Technology buying guide for when times are tight

A lot of people are feeling the financial squeeze at the moment. Increased VAT rates and punishingly high petrol prices have forced many of us to look at our budgets and work out where we can make savings.

There’s not much left in the piggy bank for new gadgets

Glancing up at the figures on the petrol station forecourt, you may make a solemn vow not to blow any more money on gadgets. But if your willpower is anything near as feeble as mine, it won’t be a promise you’ll keep for long.

“What’s this at CES 2011 – a 3D TV which doesn’t need glasses? Where do I sign?”

Unless your budget is stretched to absolute zero, then there’s normally room for the odd new piece of technology in your life. If your television breaks then you’re going to have to replace it, likewise fridge freezers, kettles and laptops are all parts of the home we just couldn’t live without.

Where the line becomes blurred is on how much you should spend on your cool new gadget. Dr Dre endorses headphones at a hefty £350, but he is a rap star and is known for spending ‘bare dollar’ rather than being frugal with funds.

Dr Dre’s favourite headphones have awesome features like a dual input/output cable port and flip-up ear cups. But if you’re just going to wear them on the way to the shops or while you’re out exercising, what’s wrong with a £30 set which sit in your ears nicely?

Imagine mountain biking in your super-expensive headphones only to see them fall from your head and right under your front wheel… Nooooo!

The answer to buying technology in tighter times is to pay for what you need rather than being seduced by juicy extras. Of course, if you’re a professional or take your music ultra-seriously then you may well see the value from all the features and can justify splashing out.

The same theory works for less glamorous products. A six-slice toaster with a mechanical timer may be as awesome as it gets at the breakfast table, but unless you’re feeding a family in a hurry or have the diet of an Olympic swimmer, then a standard two-slice operation should roll out a steady supply of soldiers for you boiled eggs.

Buying smart doesn’t rule out all big ticket products though.

If you live your life with the theory of buying well and buying once then you may prefer to splash out on a gadget for the long-term. Spending more money on a high spec laptop should make it as future proof as possible and ensure it has enough oomph to keep up with power-hungry new operating systems and programs.

Professionals use demanding programs to work on detailed drawings and graphics, so need every megabit of RAM they can get their hands on. While gamers will want a graphics card which won’t slow their progress on World of Warcraft or disrupt their kill streak on Call of Duty: Black Ops.

Who is to say the latest gadgets can’t save us money? HD TVs may seem like an extravagant purchases at the time, but if watching Blu-ray films on at home stops you from making regular trips to the cinema then the saving chips away at the initial outlay.

You can also keep a tighter watch on your budget with the help of technology. If you feel like you’re haemorrhaging cash, draw up an Excel spreadsheet of your outgoings on Microsoft Office or download an expenses-tracking app for your internet tablet.

So there are clever ways to spend your money on the latest gadgets, even when economic times are gloomy. Besides, we all deserve a little treat every now and then, don’t we?

Have you had to think carefully about what you spend on technology during the economic downturn? Have any gadgets or apps helped you save money? Comment below…