Gadgets are more than frivolities; in many instances, we need them to work and function alongside the rest of our connected society. Problem is, tech is expensive and nobody is doling out iPhones like free bowls of soup. If we want the smartphones and laptops that have become part of our day-to-day lives, we need to fend for ourselves. Luckily, with a little patience and research, it’s possible to buy the best tech and gadgets even when you’re on a budget.
From laptops to tablets, and from Android phones to desktop towers, you can find what you’re looking for on the cheap with some patience, sleuthing, and a little luck. Here are five ways to grab high-tech gadgets for cheap:
Join the FreeCycle Network – FreeCycle (TFN)is an organization based in Arizona that hooks up people with technology by way of free “gifts.” Looking for a computer monitor that’s in decent shape? FreeCycle may be able to connect you with a person in your area who just happens to have what you need. FreeCycle is one of several worldwide networks that aims to promote the “gifting” aspect of consumer culture. Not only will you save money by participating, but you’ll help keep toxic items out of landfills—and you might even make a new friend.
Buy the previous model of tablet/phone/laptop – Tech evolves faster than Pokemon, but yesterday’s laptop still needs a good home. Consider your needs before you go ahead and drop money on something that’s cutting-edge. For example, if you plan to use your iPhone for some serious processing and gaming, then you’re going to want your hardware to be up-to-the-second. If you’re looking to do some lighter work, like surf the web, read books, play Solitaire, or just make phone calls (who uses their phone for that anymore?), ask about pricing plans for previous models.
Buy refurbished/second-hand items – Never turn your back on the free/refurbished tech market. It’s huge. Big box retail stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy are always refurbishing used items and putting them up for sale at massive discounts. Keep an eye out for open-box items, too.
Watch out for “Deals of the Day” – Woot.com is the go-to site for Daily Deals, but you should also keep tabs on other major retailers’ websites, including Amazon. Manufacturers are constantly advertising blowouts and deals, though finding exactly what you need admittedly takes some luck and patience. Even so, keep checking back. You never know when you’ll score that magic item.
Learn to do minor repairs – Learn how to make small electrical repairs: There are hundreds of resources on the Internet. We’ve unfortunately become a bit of a throw-away society, and people discard expensive electronics because of a blown bulb or a loose wire. Not only will you be able to rescue these items from thrift stores, but you’ll also find it satisfying to work with your hands.
For more advice on buying affordable technology, visit:
How to Buy Used Tech Gear Cheap at BusinessWeek
The 20 Best Products Under $100 at PCMag
Are you a movie aficionado who drops a lot of money every month at the cinema? Maybe it’s time to consider building your own home theater. There are several compelling reasons to do it: the price of movie tickets is rising steadily, a bag of popcorn slathered in something akin to oily, melted plastic costs an arm and a leg, and the time gap between theatre releases and DVD/Blu-ray releases is steadily closing.
Of course, if you relish the public movie experience as it exists now—screaming kids, people talking on cellphones, sticky floors—that’s cool, too. Keep on keepin’ on. If you’re ready for something a little more personal and exclusive, though, here’s what you need to know about building an in-home system. Check out the following home theater buying guide for hints, tips and advice when shopping for hardware:
Go with an HD screen, but consider your viewing distance – Needless to say, you’re going to want an HD display for your movies. The question is, how big do you want that screen to be? “Bigger is better” seems like a philosophy you should subscribe to automatically, but that’s not necessarily the case. Only you can be the judge of what “works,” so go with your gut, but PC World’s home theatre buying guide reminds consumers of a general rule: “The diagonal screen size should not be larger than about half your seating distance. With a 42-inch TV, for example, you probably should not watch from closer than about 7 feet.”
Multiple-disc carousels are good – Getting up and down to change discs can be a bit of a hassle. A multi-disc setup will cut down on the number of times you need to stand up to change the movie, which will keep you in a viewing mood.
Start with three speakers – There’s little point in going nutty with your home theatre purchases at first, especially if you’re on a budget. Start by buying three speakers: left, right, and center. If you like what you hear, you can add satellite speakers and sub-woofers later on.
Make sure your AV receiver supports Dolby Digital decoding – For many movie-goers, sound quality makes the biggest difference between the public and home theatre experiences. Make sure your AV receivers can support Dolby Digital Recording, preferably Dolby Pro Logic II. Your home videos and regular music CDs will sound a lot cooler, too.
Make sure you buy from a store with a good return policy – You’re probably going to engage in a lot of hemming, hawing, and experimentation before you finally settle on a theater setup that works best for your living room. Make sure your purchases all come from a store that has a decent exchange/return policy—not to mention patient, helpful sales clerks.
Setting up a system is a big job, so for more information and home theater buying guides, check out:
How to Buy a Home Theater System at PC World
Things to Look Out For Before Buying a Home Theater System at Economic Times
Home Theater Buying Guide at How Stuff Works