Before I moved in with my husband, I never had cable TV. When I was younger, I only got to watch cable when I went over to a friend’s house or my grandparents’ house — it was such a treat. When I was first out on my own, I couldn’t afford to even think about getting cable, and later on when I had my first job and could afford it, it just wasn’t all that important to me.
My husband, on the other hand, always had cable growing up, so it was something he expected to have when he went out on his own. He regularly watched it and enjoyed it. While it certainly wasn’t the most important purchase in his life, it was something he valued.
Electronics — like cars, clothes, and beauty products — can often be classified as discretionary spending, something you should only spend “extra” money on if you’ve really got enough to go around. But just like the car post from a few weeks back, I think it’s important to take off our judgement glasses and really look at this through the lens of values. If your financial ducks are in a row and you’re hard at work toward your financial goals, how you treat yourself should be your decision: There isn’t anything wrong if you appreciate having the latest technology at your fingertips or want to spend your Sundays watching ESPN.
However, in a marriage, it can get interesting if you and your partner value different things. How do you decide together what you’ll spend on these items? Finding ways to save money on discretionary spending items can make compromising easier.
Here are a few ways to save money when it comes to tech and electronics:
1. Inventory What You Have: Before you head out to buy anything new, take a close look at what you already own. Do you have any devices that can serve more than one purpose? Any older devices that might do the trick even if they aren’t as flashy? A few years ago, when I started doing yoga at home, I was looking for something bigger than my phone and smaller than my computer that I could use to play yoga videos. I ended up finding an old 2nd generation iPad I had stuffed away in my closet. It was perfect for working out, and has become what I use to access recipes (and Netflix) while cooking. While it may not be the fastest machine, it works well for these simple tasks.
Tip: Found some devices that aren’t serving their purpose anymore or that you just aren’t using? Sell or recycle them! You may be able to get some money back for your old devices using services like Gazelle.
2. Only Pay for What You’ll Use: It’s easy to be drawn in by flashy new features or more robust packages—especially if it seems like you’re getting a bargain. Take a step back and consider what you actually need and will use. Do you really have to have unlimited data? Will all that extra storage space really serve a purpose? Are you willing to pay extra just to get the color you want?
Tip: My husband and I cut the cord on our Satellite a few months ago but it took us months and months to do it. We were so afraid we would miss out on our favorite shows or events. Honestly, we paid $150/month for a service we were not using. Don’t let the fear of missing out keep you from letting go of a device or service that you just aren’t using. That’s like buying $150 of groceries and letting them rot on the counter. Just because you can’t see it (or smell it) doesn’t mean it isn’t money wasted.
3. Balance Quality and Price: My husband excels at making sure he is getting the highest quality for the best price. Finding a good deal is important, but it’s even more important to find something that will serve you well over the long-term. When we buy things, we always have a view to how long they will last and how well they will serve us years from now.
Tip: Want to make sure you maintain that quality over the long term? Get insurance on your most important items. For just a few dollars per month, we were able to add insurance to our cell phone plan — it’s been well worth it as we’ve both dropped our phones in the last few years. I also made sure to get extended Apple Care on my Mac, so I have tech support if (read: when!) a technical issue arises.
4. Buy Strategically: Ok, so you’ve decided you need a new gadget and you’ve narrowed down your options. Before you run out and buy the product, do a little research to find out the best time to buy. Are there any upcoming electronics sales days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Super Bowl Sunday, Amazon Prime Day (in July), or New Years’?
Tip: As you look for the best days to buy, also consider the model you want to buy. You can often save quite a bit by buying the previous generation model, buying refurbished, or taking advantage of an open box special. Just make sure your product is in good working order and has all of the attachments (like a power cord, etc.) before you walk out the door.
5. Ask About Discounts: When it comes to electronics like cell phones or computers, discounts abound. Before you buy, see if there are any student or employer offers available. Ask the sales associate for any manufacturer or store discounts — you may be eligible for more than you think. Looking to lower your price on your internet or cable? If you’ve been with the same provider for a while, you’ll likely be able to get a better deal if you ask for the “loyalty department.”
Tip: Discounts are wonderful until they end! Promotional periods for first time buyers last for 6-12 months. Ask up front when this period ends and put that date on your calendar. Then, a few days before, give the company a call to see if any additional deals are available. If you received any “extras” for free during the promotional period, make sure you cancel them before you get charged.
Electronics are an important part of daily life in today’s world. Being smart about your purchases, and making sure they are aligned with your values, is a great way to ensure you feel good about how you’re spending your money.
Have tips for buying electronics? Share below!
And, on Thursday, April 11, I’ll be releasing a short video on Facebook and IGTV I shot last week while I was vacationing on Vancouver Island. Join me for a walk on the beach and some real talk about Marriage & Money. You won’t want to miss it!