6 Tips for Saving Money When Buying Electronics

There’s no doubt that technology and electronics play a bigger role in our lives now more than ever before. Because of this, many of us find ourselves in the market for new tech on a fairly frequent basis. Whether it’s a new phone, computer, tablet, camera, smartwatch, drone, or whatever else, we all know the feeling of needing an upgrade. Unfortunately, these items usually don’t come cheap — or at least the ones that have any reasonable quality don’t.

Luckily, though, there are a few ways you can save significantly on quality electronics and tech items. Let’s take a look at six such suggestions, including a few I’ve personally tried and had success with.

6 Money-Saving Tips to Try When Buying Tech Items

Find the right model (or wait)

Do you really need the newest, shiniest piece of tech you can find? If not, you could save significantly. A key example of this involves the iPhone. Every year, Apple releases a new line-up of phones while (almost) always keeping last year’s model around, but at a lower price point. Most of the time, these are the exact same phones will all the same specs but, since they’re just not the newest anymore, you can score them for cheaper.

While the hype surrounding a new model of tech may be what gets you to pay attention, it’s always worth doing your research and seeing what else might be available. Alternatively, if the latest and greatest does add a feature you really want, maybe see if you can wait around for the price to drop later. On that note, while you’re researching, look into whether or not the product you’re eyeing has a typical release schedule (again, like the iPhone largely does) so you can better determine whether waiting makes sense or not.

Consider buying used/refurbished

Speaking of older tech models, since some people just need to always have the top-of-the-line, newest release, not only might you be able to find last year’s edition for less but you may even be able to save even more by buying used. Keep in mind, that this doesn’t mean that you need to find someone on Craiglist or hunt on eBay. Instead, sites like Amazon and Best Buy have used marketplaces for certain tech items. In either case, you’ll be able to see the overall condition of the item along with the prices. However, on Amazon, you’ll want to keep an eye on the shipping costs and what qualifies for Prime, as this can also be a factor in your final cost.

Personally, I’ve purchased two tech items used — and both happen to be cameras. The first time around, I used Amazon to find a good deal on my Sony RX-100 M2. Then, when it was time to replace that, I turned to Best Buy’s used section to get a discounted Sony ZV-1. Both of these experiences turned out to be positive and I saved more than $100 each time.

Similar to regular used items, you may also encounter refurbished ones. This means that, at some point, there was a defect with the item, but it’s since been fixed and inspected by a professional. On that note, if you are going to buy refurbished, it’s probably best to buy one that’s certified. For example, Apple sells its own certified refurbished computers and other items as do some Apple authorized sellers.

Open-box may also be an option

For those who aren’t sure about refurbishment, perhaps an open-box deal is a better fit. If you’re unfamiliar, when a customer purchases a piece of tech but ends up returning it, retailers like Best Buy might resell the item at a discount. In some cases, the original packaging or manual may be missing but the items themselves should be in nearly-new condition.

I was actually able to take advantage of an open box deal a few months ago when purchasing a new laptop. As a result, I saved $150 off of the regular price and the computer was still brand new. Notably, while your selection of open-box items may be limited when shopping in-store, I found that Best Buy offers some open-box products on their website, making it easier to find what you’re looking for.

Try a trade-in

Another way you might be able to save money on your new tech items is to trade in your old tech. This is, of course, common with cell phones, but applies to a variety of other items as well. In terms of how much you’ll save from this, the answer will depend on a few factors.

For one, the newer your item is and the more likely it is to be resold, the more you can bank on receiving for your trade. That said, some brands might have baseline trade-in deals that might prove to give you more for your old item than it might otherwise be worth. Also, while you might try a trade-in with the brand or retailer you’re purchasing the new item from first, there are some third-party tech buyers and recyclers that might be able to give you a few dollars to offset your other purchase.

As I mentioned recently, I have a bad habit of holding onto old tech that I don’t actually have a use for anymore. Despite this, when it was time to replace my desktop computer last year, we went ahead and tried Apple’s trade-in program. Seeing as my computer was quite a few years old, they were only offering $150 for it. But, considering it wouldn’t be doing me any good, that $150 was plenty of incentive to turn it in. Plus, the process was pretty easy, with Apple shipping me a prepaid box to package up the old computer and send it off. All I had to do was drop it off at the UPS Store. Given this experience, I’d recommend looking into such options when replacing your tech — but just be sure to back up what you need and then erase any personal data before turning your items in.

Search cashback portals

If you’re shopping online for anything, then I’d recommend checking out cashback portals such as Rakuten, which could score you cashback on your purchases. When you’re talking about tech that could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, then that cashback percentage amounts to even more! Thus, it may be worth taking a look at what retailers are supported and what amounts to the best deal once all of your discounts, cashback, etc. are included. With that said, some retailers do exclude certain big-ticket items from these portals, so be sure to check the fine print before getting a rude surprise.

Look for gift card deals

Finally, in addition to all of the aforementioned tips, it might make sense for you to purchase gift cards for the retailer you plan on making your purchase from ahead of time. Why? Well, you may be able to get a discount on said gift cards through a few different means. One potential option is looking at warehouse clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco that occasionally sell third-party gift cards at a discount.

Alternatively, Rakuten also has a gift card marketplace where you can get cashback on these purchases, while the app Fold offers Bitcoin back on gift cards from select brands. Next, especially around the holidays, retailers may be running their own special deals where you get bonus cash for buying a certain amount in gift cards. And, lastly, some credit cards allow customers to redeem their points or cashback for discount gift cards, with Discover being the first one that comes to mind. The bottom line: it’s worth keeping an eye out for these options and stocking up on gift cards just before it’s time to make your tech purchase.

Hopefully one or more of these tips and tricks helps you to save money on your next tech purchase just as many of them have allowed me to do the same. What’s more, as you may have noticed, many of these strategies may be “stackable,” meaning that you can save even more by combining them. So, whatever your next big electronics or technology purchase is, give these a try and see how much you could save.

Also published on Medium.


Kyle Burbank

Kyle is a freelance writer and author whose first book, "The E-Ticket Life" is now available on Amazon. In addition to his weekly "Money at 30" column on Dyer News, he is also the editorial director and a writer for the Disney fan site LaughingPlace.com and the founder of Money@30.com.

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