11 Ways to Save When Buying Electronics

December 5, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

Electronics tend to be big-ticket items that can set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars, but there’s no need to pay top retail prices when you know how to shop right. Here are a few hints to finding the best deal on your next tech purchase.

Shop by the Calendar

You can save as much as 50% on electronics by buying them at the right time of year. Purchase the current model in October or November right before the new one comes out. Brave Black Friday sales or look for deals on Cyber Monday. Digital cameras typically go on sale in February, since manufacturers announce new models at the beginning of the year. Back-to-school sales on laptops, tablets, and desktop computers offer good deals in late summer. Look for TV deals before Superbowl Sunday.

Embrace the Idea of Refurbishment

As long as your refurbished product still carries a manufacturer’s warranty (and most do), it’s usually as good as buying new. You may find some cosmetic flaws on certain products, but a factory-certified refurbishment will perform exactly the same as something fresh out of the box. These items are usually returned in perfect condition, and they’re factory tested for flaws. The retailer just can’t sell them as though they’re new because they’ve been sold to and opened by a customer before. The difference is in the price – expect to save 15 to 30%.

Go Back a Generation

You can save 50% or more simply by buying the last generation of a product. An added benefit of buying the older generation is that the bugs are already fixed. Brand new products often come with flaws that haven’t been identified or addressed yet. Staying behind just one generation on smartphones can save about $200, and the differences in models are often negligible. Stop and really consider whether the latest generation is worth the price.

Haggle for a Better Deal

If you find an item with a damaged box or with a cosmetic flaw, ask for a discounted price immediately. You’ll almost always get it. Have your heart set on a pristine item? Don’t give up on haggling just yet. A Consumer Reports survey found that about one-third of shoppers tried haggling for electronics, and most had at least one success. Typical savings hovered around $50. Haggling isn’t dead – you just need the guts to give it a try.

Be Selective About Add-Ons

As you’re about to check out with that new computer, you might discover that you can choose to have some handy programs pre-loaded on the device. Perhaps you have an option of including a mouse or other accessories with your purchase. Stop and really price these add-ons. Is it cheaper to buy it now or can you save by taking advantage of discounts and special deals when you buy that extra item separately? Something are certainly useful, but many employers will give you a steep discount for purchasing software through the company.

Know Your Discounts

You can often get electronics discounts through your employer, school, or other membership association. Check out these options before you settle on a new item. Employee discounts typically target a certain brand, so you might need to compromise if you have your heart set on a certain product. Many different brands take part in some sort of student discount, though. If your employer doesn’t offer discounts but you use your computer to work from home, try suggesting that they implement this type of savings program.

Buy Online

Buying online is often cheaper than purchasing electronics in the store. Look for specials that offer free shipping, since many electronics are large and can be expensive to ship. Start by checking prices direct from the manufacturer. Shop around at other online stores as well to find the lowest price possible. If you don’t have the patience to order from the Internet, print out the great price you found and see if a local retailer will match it.

Know What You Need

While the top-of-the-line model is probably tempting, but do you really need all the bells and whistles? Shop around to find best tablet for you and your lifestyle needs. Always avoid impulse shopping when it comes to electronics, so you can thoroughly research your options. Get what you need and don’t give into the temptation to indulge in features that you barely understand and will most likely never be using. For example, if looking for a 4K TV then you should visit sites that specialize in reviews. Most sites that have all brands available give honest and real opinions on the products.

Skip the Extended Warranty

An extended warranty is nearly always offered with electronics. While the sales person is likely to push this purchase hard, it’s not always necessary. Consumer Reports found that many of the repairs that the warranty covers cost the same as the warranty itself. The standard warranty is usually sufficient and you’ll save a bundle by declining this addition. These warranties typically cost about $73 in-store and $64 online.

Get it Used

This is admittedly a bit of a gamble, but depending on the product, you may find that it’s one worth making. There are lots of ways to find used electronics, from eBay and Craigslist to your own friends and family. Lobby your sister for her old e-reader when she upgrades to a new one, and you might just score the item for free. Free is always better than cheap!

Build it Yourself

If you’re technologically inclined, you can often build a new computer yourself for much less than you would pay to simply buy it up front. The added benefit of this option is that you’ll get everything you want and nothing that you don’t. Comparison shop for each piece, looking for discounts, haggling for prices, and otherwise employing the previous tips for every part. While this option isn’t for everyone, it will keep a lot of cash in your wallet if you know how to pull it off.

Saving on electronics isn’t as difficult as you might think. Take your time, do plenty of research, and use these handy tricks for saving on everything from digital cameras to desktop computers.