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Buying quality technology just doesn’t come cheap. Replacing obsolete and broken technology or accessing new technology that better suits our needs puts a huge strain on our finances.
In a report earlier this year from market research firm GfK, it was revealed that the average price of a smartphone is now $374. This is an increase of 21% year on year.
While this is great news for smartphone retailers (the same report highlights 18% revenue growth globally), it just highlights the huge expense involved in owning a mobile.
Unfortunately, because this technology is often a necessity, there’s no way to avoid owning or paying for these gadgets and devices altogether.
You use your mobile every day to text and call your loved ones or keep yourself entertained, while your laptop is the key to getting work done on the go. So when it comes time to buying new tech, you reluctantly hand over your wallet and fork out the cash.
But if you have to buy tech, at least do so in a way that is fiscally responsible. You can still stay frugal even in an industry that requires so much money to keep up with. Here are five mistakes that you make; addressing them can help you to save money.
1. You Don’t Buy Refurbished
A big no-no when it comes to buying new technology is thinking that you have to buy all of your gadgets and devices brand new.
There is some logic to it – when something is brand new it has come right off of the manufacturer’s production line and you can say, with some degree of certainty, that no one else has used it. But from a cost-saving perspective, this doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Increasingly, people are turning to refurbished products as a way to save money on tech that works just as good as its brand new counterparts.
There are plenty of places where you can buy refurbished Apple MacBooks (as well as places you can buy refurbished iPhones) and this includes Amazon, GameStop and even Apple itself.
The devices are thoroughly tested and confirmed to work like new but because they may not have the original package and they had an owner previously, you’ll pay a lot less than you did if you bought it fresh out of the box.
2. You Buy Smartphones With Contracts
Another costly mistake – though an understandable one – is that many people buy smartphones with contracts.
For those who have very limited disposable income and therefore cannot afford to purchase a phone outright, paying for a phone in monthly installments across a two year contract is undeniably a smart option.
But for those who can afford to purchase a phone outright? They would be better off buying a phone that’s unlocked.
According to BelleNews, one key reason why buying an unlocked phone helps you to save money is that long-term, it allows you to use your phone with whatever network you choose.
For example, if you were to find a better deal on your data plan with another network carrier, your SIM with that carrier wouldn’t work with that handset.
The publication also points out that there can be a cost associated if you want to sell the phone to someone in future, because you’ll have to pay to have it unlocked so that they can use on their network of choice.
This is definitely a long-term saving, rather than an immediate, short-term financial bonus. But, it’s worth noting that you can get double the savings (both short and long-term) by purchasing a phone that is refurbished and unlocked.
One such example is the the refurbished iPhone 7 unlocked which is available with savings of up to $318 off, or a 42% discount.
3. You Don’t Properly Research the Seller
A surefire way to lose money when buying new technology is to fail to properly research the seller. For example, if you’re buying brand new with a contract, does the fine print of that contract suggest that you’re forbidden from selling the phone on in future?
Is that carrier known for dropped calls, spotty reception, and poor customer service?
You’ll also want to research refurbished retailers and read their reviews. Do their refurbished deals include a warranty offer and if so, for how long? Moreover, what refurbished grade is the product and what do these refurbished grades mean?
A product may have a brilliant price but if it’s refurbished grade C, it may not be so worth it. Other things to consider are the reputation of the retailer and their track record.
You will especially want to be vigilant when it comes to buying used phones.
Used phones are phones that have had previous owners and haven’t been repaired or tested before going on sale again. This means that that Craigslist seller promising a “killer deal” on a high-end Android that was only released a couple of months ago, really is too good to be true.
Again, do your research and see what other customers of that seller have said (if possible).
4. You Don’t Shop Around
A top tip to save money when buying new technology (and any other major purchase, for that matter) is to shop around. While an offer may be limited time and therefore you want to act quickly, are you sure that it’s actually worth it?
It can be incredibly tempting to jump at the very first deal that you see because you just want to save money on that new phone or laptop and you don’t want to miss out. However, if you don’t do your due diligence, you could miss out on a better deal that you didn’t know about it.
A quick google search for terms such as “refurbished [tech device you want],” “brand new [tech device] deals,” and “reliable used [tech device] retailer” will turn up tons of helpful results.
Open these all up in a new tab and make note of prices, warranty offers, what accessories are included and, in the case of phones with contracts, how long it may cost you in the long-run.
You could also use price comparison platforms like RefurbMe, which aggregate the best offers from a variety of trusted sellers, but in general, it’s important to look at multiple offers and retailers.
5. You Don’t Know What You Need
The thing about technology is that it is purposefully endearing. It is shiny and exciting and with features like “4K screens,” “picture perfect selfies,” and “ultra-wide screens” it’s easy to get carried away.
If you want to save money when buying new tech, it’s important to squash that down and take a level-headed approach, considering what you need rather than what you want.
For example, while there may have been thousands of headlines about the new MacBook Pro, with its powerful Intel Coffee Lake processor and its True Tone technology (it adjusts the screen lightning according to your environment), are these features a necessity for you right now?
Instead of buying that new, souped up machine you may be better suited with a refurbished MacBook Air 13-inch which may be a little bit older but is more affordable and is far more ideal if you’re a writer, a media fan who streams lots of shows on Netflix, or someone who commutes a lot and needs something lightweight with a strong battery life as they travel to and from work.
By figuring out your needs, you’ll avoid getting suckered into paying for features that you won’t necessarily use on a day to day.
Plus, even if you do need a powerful laptop or smartphone right now, understanding what features and specs you need will ensure that you don’t buy the wrong piece of tech, potentially resulting in losses if you’re unable to get your money back before the return policy has run out.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this post on 5 common mistakes you make when buying new tech. See something that’s not on the list and should be? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!
My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.