Every year, a certain technology company named for a particularly delicious produce item rolls out a dazzling new product. People plan their entire day and sometimes even their entire month around watching the big reveal.
That night on the news, anchors discuss the features and functionality of said product while of course revealing the jaw dropping cost. Each year, the price tag seems to climb a little bit higher.
We shake our heads in disbelief and then six weeks later, consumers line up to get a beautiful little boxed phone or tablet regardless of the amount.
While I’m poking a little fun at Apple (full disclosure, I own and love my iPhone and a MacBook Air), many other companies do the same thing.
It’s difficult to discern what pieces of technology best fit the needs and, more importantly, budget of your family. These guidelines help you ask the right questions.
Is your phone broken?
I promise I’m not trying to be sarcastic here. But unfortunately our culture trends more and more toward a disposable attitude when it comes to phones in particular. It’s a question you need to ask yourself before making any replacement purchase. For most of us, the honest answer is no. Your answer may actually be yes.
While we were paying off debt, I carried a flip phone where the numbers nine and four didn’t work. Also, the display went out so I couldn’t access my contacts. The answer to this question for me would have been a definitive yes. Sorry if I didn’t return your call during those years. I didn’t know you called and if you had a 9 or a 4 in your number, I couldn’t call you back if I wanted to.
Don’t get too far out in front of yourself though. Even if you legitimately need a new device, it doesn’t mean you need top of the line.
How much money do you have?
Look, if your hobby is technology and you have the money in the bank to plop down for an iPhone X, I’m not going to hate you. I might still think you could have used the cash more effectively, but it’s your money and not mine.
If you have to buy your sweet new phone with a credit card, it’s a very poor choice. You could end up paying for the phone two or three times over. I know many cell phone providers now offer a monthly payment option. I don’t love that idea either. Buy with cash or don’t buy at all.
What do you really need?
Wants and needs are easiest to see in the lives of others but a little more difficult to spot in our own spending. We tend to justify our purchases based on our own particular slant, current emotional state and any other circumstance that helps us get what we want.
By and large, upgrades are never a need. You can certainly function with a more basic model and still live a fulfilled and happy life. In fact, when a new smartphone roles out, it may be the very best time to get a great deal on an older model.
How much have you saved?
Year after year, as we coach others to pay off debt, we hear the same stories of struggle. Couples and individuals feel overwhelmed by the mammoth task in front of them.
The very first step most personal finance authors, including us, recommend is saving up an emergency fund. We suggest you put aside $1,500 to $2,000. This amount could cover most minor household emergencies such as car repairs, appliance replacement and small health care bills.
This primary action causes some people to break out into a sweat. They have no idea how they could ever save that much money for an emergency fund. Bottom line, if you don’t have at least a basic emergency fund, you don’t need a new smartphone.
Where can you get a deal?
If you still feel like your purchase is necessary, make the most of the money you’re spending. Typically, you won’t get the best price on your device on the day it releases. However, companies may offer incentives such as free accessories or special services to sweeten the deal.
Your best bet is to either purchase an older model or simply wait until the price declines. Black Friday traditionally offers some of the best technology prices. The number of products are usually limited though so you’ll need to employ smart shopping strategies to land a deal.
You also might be able to purchase a refurbished or used device. It’s smart to make sure you’re buying a certified item and shopping on a secure website.
The world has changed. Many of us who grew up without cell phones have grown so accustomed to always having a device feet away from our physical being. While technology has the power to enhance our lives, owning a top of the line device isn’t a need or a given.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. She is the author of “Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After.” Send questions, column ideas and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org