Five Steps to Save on Electronics

You don't have to spend a fortune on your next gadget if you follow a plan.
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One area where you can spend a lot of money is buying electronic gadgets. But you don't always have to spend a fortune to have the latest technology.

If you prepare and follow a plan, you can satisfy your appetite for electronics, such as digital cameras, MP3 players and video game consoles, and not break the bank in the process.

Here are some tips that you may want to use and then adjust according to your particular needs:



Give Yourself Time

If you have to purchase something in a rush, you are going to end up spending more and have a higher likelihood of getting something that doesn't meet all your needs.

To get a good deal, you're going to have to do a bit of research and comparison shopping. This is time-intensive, but if you don't do the proper research, you'll likely pay more in the end.

In addition to leaving time to research your purchase, time will also give you the opportunity to step back and ask yourself if you truly need the gadget. Impulse purchases not only cost more money, but are often made for gadgets that don't meet the buyer's needs. According to

Martha Stewart, 80% of all the stuff in your house is never used, and you want to make sure that the gadget you're about to purchase won't join the ranks of the unused.



Read Product Reviews

Take the time to read reviews on whatever you are looking to buy. Reading reviews from major tech and consumer research sites is a good place to start.

Many are free online, but some of the best, such as

Consumer Reports, require a subscription. If you have a library card, you may be able to gain access to their reports from your computer. Many libraries have online databases you can access from your home with your library card that carry back issues of these magazines. Contact your local library to see if this is available for you.



Consult Friends and Family

Take the time to check with friends and co-workers who may have knowledge with the gadget you're looking to purchase. This will allow you to see what their likes and dislikes are and possibly use it firsthand.

Someone who already uses the gadget will be able to give you insight into what is good and what possibly could be a problem with the gadget you are considering purchasing. This can be quite helpful when making a decision about what to purchase and will help ensure that you buy a product that has the functions that you need. For example, if you need a camera to use for landscape photography, you would want different features than if you needed one to take close-up photos of items to place on auction sites.



Comparison Shop Online

Once you know what you want, you can begin to search for it online. There are plenty of price comparison aggregators out there that should give you an idea of a good price on the item you want relatively quickly.

The big three search engines all have price aggregators:

  • Google Product Search
  • MSN Shopping
  • Yahoo Shopping

Or you can go with some of the dedicated price comparison aggregators, like:

  • Pricegrabber

When you have found a good price, always do an Internet search for the store name plus "coupon code" to see if you can get an additional discount. Most major online stores offer coupon codes and there are a lot of sites that list them. The coupon code may get you a percentage off your purchase, a specific dollar amount off, or a bonus, such as free shipping.



Check the Store

Don't assume that the Internet will always offer the best price. Once you know how much it will cost online, check your local electronic discount stores such as

Best Buy and

Frys to see what they're charging for the same product.

Sometimes local sales will provide a better price than you can find online. Also, check general discounters such as

Wal-Mart and

Target, as their purchasing power can often allow them to offer gadgets at low prices.

If you want to get an additional 5% to 15% off your purchase at one of these stores, you can buy a gift card from an online auction site such as

eBay. Gift cards for major retailers can often be purchased at a discount off the face value, and then can be used to buy the gadget you want.

By mapping out a strategy and taking the time to do the proper research, you will end up paying much less for your next gadget than the average consumer. You'll also have a much better chance of getting exactly what you want and need. That will help ensure that the gadget gets used regularly and is well worth the money you pay.

Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs