3 frugal ways to save on electronics

Look around and you will see that electronic gadgets are everywhere. In a developed country like Canada and the United States, almost everyone has a phone and almost every family has a computer or a laptop. Thanks to the advancing technology, electronic gadgets are getting faster and cheaper. New gadgets are coming out all the time and the next upgrade seems to be always around the corner. 20 years ago it was unheard of to change your phone every 6 months or buying a TV because the screen is “too small.” This is probably the reason behind people being more materialistic and desire to upgrade their electronic gadgets every year. To these people, having the greatest and the latest means they are hip and cool. Is this really necessary? I strongly believe the answer is NO!

The truth is, if you’re replacing electronic gadgets every 6 months or less, you’re simply wasting your hard earned money. It shocks me that so many people are doing this today. No wonder so many people can’t manage to save any money for retirement!

Here are 3 frugal and simple ways to save money on electronic gadgets:

1. Buy refurbished
Buying refurbished is a good way to save some hard earned money. Most of the refurbished items are usually store display items or returned items that are barely used. To make refurbished items even more appealing, most of the vendors give you a full warranty period on these refurbished gadgets. For example, refurbished Apple products are basically brand new. I purchased all my Apple products refurbished – the MacBook Pro over 6 years ago and the iMac about half a year ago. They both looked brand new when I took them out from the brown Apple refurbished product boxes. Some people claimed that the brown refurbished boxes are ugly but that is just non-sense. Aren’t you recycling the boxes anyway? Isn’t it more important to save more than 20%? I was extremely happy to get an Apple product at a reduced price and still have the full warranty.

2. Buy used
If you don’t need the greatest and latest, buying used will typically save you anywhere from 5 – 30% compared to buying new. This is especially true for electronic gadgets that doesn’t get updated all that often and the “older” technology is just as good as the new ones. A good example is pro-consumer/professional DSLR cameras. I purchased the Canon 5D camera over 4 years ago for $975. Back then you could get a brand new 5D camera for about $1600. Recently Canon came out with the 5DIII and all of the sudden the top of the line 5DII camera became out of date. Due to my various side businesses, I needed a DSLR with more megapixel and video functions, so I decided to upgrade my 5D to a 5DII. After a long and extended search, I was lucky enough to find a used 5DII for $1000. The camera looked and felt like brand new with very low shutter counts. If I were to purchase the 5DIII brand new it would cost over $3000; if I were to purchase a 5DII brand new it would cost  over $2000. I saved a lot of money by buying used. Best of all, I increased my photography rate by about 10% and my photography clients continued to pay me. I was able to recoup the new camera cost very quickly.

Buying used electronic gadgets is great. Not only is the purchase price lower than buying brand new, the gadgets also hold up their value extremely well because the deprecation already took place.

3. Ask yourself, do you really need it?
The best way to save on electronics is asking yourself if you really need it. Do you really need that 45” flat screen TV? Do you really need to upgrade your smartphone? Do you really need to upgrade that laptop you just purchased a year ago? I remember the old days where electronics would last you a LONG time. People didn’t upgrade their TV’s every couple of years. People used to only upgrade their TV’s when their TV’s break down and couldn’t be repaired at all. People also didn’t upgrade their phones and computers because a new one just came out. People typically only upgraded or replaced them when the existing electronics stopped working. This practice meant more money in your pocket for other usages such as investing.

Are you guilty of upgrading your electronic gadgets more often than necessary?

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20 thoughts on “3 frugal ways to save on electronics”

  1. I like to keep my electronic stuff for as long as possible!

    I don’t have an iPhone because I’ve seen what my friends are like with each and every new model and I’ve never wanted to be on that bandwagon! I just think “why?”.

    I use a 3 year old Blackberry (which my friends all laugh at), which suits my personal use just fine. I’ll be upgrading to a new handset in the new year to another BB, though not the latest model and I should be able to get a cheaper call/data plan.

    • Hi Weenie,

      There’s certainly no shame using older electronics. Why keep up with the Joneses when you can save and invest that money?

  2. My son had his camera stolen recently while traveling in Latvia. Ugly experience, he thinks he was drugged. Big lesson learned as he was traveling alone. Luckily, he didn’t have all his picture cards with him, some were back in his hotel room. Anyways I think he has replaced his camera with one he bought used.

  3. I don’t really see a real life purpose to tablets. Just another way to surf the internet and play games. I have won two of them from work conventions and sold one of them and kept the other. Love idea number three. Stuff is just coming out too fast and wouldn’t you rather have money than “retina”.

    • Hi Lance,

      Tablets are great if you just want to surface the internet and play games on the couch and don’t want to carry around a big laptop. But to do “real work” you still need a laptop or PC. That’s why I think the PC business is not going away anytime soon. Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Its that last point that I always ask myself. Its exciting to get caught in the moment and buy things that you dont really need. The tech industry is great at pushing products and convincing people that they NEED it in their lives.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Nice list.


    • Hi R2R,

      Thanks for the kind word, asking yourself if you need it will prevent you from buying a lot of things. Needs vs wants. 🙂

  5. As a techie, I love this. But sadly, I disagree with #1 and #2. I’ve never had good experiences buying used. Of the last 3 movies and video games I bought used, all three were broken in some way, from not loading at all to failing to play big chunks of content. Very disappointing. That’s why I like #3, since that’s my saving grace. Because I have to buy new, I really have to sit down and think “do I really need this?” Help a lot in cutting expenses and minimizing clutter.

    • Hi Dividend Developer,

      It’s great that I’m getting some disagreements which opens opportunities for some good discussions. For buying refurbished and used I guess you need to do your own research. For my examples like Apple computers and camera gear, there’s small risk with buying refurbished and used. It’s maybe a bit different than buying a DVD/blue-ray when the used discs could have some scratches on them.


  6. Sell your old electronics to subsidize your new ones. For example, if you wanted to get the new iPhone, you could always sell the one you are using on Craigslist or trade it back to your telecom provider for a rebate. People do it with their cars all the time so why can’t we do it with our TVs and smartphones?

    • Hi Brian,

      Selling your old electronics to subside the new ones is a good idea. However when you do that you already took a hit on depreciation. AT $100 or so each time, that amount quickly add up.

      • Yes it’s better not to go through the endless cycle of buying new stuff every year, but if you must, then be smart about it. No point keeping old electronics around the house anyway.


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