While technology can be an expensive, it is always tempting to get your hands on the latest gadgets. A combination of keeping up with the Joneses and life-altering new features combine to put stars in our eyes.
You might begrudge spending money on it, but the fact is that technology is pretty essential in modern-day life, whether for work or personal use. Avoiding technology altogether is not the solution, but having a plan of action and keeping to a budget is key if you want to avoid buyer's remorse.
So, seeing as you are going to be spending the money, how do you know when it's time to splurge and when it's time to pull in the reins on your technological purchases?
Let me upgrade you
The ever-changing nature of technology sometimes makes it difficult to keep up. Remember that your smartphone or whatever gadget you have can very quickly become outdated when new releases enter the market.
Ask yourself these questions: Is an upgrade every year or so something that I'm willing (and able) to do? Is it important to me to have the latest release, or will an older version be sufficient? (See also 'Buying for your lifestyle' below.)
Some service provider contracts give you the option of receiving an upgrade every two years or so. If you know you are not the type of person that needs to upgrade frequently because, for example, you don't use your smartphone or tablet that much, pay cash. This way you can plan ahead for the purchase by putting money aside every month, avoid paying monthly fees, and top-up on mobile data or airtime as you need it. Sometimes contracts end up making you pay more than what the phone is actually worth if you were to pay for it with a once-off amount.
Monitoring your usage
You may be using that smartphone or laptop less than you think. Figure out the need for something in your life by monitoring your usage. How much value are you really getting out of it? This applies to everything from the gadgets themselves to the accessories that come with them.
Think about how much time you spend using a certain gadget. Taking note of the hours you spend on, say, your tablet may make you realize that you have no use for your laptop. Or is your tablet simply gathering dust in the corner while your laptop is joined at the hip with you?
Perhaps you have a PC taking up space that can be sold and replaced with a laptop. This could mean making extra cash from the sale, creating more space in your home, and having fewer gadgets use up your electricity (indirectly saving you money). All of this usage monitoring will let you know that you may not need a particular gadget but simply wanted it. Getting rid of what you don't need creates space in your life (and your budget) for the things that you do need.
If your usage monitoring leads you to the conclusion that you need to get rid of that additional gadget, consider how you can incorporate the features you did enjoy into the device you use more frequently. What did you do on your laptop (even if you used it infrequently) that you can possibly still do with a tablet or smartphone?
Monitor your data usage as well. This applies to mobile data on your smartphone and tablet as well as Internet usage via ADSL. If you always have a surplus of data left at the end of each month, you are paying for more than you need. With many plans, your surplus data simply gets lost at the end of the month, which is money down the drain. If you prefer that safety net of data or a cap each month, look for a plan that allows data to roll over to the next month.
Buying for your lifestyle
A simple yet profound fact about personal finance and budgeting is that you should never spend beyond your means. The same applies to technology: When buying a piece of technology, it should suit your lifestyle.
If you are the type of person who travels and works a lot, you need a laptop that has all the latest office software but also provides you with mobility while travelling. You cannot do this with a PC! Also, in this case, a tablet may not be for you since it is difficult to type up extensive reports on a tablet (that touch keyboard will give you finger cramps and take way too long!). However, if your job is more creative or doesn't involve too much typing, a tablet is a great choice.
Are you a stay-at-home mom (or dad)? A smartphone is essential, but a laptop, perhaps not. A tablet can be a good alternative - but what about sticky kiddie fingers getting all over it? If your children are very young, carrying around a large piece of technology when you already have so many other things to juggle can be frustrating. Many smartphones can do the same things a tablet can do, but the difference is in size and mobility.
All of these factors show how you can argue for or against a gadget, and will change depending on your unique needs and life choices. You know what you do on a regular basis, you know your limitations, and you know your needs. Buy according to these factors and not according to what sounds good at the moment or because someone suggested it.
What about all the other stuff?
Thinking about buying a camera, laptop bag, flash disk, headphones and so forth? Most of these are nice to have but not essential.
Something that is essential to buy once you have your preferred gadget(s) is a protective cover or carrier bag. You've spent that money, and now you need to ensure that you protect its value. Technology is expensive, yet many people still don't take the time to do maintenance or take care of these items. Always buy high-quality laptop bags, tablet covers, smartphone covers and so on. You may see some of these items' price tags and think they are over the top, but their long-term value is worth it in the end.
To avoid choking on the price of that protective bag or storage in the future, make sure you buy something that is versatile and not just pretty or fashionable (but if it is both, why not?). Seeing as the sizes of smartphones, laptops and tablets may vary ever so slightly, make sure you buy something that you can reuse should you need to buy a replacement device in the future. Keep in mind that many of these covers and bags are created to last, so the money you spent will be worth it if the product will be utilized for years to come.
Another essential is a flash disk. As the years have gone by, storage in this form has become cheaper and cheaper. Now you can easily buy a flash disk that contains a huge amount of storage without breaking the bank. Having at least one flash disk at your disposal is great for those emergency moments when you need to have something printed or need a copy of something someone else has. The quality of flash disks tends to be consistent, no matter what the price range.
As far as headphones go, many gadgets come with suitable headphones as part of the package, so there is no need to buy anything else if you're looking to save money. Unless you are a hardcore gamer who enjoys an experience that uses all of the senses, you don't need expensive headphones. One thing you can splurge on is protective covers for your earbuds. They will cushion your ears and make your headphones last longer. To save yourself the trouble of eventually buying new headphones unnecessarily, make sure you protect the wire from becoming damaged by storing it appropriately.
The saving possibilities are endless when it comes to technological purchases. The best advice you can hear now is: Do your research! Read reviews from reputable sources, compare prices and features, and ask around for opinions. Buying that expensive item is all the more worth it when you know that you will get use out of it, enjoy it and ultimately hold onto it for years to come.
Nanette le Roux is the marketing administrator and digital content creator for Maxxor, a software development company, and their flagship enterprise mobility app, Onsight. Onsight is a mobile sales app that provides B2B companies with a mobile product catalogue with which to demo products to clients while onsite, create orders and quotes electronically, as well as remote sales performance tracking.