How To: Avoid Buying Tech You Don't Need

How To: Avoid Buying Tech You Don't Need

Anthony Nguyen
Apr 21, 2009

We had lunch with a several IT managers yesterday. As project managers for new hardware refreshes every few years for their company, they have to constantly keep an eye on the amount of spending and old hardware waste generated by the company year to year.

So we asked them, "How do you guys avoid buying a bunch of tech that ends up just sitting there in the IT storage room, and how do you make sure you stay under budget without skimping on too much to lower productivity?" What we got were responses that weren't catered towards just an IT corporate setting, but an all-around, wholesome way of technical living.

Since old tech somehow always tends to find its way into our junkyards, it's always a good idea to spend when you must, rather than when you can.

Here are some tips to help you avoid buying tech you don't really need:

  • Bigger isn't always better. Just take a look at how netbooks took over the laptop sector over the recent years. Crappier computers? Smaller screens? Yes, it's practical. Because it's what people need. Your grandparents don't need a superpowered computer to just read news on Yahoo. What they do need is a legible screen, however. Which brings me to a second point...
  • Recognize need over want. You can always "want" a new phone, laptop, tv, or car. You really shouldn't spend (even if you've got the money) on things that merely fit into the "want" category. You know why? It's because you'll end up wanting something else a year - heck, a month from now, when something technologically superior comes across your eye and you'll be spending again. The better thing to do is...
  • Reuse, donate, or sell the crap you don't want. Do all of the above before even considering buying a new item. At our company, we tend to always find new a use for older computers - most of the time it ends up being a data workhorse or a remote system for checking company mail. For consumers, the best way to go is Craigslist or eBay if you're looking to sell. Since you don't want the item anymore, just list the item about 50% of the initial value you paid for if it's a relatively new item that's 2-3 years old. If it's older than that, do some research on eBay to find a reasonable listing price and then aim for something similar. One final piece of the pie that goes into our reasoning behind new IT purchases is to always, always...
  • Know your budget. As much as most of us "claim" to know how much we have to spend, most people overestimate and end up finding themselves spending way more than they should. Since dealing with expense reports day in and day out makes our lives a bit easier when it comes down to keeping track of the numbers, we recommend a standard Excel spreadsheet made to reflect monthly spending (or if you're buying a big ticket item like a house or something, an additionally yearly sheet) that includes all of your incoming income, bills, and purchases all in one place. Online banking has pretty much simplified this solution, but since we've found about 75% of people still rely on papered billing to keep track of their spending, the Excel habit is a good one to have in case you don't have an always-on Internet connection.

Sounds like a fail-proof plan to us! Do you have a unique personal system of managing your "wants" and "needs" when it comes to buying big ticket tech items? Let us know in the comments below!

[Image: t0m_ka, rpriegu]

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