Cheap Electronics – hot tech, cool deals

Cheap electronics – How to get the gear, without getting gigged

I like electronics, especially cheap electronics. I’m a guy, so maybe it’s in the DNA. I like gadgets and gizmos, but I’m also committed to staying on a budget for my family. So, if you are like me, how can you have both?

When I was younger, and making more income with less outgo, I bought a new Compaq laptop. It was not cheap electronics. I think it was my first laptop. It was one of the first laptops which had a DVD player, and at the time, was one of the best of it’s kind. This model had the DVD/CD drive and floppy drive, in a wedge shape, which was detachable from the bottom of the laptop.

So, if you didn’t need the DVD/CD player or the floppy (kids, go ask your parents to explain what a “floppy disk” is), you could remove it, lightening the weight of the laptop and improving the battery life. I think it was a screaming fast PII CPU.

I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it ended up being over $1500. As I said, it was not “cheap electronics”. Of course, I bought it on credit, a consumer loan through Compaq, so it probably had 18%-21% interest. I did move it to another credit card, but still, it was nuts.

Technology develops SO fast. Six months later, technology had improved greatly. My laptop was now SLOW, and heavy. I was still paying off the computer loan, though. I had a few other, similar buying experiences.

I do have tech and gadgets, but I have learned how to buy better ways. There is simply no possible way to keep up, and have all the newest stuff, while remaining true to my budget. I love new electronics, but I refuse to just run down and buy them without forethought. I refuse to be the cash cow, sacrificed on the altar of “Hottest New Thing”.

Piggy bank, iPhone, camera, cheap electronics

How to find cheap electronics, and save money

Let’s talk about ways to find cheap electronics.

Last Generation – I usually don’t buy the newest technology anymore. The last generation is often just as useful. It is also cheaper electronics.

For example, I use an Android phone, but if I used iPhone, you would see me buying the 4, or maybe the 4S, sometime after the iPhone 5S was out. We have the same microwave oven that my wife had before we met… we have been married almost 16 years. My first MacBook Pro was a late-2011 model, purchased from the original owner in late 2012. The Xbox 360 was released in 2005; I bought mine as a refurbished unit on Black Friday, 2010, IIRC. Even my “new” MacBook Pro was purchased as a demo model from an authorized reseller.

Refurbished – As I mentioned, my Xbox 360 is refurbished. GameStop was running a Black Friday deal on consoles. I got a warranty and saved well over $100 from buying new. That was almost four years ago. Buying refurbished is a great way to save on electronics. Minor damage can be repaired by the manufacturer, and you can find excellent deals  shortly after the new models come out. Refurbished products often receive more attention by the manufacturer than the “new” model because they don’t want a PR hassle from unhappy customers.

There are various levels of refurbished. The term can include demo or floor units, returns or recalled products, or units which are damaged. Depending on the store, you may be able to find out why this particular gizmo is “refurbished”. You may also be able to get some kind of warranty, or extended warranty.

Refurbished Demo – These are usually the units that are sitting out on the shelf at a retailer  that everyone can look at and touch. They are cleaned from smudges and fingerprints, any missing parts are replaced, and physical damage may be repaired by the manufacturer. The units are cheap electronics because they have some hours on them. Some stores leave electronics running 24/7; some stores turn them off every night. Either way, the demos may have quite a few hours on them. Demo units often have the standard manufacturer warranty.

Refurbished Return – These may have been a Christmas gift which was “the wrong color”. It may have been taken home, and the customer realized the unit was too wide or too tall to install in the intended space. Even though the unit was never used, since the box was opened, it cannot be sold as “new”. The retailer accepts it back, the manufacturer checks everything out, and sells it as “refurbished”, another variety of “cheap electronics”.

Refurbished Recall – It may have been recalled by the manufacturer to repair a defective part. The customer receives an email or postcard to return the item, the retailer or manufacturer sends the customer a new gizmo, and the original unit is updated with the new part, then sold as refurbished.

Damaged – This can include either cosmetic or actual damage. “Scratch and dent” sales are an example of cosmetic damage for cheap electronics. The scratch on the side of the desktop computer case won’t affect how the computer works, just its cosmetic appeal. However, that scratch could cause the price to be reduced a little. Actual damage may include a minor scratch on the monitor, or a cracked monitor. If the scratch is minor, and off to the side, they may just drop the price. If the monitor is cracked, and the screen is unusable, they may replace it with a new monitor.  This can be a risky purchase, so ask about the warranty.

Another way that I use to get cheap electronics is to buy an older model. As I mentioned before, I buy computers and cell phones a generation or two behind the new releases. Sometimes, the manufacturer will replace the guts of a refurbished unit with the newest processor. People want to “look” like they have new gear, so they may not want the “old case”.

We will talk more about buying refurbished in an upcoming post. In the meantime, what have you purchased refurbished? Have you ever made a poor electronic buying decision? What ways have you discovered to make wise electronic purchases? What was your best example of cheap electronics?

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  1. Pingback: Cheap electronics 2 – Hunting for the bargain - Budgetopolis

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