brand may perform well and save you money. Before purchasing an unfamiliar brand, however, it is a good idea to read product reviews on third-party websites.
Recommended: How to Force Yourself to Save Money
Saving Money With SoFi
A savings account with a high APY is a good way to save toward all of life’s goals, including electronics. And having a no-fee checking account makes it easier to spend when you’re ready. SoFi’s online bank account delivers the best of both worlds. Sign up for our Checking and Savings with direct deposit to earn a competitive APY, get cash back on local purchases, and pay no fees.
Can you live without electronics?
Technically speaking, it is possible to live without electronics, just as our ancestors did before us. However, technology is now often essential to how we work, how we communicate, how we find information, how we shop, how we find entertainment, and even how we bank and access healthcare. Staying connected and spending money on electronics is fine — everything in moderation.
Can you live while being an electronics minimalist?
Living as an electronics minimalist is possible. You may still need access to a computer for work or online bill pay and a phone to communicate with your family, but you can take specific, impactful steps to otherwise reduce your electronics. For instance, you can sell your TV, downgrade to a basic phone, delete your social media, etc. Then, seek out other experiences, like hiking, attending live theater, and reading.
How much technology should I use per day?
Experts recommend limiting screen time to two hours a day max (outside of work). This includes time spent on your phone or tablet, watching TV, and playing video games. That said, estimates of how much total screen time most Americans invest has been estimated at almost eight hours a day.
Photo credit: iStock/LightFieldStudios
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