Nobody can blame you for wanting to have all of the latest tech gadgets that come available. And nobody can blame you for wanting to save money in a time when the prices of everything from gas to credit card transaction fees are on the rise. Are these two desires mutually exclusive? It’s definitely true that it’s difficult to be a tech fiend without spending a lot of money. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to be on the fringes of the tech world just because you don’t want to waste your hard-earned cash. It is actually possible to be a tech-savvy individual without spending a fortune on the latest gadgets. And you can even get cool things sometimes too.Here are twenty-five ways that you can stay on top of tech trends without needing a Steve Jobs salary:
- Read tech reviews religiously. You probably already do this anyway since you love technology but it’s important to make sure that you do it with an eye towards purchasing only the best products. You want to only invest in gadgets that are worth their cost, fairly priced in the market and which will retain your interest over time. Otherwise, they’re a waste of your money.
- Learn to write tech reviews. There are a lot of perks to being a tech reviewer. You get tech swag in your mail to review. You may even get a little bit of a salary from writing the reviews. And you get the added benefit of being allowed to identify as a tech expert. It takes some time and energy to learn to do this but if you like to write and you like technology then it’s a brilliant hobby (or part-time job).
- Attend tech conferences on someone else’s dime. Tech conferences and expos are great because you find out about all of the latest technology, get cool items for free and have the chance to network with people in the tech world. Unfortunately, they’re expensive. Sometimes you can get your employer to pay, you can get a reduced ticket for writing about the conference on your personal blog or you can volunteer at the event and get in free.
- Become a beta tester. Your opinion actually matters! This tip works best if you love software and online programs but works occasionally for hardware as well. Start staying on top of the news about beta tests for different tech stuff and get in on trying out these new products for free.
- Temper your obsession with a specific brand. One of the biggest reasons that people end up wasting their money on tech gadgets is because they feel passion for a specific brand. The brand may be great for one product but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best brand for another product. Learn to do comparison shopping for any tech gadget that you want to buy without focusing so much on the brand name behind it.
- Harness the power of advertising. For the most part, advertising is geared to get you to spend your money. However, you can make advertising work for you especially when you’re dealing with emerging tech markets. For example, one area of advertising that’s becoming popular is ads on cell phones. A UK company called Blyk offers free phone service and text messaging to people who are willing to accept these ads on their phone. These types of deals get you free tech services that only require you to have a little bit of patience and willpower when it comes to dealing with ads.
- Read tech news. One of the biggest reasons that people want the latest tech things is because they want to feel “in the know” about tech stuff. You can get some of that need met just by reading the latest tech news and tech blogs out there.
- Use tech stuff that actually saves you money. For example, VoIP service can actually save you a lot of money on long-distance phone calls if you use it wisely. Money-saving tech products are the best kind of investments.
- Be willing to wait in lines. It is now fairly common for there to be long lines outside of stores that are about to release a cool new product. For example, there were extensive lines outside of all Apple and AT&T stores with the latest iPhone release. There were also people advertising that they would gladly wait in line to get you the product that you wanted for a fee (in this example, the fee for some was more than half the cost of the iPhone itself). If you don’t mind waiting in line, you can get the product you want and get paid a lot of money to pick one up for someone else so that yours doesn’t end up costing much at all.
- Fall in love with web-only start-ups. There are a lot of really cool start-ups out there that are doing interesting things for the Web 2.0 and mobile web worlds. Many offer their services for free. If you can get passionate about this, you can be on top of some of the most cutting-edge new trends without spending anything more than just your time.
- Get active on important tech forums. There are consumers out there who make enough noise to change some of the technology business trends that cost people money. For example, people who don’t want to pay cell phone bills per-minute or who think that early termination fees on wireless contracts are too costly are voicing their opinions on these forums. You can get involved and help to make some major changes in order to reduce costs for everyone – including yourself.
- Use coupon codes when shopping online. Anytime that you make a tech purchase online, make sure to check Google to see if there are any coupon codes that can reduce the cost of the purchase.
- Become a pirate. Online file sharing is a great way to get cool software, tech games and other stuff without paying anything. Not all of it is illegal but some is and can come with fines so learn the rules before immersing yourself in the world of piracy.
- Join a local geek group. There are all kinds of different social and educational groups that are geared towards people who are into technology. How is this going to save you money? Well, the more people that you know, the more resources you have for great information on cheap-but-awesome new technology. These groups build up your social network and help you get the geek lowdown. Plus if you become good friends then these will be the people that buy you the coolest techie Christmas presents.
- Don’t pay for expedited shipping. When you buy tech stuff online, you can save money. However, if you’re dying for instant gratification and pay for expedited shipping then you drive up your costs again. You’ll still be on top of tech trends even if your gadget takes a week to get to you.
- Be wary of rebates. Many people purchase tech items because they come with rebates that significantly reduce the cost of the purchase. This is good but only if you really want the item to begin with and you’re really going to send in the stuff to get the rebate. If not, don’t bother buying it.
- Be wary of deals that are too good to be true. Many people search out the best price on tech stuff from online stores. Unfortunately, there are a lot of online storefronts that are just scams. You pay what seems like a good price on a tech toy and then get nothing in return. Make sure to run a “Who Is?” check on any online company that you’re not familiar with in order to make sure that you’re really going to get what you pay for. Sure, you can sue these people down the line but it’s best to avoid the problem all together.
- Use gift cards and credit card rewards to spend less on purchases. It’s always best to spend someone else’s money when buying tech stuff or at least to spend the money that you get back from credit card rewards.
- Buy with a credit card. Make sure that you’re using a cash back credit card (that you pay off in full each month, of course) when purchasing any tech items to get some of that money back. More importantly, use a credit card that has a return policy on electronics; you can get money back for products that don’t work or that you return even if the store that you bought them from doesn’t have a good return policy.
- Read the fine print. This is one of the most important rules to follow when purchasing anything and it’s particularly important when buying tech stuff. Know what the purchase includes, what the limitations are and whether there are any catches.
- Learn to prioritize your impulses. Of course you want every new tech thing that catches your eye but you don’t actually need most of it. Learn to check in with yourself to identify whether something is a gadget that you really want right this minute, one that you could get after the price goes down a bit or one that you’re willing to bypass for now. This will allow you to have all of the latest tech things that you really want without draining your budget on purchases that don’t matter that much to you.
- Become a tech reseller. People who like tech gadgets generally spend a lot of time on auctions looking at items for sale. If you’re doing this anyway then you might consider getting into the art of purchasing items at a good value and reselling them online for a higher price. You’ll spend the same amount of time on auctions looking for the stuff you want but you’ll be making some money back while you do it.
- Realize that retro is cool. Yes, it’s nice to have the latest new things that are emerging in technology. However, you don’t have to have new, new, new all of the time. There are some really cool things about long-lasting technology. If you can find the things that you appreciate in your old gadgets, you’ll be more likely to get only the new gadgets that you really want and to spend less money in the long run. That’s a win-win situation.
- Sell your old tech stuff. Some of that stuff that you used to like just isn’t cool even in a retro kind of way. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s not useful. Some people don’t actually care about having a new phone or the best mp3 player and they’re willing to buy your older one at a used gadget price. At least you earn something back for the spending that you did.
- Support open source. The open source movement encourages competition in the market which ultimately means that you’re going to get lower prices on a lot of the technology that is being produced while simultaneously getting more choices in the tech options that are available to you.