The great thing about the electronic age is that there’s always some paradigm-shifting new release around the corner. The worst thing about the electronic age is, well, there’s always a new release around the corner, tempting both the most hardcore electronic aficionados and the casual consumer into splurging on products they may not actually need. But when the technology is so cool and those screens are so shiny, how is the savvy consumer to decide whether or not they should pull out that credit card? This list is intended to help you know when to splurge on electronics, when to save, and when to skip all together.
If your work takes you on the road, you’ve got kids to entertain, or you need a lighter alternative to a laptop, tablets are well worth the money. Tablets can help the small business person more easily take payments, speeding up and improving the customer experience. They’re great for watching movies, and they’re even better for taking notes in a meeting, and they’re hyper-streamlined for maximum efficiency. In other words, they’re an investment in productivity and fun. How many products can we say that about? Plus, there are countless fun comparison resources out there to allow you to determine which e-reader is right for you.
Yes, you can get a secondhand smartphone, but why would you when better speed, screens and features are so easy to find? Splurging is worth it just to get fewer dropped calls. If you don’t have a smartphone, upgrading is a definite must. Having access to time-saving apps in the app store is completely necessary, as is the ability to check emails on the go. Plus, a smartphone will eliminate your need to rely on extra devices.
Backing up your most important files on a good hard drive is a no-brainer. Whether it’s your photos, your music collection, or ten years of hard work, you want the most reliable, top of the line external hard drives covering you in the event of coffee spills, laptop drops, and unexpected failures, and you want the security of a device that’s right on your desktop. Guaranteed performance during an emergency will always be worth it.
If you’re a graphic designer and need the most cutting edge hardware with the highest quality graphics card, CPU, and memory card, splurging on a new, top of the line laptop makes sense. But for the rest of us, refurbished products are a great option, especially with trusted brands like Apple and Amazon in on the game. Most of us only use our laptops to a quarter of their capacity anyway, so stick to those that can offer the bare minimum of what you need at the lowest price.
Again, professional photographers, or freelance photographers, should of course splurge on their cameras, as should freelance or amateur photographers who are trying to create some stock images. But otherwise, how many DSLR owners really shoot more than goofy cat photos or friends making ridiculous faces in bars? Most basic cameras long ago hit the 8 megapixel mark, and the fact is anything above that doesn’t really make a difference to the human eye. Even smartphones can take pretty decent shots now, and there’s a good chance the amateur photographer soon won’t even need a separate camera at all.
As more and more devices offer more and more features, stand-alone products like GPS become increasingly irrelevant. The fact is, you don’t need a separate GPS when your smartphone can do the trick.
These suggestions will vary from customer to customer, of course, so it’s best to pinpoint the features you’re really looking. For maximum savings, price calculators and alerts are also a great way to go, so that even when you buy new, you’re not doing so at the peak of the market. Splurge, spend or skip, the market these days is so full of good products, you’re bound to find what you need at a price you like. Adria Saracino is a marketer and blogger. When not consulting on business strategy, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.