Gadget Budget Hacks: How To Stay Up On Tech, Cheap


So CES 2010 is over, and there’s a whole new set of electronic goodies just waiting to make you feel like you’re living in the world of The Jetsons. E-readers, Tablet PCs, smartbooks, 3D TVs–all we need now is our flying car, and we’re set.

But it’s not always easy to pick the right gadget, especially when you’re on a limited tech budget. I always found this kind of decision process to be absolutely gut-wrenching–after all, if I make the wrong decision I’ll end up with something useless, like a 60GB iPod Classic. So over the years I’ve developed a process to make sure I get the right tech toy every time. Call this one Budget Hacks–I’ll show you how to stay up on tech (and pick the right gear) on the cheap.

The Lenovo U1 Hybrid Netbook/Tablet PC.

Just one of the many things I want to spend my money on.

Step 1: Line up all the potential gizmos and doohickeys in a spreadsheet, along with their prices (add estimates as necessary). If possible, you’ll want to have a total cost of ownership (data plan fees, extended warranties, and so on).

Patrick Miller's Gadget-Buying Spreadsheet!

This spreadsheet is how I save money and stay current on tech.

Step 2: Outline some basic pros and cons (no more than 2-3 per item) for each item on the list.

My cost-benefit analysis on the Lenovo U1.

The U1 is cool, but it's also kinda expensive.

Step 3: In a separate column, list the areas of your life which would stand to benefit or lose from buying said item.

I think all my gadget purchases are like this, actually.

Three to one--not bad.

Step 4: Find a good friend* and get him (or her) to smack you in the face a few times.

She's really pissed that he bought a new Tricorder without consulting her first.

Even Spock, king of logical reasoning, gets the slap. (Click to play if it isn't already)

Ideally, said friend should know you well enough to recall every other time you talked up some stupid gadget, bought it, and ended up not using it. Extra points if you’ve borrowed money from them in the past for dinner or something.

Step 5: After the slap, it’s your job to pull out every single feature of the device(s) in question to justify your intended purpose. Print this handy-dandy prep sheet out for your friend before you start.

He says: “But it has 3G Internet, a 10-hour battery life, Wi-Fi, and it weighs less than a pound–it’s portable!

You say: “Your ass goes nowhere but the office and your apartment, both of which have perfectly serviceable Internet connections and computers you already paid for.

He says: “I can read all kinds of content–like newspapers! And magazines! And I can watch YouTube.”

You say: “You haven’t touched a newspaper since you grew out of papier-mâché, you illiterate uncultured fuck.”

He says: “It’s got a touchscreen and a great selection of apps! I can update Twitter, Facebook, even my blog from anywhere!”

You say: “There’s one place where you’d want to update your stupid online life without a keyboard. Last I checked, your blog wasn’t called The Daily Dump and you weren’t tweeting as @TheToilet.”

He says: “But it’s a tablet AND a notebook! So really, I’m saving money.”

You say: “And you’re saving me time, because otherwise I’d have to smack the shit out of you once for each stupid purchase.”

Step 6: Don’t buy the thing, dipshit. Any of them.

Congratulations! You’re now completely caught up on what’s new and cool in the consumer tech world–and you haven’t spent a dime!

*Addendum: The Significant Other Exception

Sometimes you might be inclined to use your significant other in the place of a buddy for the slap and subsequent dialogue. This will not work. Unlike your friends, your significant other will attempt to be encouraging about any tech purchase, regardless of frivolity, in the name of “being supportive of you and your interests”. Not only will you end up buying the damn thing, but the purchase will be filed away for future use when said significant other wants to buy an expensive couch or other item “for the home” of equal or greater expense. In that case, you’re pretty much screwed.

-patrick miller


2 thoughts on “Gadget Budget Hacks: How To Stay Up On Tech, Cheap

  1. I like that chart.

    Hella is not a word.

    EDIT: Hella is my FAVORITE word.

    That said, this would be a very effective article if anyone would actually take the advice…

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