Holiday prep, whether it's buying gifts, trimming the tree, or preparing the feast, requires planning and some serious budgeting. It's typically the most expensive season for Americans, and one category that can quickly derail a budget is consumer electronics. The holiday deals are tempting, but you need to consider new purchases carefully. There are so many choices, and every product is improved and upgraded on what seems like a weekly basis (I imagine a future where my kids will have the iPhone 760 and be floored that I had the iPhone 4).
To make sure you get the most for your money this holiday season, follow these shopping tips as you check off the electronics on your wish list:
1. Make Sure You Need It
Sometimes spending money on technology is inevitable. If your computer or phone breaks, you need to replace it.
However, resist the urge to convince yourself that your "wants" are "needs." If you have a gadget that works well, you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a new model that isn't much different from what you have. If you determine something is a "want," you'll have to decide if you want to save for it--and if you're willing to give up other expenses for it.
2. Get A Good Deal
Check store websites for sales. Keep an eye out for special offers as well. I recently upgraded to an iPhone 5S for just $1 by trading in my iPhone 4.
Price matching is another way to save money. If you find a good price online, a store might give you the same deal. Target, Best Buy, and Walmart are a few places that will match the prices of other stores and websites. And don't be afraid to ask if there's a student, teacher, or military discount, too!
3. Don't Forget The Extras
It's easy to forget about the accessories that come along with a new electronic. For instance, if you purchase a camera, you will likely need to buy a case, a memory card, batteries, and maybe even lenses.
And then there are hidden fees--my phone only cost me a dollar, but I had to pay an activation fee, higher insurance costs, and taxes on the original price of the phone--which amounted to nearly $700! Do your research to uncover these costs, then make sure to include them in your budget.
You can also find ways to save on the accessories and fees. Many stores offer bundles of accessories at a reduced cost or free with the purchase of your new electronic--check the website or ask. You can often find cheaper accessories on Amazon and eBay as well; just be wary of high shipping charges.
4. Find The Best Time To Buy
The holidays often encourage retailers to offer special deals, but that doesn't necessarily mean you can't get electronics cheaper at other times in the year. Google "best time to buy X" to get some guidance.
Time will also be on your side when a new model comes out. The new version will be expensive, but the price of the older models may go down as a result. You may not have the latest gadget, but you'll get a much better deal.
How did you save money on electronics this season? Let us know in the comments!
SALT™ is a free, nonprofit-backed educational program that helps every student who wants a college degree to get it in a financially responsible way. SALT's neutral advice, practical information, and interactive lessons help students gain money knowledge for college and beyond.
This post was authored by SALT contributing writer Courtney Buohl. © 2014 American Student Assistance.