Frugal Advice for the Gadget Addicted

Hi, my name is Jesse, and I’m a gadget-aholic. But I’m also a believer in frugal living, and new toys can add up quick. Small handheld gadgets are my weakness, but I’m learning to control the addiction. Here’s some advice to live frugally and enjoy your tech without compromising your financial goals.

1. Admit That You Have a Problem

Stop justifying every iPod, iPad, smartphone, or new laptop you buy. You know you don’t “need” them. You want them. And sometimes a want is OK, just don’t kid yourself.

2. Address Your Needs

Now that you know what you want, assess your tech needs. Is this new gizmo really going to improve your life? Is it really an upgrade from your earlier gadget? Are the features worth it? Do you need more memory and a front-facing camera? If not, maybe you can wait.

Also, make sure you are not overspending to buy features that you won’t use. For example, if you live in a small apartment, you probably don’t need a TV bigger than 42”.

3. Buy Used When Possible

Maybe you won’t get the newest and greatest thing on the market, but you can save a lot of money and still have a great time with your new purchase. Check out eBay and Craigslist.

4. Sell Your Old Gadgets When You Do Upgrade

Why leave a used phone, MP3 player, or digital camera collecting dust in a drawer? You’d be surprised how much people are willing to pay for some used gadgets. It helps if you take care of your current stuff to preserve resale value. In addition to Craigslist and eBay, sites like Gazelle specialize in buying old electronics, and they’ll even pay for shipping.

5. Buy Manufacturer-Refurbished Items

Apple and Dell sell refurbished products on their websites, complete with warranties. I’ve had a lot of luck buying items that were for all intents and purposes new. Often “refurbished” means returned and re-boxed. 

6. Capitalize on the Serial Upgrader

We all have friends who buy a new phone or the latest and greatest gadget every few months. Capitalize on their addiction by buying their only slightly old stuff. I scored an iPad this way when a friend decided to upgrade to the 3G version. And usually your friends will be willing to cut you a deal.

7. Set Time Frames

Set a time frame for purchases and upgrades. Like every three years for a computer or two years for a phone. If it’s a new item, wait for the second generation if possible. First generation items are notoriously buggy.

8. Buy a Generation Older

While they might not be the latest and greatest, you can score older items at a big discount. This is an especially great option when the latest generation doesn’t offer any big bump in features. Older models can often be found at a discount when stores clear their shelf for the current generation.

9. Upgrade Parts in Your Old Stuff

I’ve gotten big improvements out of older computers by upgrading the RAM and hard drives myself. New batteries, a new hard drive, and more RAM can be easy to install can make your current device as good as a new one.

10. Think Multi-Purpose

Buy devices that can do more than one thing. If your new phone plays MP3s, maybe you can skip the latest iPod Nano. And why buy an e-reader and a handheld video game system when you can get a tablet that lets you read, play games, and surf the web?

11. Recognize That There’s Always Something Newer Around the Corner

Just like death and taxes, you can count on new “must have” gadgets every few months. And the longer you wait to buy, generally the better the next tech product will be in terms of features, specifications, and mostly importantly, price.

This is a guest post by Jesse Lynch. Jesse is a Chicago-based marketing professional and freelance writer. When not plotting ways to save money, he writes for his food blog Fast Food Reviewed and his personal blog. Read more by Jesse:


Disclaimer: The links and mentions on this site may be affiliate links. But they do not affect the actual opinions and recommendations of the authors.

Wise Bread is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Meg Favreau's picture

Buying refurbished is one of my major tenants of electronics shopping -- I currently use a refurbished iPod Shuffle that has lasted longer than the one I bought new (then again, that one was part of the "notoriously buggy" first generation).

Guest's picture

good article! I actually agree with purchasing refurbished with lots of items... thats how I bought my hedge trimmer and edger... I wouldve bought my lawnmower like that as well except a family member gave me one. some things are just gonna get beat up and used up anyways, no need to pay the premium just to be the first to use it.

I wrote a similar article on my blog about smart spending!

Guest's picture

I myself love gadgets! However to afford them I have to wait until the price goes down. For exmaple...when the iphone came out it was over $200 but I recently bought the 3GS for $49 several weeks ago. It took a lot of patience but the wait was worth it. For all those who love gadgets but can't afford them when they come out, give it some time, everything comes down in price when it comes to electronics b/c they're always developing a new and improved version.

Guest's picture

I have a problem!!!! I actually am addicted to my iphone, but I am paying the price. I hardly ever use it as a phone, yet I pay $90 a month for the cell service, 3G data, and texts. It's really ridiculous, and it's the only thing I really pay for that I just don't need.
So my idea is to cancel my plan, get a plain old cell phone, and use my iphone on wifi or whatever (at home and work we have wifi) like it is an ipod touch. I am looking at straight talk wireless which has a 30/month plan for 1000 minutes and 1000 texts which is plenty really and even includes 30 MB of data if I REALLY need it one day lol. I am just sick of paying $90 a month for using my iphone. Has anyone else been in this situation and what did you do? Suck it up and pay or get rid of it? I think it will be hard!

Guest's picture

As Far as the Iphone goes if you just love the apps then get an Ipod Touch it does almost everything an Ipod does and all the apps made for Ipod work on the Ipod touch.
You do not need a monthly subscription and you can hook up to your own internet at home or free WiFi at coffee shops and restaurants.
Most cellphone providers will hook your Ipod up to on the go internet for $20-$30 a month and you can use Skype instead of a cellphone to be ultra frugal. The Ipod has two cameras one is a webcam that works on Skype.