Though it's nearly impossible to go wrong handing out tablets and Blu-ray players, high prices will blow your budget to bits. To ease the impact this holiday season, try some of these tips for saving on electronics.
1. Haggling Helps
One of the most powerful tactics to use use as a consumer is walking away. It's amazing how quickly a steadfast salesperson discounts prices that can't possibly get any lower when you call their bluff. A recent study by Consumer Reports shows shoppers who haggled saved an average of $82, so clearly there's little to lose by at least asking.
2. Let's Make a Deal
Remember when you thought movie theatre sound was a must? The thought of watching a film without feeling the room shake was inconceivable. Now the surround sound system purchased months ago sits uninstalled, barely removed from the box. Instead of letting these purchases sit idle, try to arrange a swap. Craigslist is an especially good place to connect with others in your area so you don't have to worry about sending items through the mail.
3. Avoid Shipping Costs
Electronics are pricey enough before you tack on the cost of shipping. These days, major retailers are in-tune to consumers' demand for free shipping, at least over the holidays. Free Shipping Day offers an excellent opportunity to snatch this year's most coveted electronics without paying for shipping. The one-day online event will include over 65 electronics merchants including Best Buy who will offer free shipping with delivery by Christmas Eve.
4. Be Wary of Warranties
If you thought your shopping was all done by the time you got to the register, think again. During the holiday season, merchants are selling extended warranties harder than anything else. This is because warranties tend to have a higher profit margin than the expensive electronics on sale. In most cases the warranty provided by the manufacturer is sufficient. When things go wrong, it tends to happen three or four years down the road instead of during the two years covered by an expensive extended warranty.
5. Discount the Discount
The savings from opening a store credit card are hard to ignore, but in the long run they'll come back to bite you. Generally these cards have higher-than-normal interest rates and fees that quickly negate any discount you got in the first place. Plus, applying and getting denied for several store cards has a negative impact on your credit score.
6. Upgrading Made Easy
Whether it's a genuine effort to reduce waste in landfills or just an attempt to get customers to upgrade sooner, electronics retailers are increasingly offering exchange programs. One of the most popular is the Trade and Save Program from Radio Shack. There's no cost to participate and you can trade in old electronics purchased from any store. When your items are accepted you'll receive a Radio Shack gift card for the amount of your credit. It's generally best to steer clear of programs which charge for participation or only allow trade-ins within a set time frame.
7. It's New to You
When it comes to buying electronics, many think "refurbished" is a dirty word. In actuality, refurbished products are an excellent way to save money over buying brand new. They often come with a warranty and include new parts and accessories. For example, refurbished Apple Store items go through a rigorous testing process and are backed by a one-year warranty.
8. The Total Package
It's a slippery slope climbing to the top of the consumer electronics mountain. Reaching one peak inevitably leads you down the path to another. There's always a new product needed to make the overall entertainment experience better. Instead of assembling assorted pieces as you go, look for package deals at stores like Costco or Sam's Club with a discount on everything. Before going all-in, comparison shop to ensure the package is a better deal all around.
9. As Good As New
Unless you work in the industry or upgrade every few months, it's unlikely you'll notice the nuances between HDTV models from last year and this year. What you'll notice for sure is the big discrepancy in price. A recent USA Today article found average TV prices have dropped from $935 in 2007 to $545 this year. If you're just now upgrading from tube technology, you're probably more impressed with being able to identify individual blades of grass during a football game than HDMI inputs and aspect ratios, anyway.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. She is available for in-studio, satellite or skype interviews and to write guest posts or articles.