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Upgrades are expensive. It might be a time for celebration, for showing off your new hardware to your friends and family, but ultimately, there is a price to pay, and it’s going to come straight out of your bank account.

But it doesn’t have to be as devastating as you might think. Bank balances don’t have to tumble beyond the overdraft; credit cards don’t have to be maxed out.

How you upgrade, when you upgrade, and how you manage your money can all impact on whether you can get the latest tech without skipping meals. It’s all a matter of changing your habits slightly.

Case Study: Me

I’ve been working as a technology writer for five years now, full-time. During that time, I’ve really struggled, especially in the early days, to get hold of the latest, must-have hardware without it denting my bank balance too much.


The secret to getting the tech I wanted – the stuff I knew I could profit from as a writer – wasn’t really a secret at all. It was more of a realization of the situation, and how I could best find my way through it, simply by changing how I bought tech.

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It really isn’t difficult to make the right choices and not find yourself with red credit card bills every month. You don’t have to buy that new iPhone and then wrap it in a jiffy bag because you couldn’t afford the case.

Cultivate these 5 habits to make sure you save money and get the gadgets and hardware you’ve been lusting after.

Research Your Hardware

What do you want to buy? Is it the latest iPhone? Perhaps you have your sights set on a brand new Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Surface Pro 4 Review and Giveaway Surface Pro 4 Review and Giveaway If you’re looking for a flexible portable hybrid computer, one that is capable of replacing your notebook and iPad or Android tablet, the Surface Pro 4 Core M3 device is a perfectly adequate replacement. Read More ?

Before buying, make sure you do as much research into the device as possible. Read as much as possible; hardware reviews, specification lists, and find video reviews on YouTube that demonstrate the device in action.


Once you’ve done this, head – with no intention of buying – to your local consumer electronics store, and have a look at the device. Hopefully they will have a demonstration phone, tablet, PC or camera that you can handle, enabling you to determine whether or not it is suitable for you.

By now, you should know whether or not the device is suitable for your needs.

Ask Yourself: “Do I Really Need It?”

Regardless of whether the hardware you researched and tried out suited your requirements or not, it is now time to ask yourself a very wise question. This is a question you should ask yourself whatever you’re buying, from a pizza delivery (pretty pointless if you’re short of money yet have the ingredients to make a sandwich) to a car:

“Do I really need this?”

A good chunk of what we own is unused. Do you really want to spend $1,000 on a new tablet or phone that you don’t really need? Does the model you’re looking at really include a feature that your existing device doesn’t, but you see yourself using regularly?

Once you’ve determined the answer, and decided that you really do need that new gadget, there is a follow-up question: “Can I afford it?”

Assess Your Finances First

Don’t buy anything without first knowing how much money you have, and whether you can afford the purchase. Spending a grand on a new flagship smartphone is insane when you only have $500 in your account.


But people still do this. The most popular way, of course, is by signing up for a new contract, and spreading the payment over the subsequent 24 months. But getting yourself into debt does not equate to saving money. It is reckless, and exemplifies the narcissism of society’s preoccupation with personal gadgets.

So, understand how much money you have. Save, if you have to, and pay the price for the handset. But don’t throw your cash blindly at a mobile network to establish a new contract which will set you back another 50% of the price of the phone. You don’t use most of the text messages you’re paying for, and if you’re smart, you’re not using the mobile Internet Save Money On Your Smartphone Bill: Cut The Mobile Internet Save Money On Your Smartphone Bill: Cut The Mobile Internet How much are you paying for calls and mobile Internet? Is your iPhone really worth that type of outlay? Do you use your Android tablet enough to justify paying over $50 a month? Read More , either.

Contracts: Understand the Terms

Upgrading while under contract is just as reckless.

On one hand, you might have the benefit of being in the “upgrade period”. This means you can safely upgrade to a new device, and hopefully the one you want is available. If it is, see above – do you really want to be tied to financial servitude for another two years?

If the device you’re after isn’t available, you’re lucky. See out your contract, save money for a few months, and buy the unlocked handset outright, choosing your preferred network provider for a SIM card Why Do Cellphones Need a SIM Card? Why Do Cellphones Need a SIM Card? Haven't we come far enough with technology that such a thing as SIM cards shouldn't matter anymore? What is a SIM card and why is it so important? Read More .

