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These days, you can pay anywhere from $400 to $2,000 or more for a new computer and $150 to $600 for a new smartphone (not including service fees). With new versions being released constantly, it's easy to get caught in the cycle of continually grabbing the latest gadget – and paying top price in addition to a hefty "adopter's fee" when often, the PC or phone you've been using is all you need. For techies and the tech-challenged alike, it's easy to get an excellent value on the technology you need. Just follow these simple tech-buying tips:
- Get technology that will last you at the best price possible. That PC is going to lower in value the moment you buy it, with a new version emerging in a matter of months. You can save yourself many thousands of dollars over the years by determining your real technology needs, getting a product that meets them, and sticking with it as long as possible. Remember that you can always add features or components as needed along the way.
- Know what you need. Many of us want the just-released phone or the laptop with never-seen-before features. Rather than setting your sights on what is hot right now, know what you use your system for and what specific features you need. If you're a light user, the basics will probably cover you. If you're a hardcore gamer, advanced graphics may be top priority – but a webcam? Not so much.
- Upgrades are golden. If your storage is too small or your operations are too slow, resist the urge to run out and purchase a brand new system. You can save yourself thousands by getting the specific upgrades your system needs and installing them – or having them installed by a pro. Just remember to shop around for a skilled, affordable technician and get hardware that's compatible with your PC.
- Do your homework. When it comes to tech purchases, loyalty to a specific store doesn't pay off – neither do purchases and immediate returns. Finding the right system up front means less hassle and potentially avoiding hidden "restocking fees" on returned technology. To get the best products for you at the best price out there, research brands, read reviews, and watch prices online before considering a purchase.
- Beware buying used. When it comes to buying anything used, the cost is generally lower and the risk higher than buying new. With the high expense of technology and the hassle and expense of computer repair, buying new may well save you cash in the long run. One exception may be buying a relatively new and well-cared-for system from a relative or close friend.
- Consider free shareware or Open Source software instead of dropping hundreds on new software suites from your local electronics store. The same goes for smartphone apps. You can do this by finding a reputable site online and searching for the specific applications you need. Free versions are often as good or better than those you'll find in stores or online.
- Don't get price gouged on a built-to-order PC. Instead, find a computer that is already configured with most of the features you want to get a lot more system for your money. You can always add specific features on your own after purchase, for less.
- Watch for deals when in the market for new technology, give yourself several months to research products and track prices. Although Black Friday and the weeks leading up to Christmas tend to bring loads of technology deals, big savings can pop up virtually any month of the year. Two of the most popular sites for savings on everything from cords to printers are MonoPrice and SlickDeals.