Then there’s the other hand. Here, the upgrade period is some months away, and you are desperate for a new iPhone. So what do you do? You break the contract, or worse, open a second contract with the same network or another.

No money is being saved here.

Breaking the contract will have severe penalties, which you should already be aware of, because you will have read the contract and understood the terms. And if you haven’t, you should do so now.

Be Patient: Find the Best Price

Patience is most definitely a virtue, especially when it comes to buying expensive gadgets. There’s no point in spending $1,000 on a phone when the same device (or one that is extremely similar) will be available in a few days’ time – or from a different outlet – for $900.

Example: so impressed was I upon reviewing the Sony Xperia Z5 for MakeUseOf Sony Xperia Z5 Review & Giveaway Sony Xperia Z5 Review & Giveaway You're looking for a new phone. Something reasonably powerful, big screen, great sound. A handset to blow your iPhone loving friends out of the water. The Sony Xperia Z5 might just be it. Read More , that I went out and bought my own handset. But this wasn’t an impulse buy. I knew I needed an Android device superior to my 2013 LG Nexus 5 What Is Special About the Nexus 5: Five Features Other Phones Don't Have What Is Special About the Nexus 5: Five Features Other Phones Don't Have What exactly makes the Nexus 5 so special to the average user? Read More in the next few months, so a purchase was always likely to be imminent. As such, I had been researching phones for some weeks.

The first device I found was around $1,000. I managed to get mine for closer to $800, thanks to patient shopping around over the course of several weeks. Sure, I didn’t queue for several hours to await a midnight opening, but then, who does that without looking like a total fool?

You need a new phone, tablet, or some other tech. But don’t just click the first item you see that fits your description.

Look After Your Hardware, Maintain its Resell Value

Finally, treat your new hardware well. Apply cases, screen protectors; get insurance if you can afford it, but check whether the device is already covered with your current home and car insurance (if portable).

If you can cash in on the resell value within 12-18 months of the device being released (depending on the release cycle), you should find you have 66%-75% of the price of a replacement, ideal for selling online How to Get the Most Cash From Selling Your Old Smartphone How to Get the Most Cash From Selling Your Old Smartphone Selling your old smartphone is a great way to raise funds. That is, as long as you do it right Read More . As new habits to cultivate go, looking after your hardware as if you bought it only yesterday is up there at the top.

What do you do to save money for new tech? Tell us in the comments.

Image Credit: Gimas /, via

  1. Paul
    January 22, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Interesting post. I’d like to piggy back on this, and extend the idea to what to do after the hardware has been purchased: maintain it.

    When I got my first computer (Windows 98 box), I realized that I would need to learn how to live in the computer world, or else I was gonna get raked over (financially) by folks who know a lot more about computers than I do. I don’t fix cars, so I am at the mechanic’s mercy. I didn’t want to encounter the same thing with computers. So I taught myself basic maintenance, and I have managed to install RAM upgrades (5 times I think), as well as replace the heat sink and re-apply thermal compound (these, to resolve overheating issues). Doing basic maintenance can save you a lot of cash, as well as extend the life of your computer. There are plenty of videos on youtube, as well as websites specializing in how to replace/upgrade your hardware, that can act as a guide. One caution—if you are going to tear down your laptop, keep each set of screws taped to a large piece of paper, so you always know where they all are. Keeps them from rolling around and getting lost.

    Only part of the post I’m not on board with is the last paragraph, which mentions the idea of re-selling hardware within 18 months after buying it (when it still has a pretty high resale value). I don’t think I’ve ever done that. If my hardware is still working, I keep using it until it malfunctions, with a couple of exceptions. Routers, cable modems, printers, scanners, and computers---if it works, why replace it? I’ve used them all for years and years. Already paid for is always going to be cheaper than replacing something every 12-18 months. But IF you are going to get the newest, latest thing, then yes, re-selling your old unit can help bring the cost of the purchase down to earth.

    Now I did like the idea of selling used hardware online. I have done this with a computer and a printer; it is a nice way of taking down the price of your new hardware. I sold my fully functional HP laserjet after 7 years of great use. I could have kept on using it, but decided to upgrade to a wireless laserjet, and I figured that I could at least get something if I sold the 7 yo unit now. But usually, like I said, I use it until it breaks.

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