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A Beginner’s Guide to Purchasing Tech Gadgets with Confidence

Buying tech gadgets can be intimidating. Overwhelming choices, a baffling range of price points, fear of buyer’s remorse, varying degrees of customer support at retail outlets and rapid product obsolescence & depreciation turn even the most zen & decisive amongst us to total mush.

So what’s the best way to overcome decision paralysis and make sure you buy the right computer, projector, portable speakers or fitness band? Let me walk you through the simple process I use in hopes it’ll help you too.

STEP ONE
Identify what you want – Currently, I’m in the market for a projector for the master bedroom in my house. My husband and I are big movie nerds and we live in a loft townhouse. Our bedroom is upstairs and has great high ceilings. We never watch tv in our room but I suddenly have this intense desire to project old black and white movies against one of our large white walls. I know. I’m such a cheese ball. I’ll try to redeem myself by telling you that we also plan to play a LOT of the new Super Smash Brothers video game when it comes out this Fall. I’m quite the champion at that game. I know, I know my humility is unparalleled. Anyway getting this project up and running is my summer dream.

STEP TWO
Identify a budget – This may sound like a no brainer but let me explain the two criteria I use to determine my budget. The first of course, is if I can afford it. The second is if I will feel like a fool spending a certain amount on a gadget even if I can afford it. $100 bucks? Sounds affordable. $100 on a bejeweled iphone case? I’m outta here. I have determined that I am willing to spend about $7-800 on this projector.

STEP THREE
Spend some time on Amazon & Newegg (or other retailer you have had good experiences with) with 2 goals in mind: 1. Familiarize yourself with the features and specifications of several projectors (1 in your price range, 1 above and 1 below for 3 or 4 brands) and 2. read through lots and lots of reviews. This will help you understand what the product you’re in the market for is capable of doing and what the feature tradeoffs are across price points. A lot of times you may find a pleasant surprise – that the product does even more than what you thought it could do and you may be willing to stretch your budget a little bit. You could also find that you don’t need the extra bells and whistles at all and could come in way below what you anticipated. The point of this step is to familiarize yourself with all aspects of your product so you can make an informed decision. If you come across a term or feature you don’t know – jot it down. Once you’re done with this step go through your list and Google anything you aren’t well-versed in.

STEP FOUR
Check wirecutter.com. This site is hands down the best I’ve found for help with purchasing gadgets. They’ve done hours and hours of the research for you and are incredibly practical when it comes to debating money vs feature trade-offs. They have never steered me wrong and every single recommendation of theirs I’ve followed through on has not disappointed me. They break things down in an easy to understand way and usually provide charts and graphs so you can compare products at a glance. Thanks to Wirecutter, I found a $500 projector comparable to their $1000 recommendation and feel great that I could potentially come in $300 under my original budget estimate. Yay!

STEP FIVE
Do nothing for a few days. Seriously! By now you have tons of info swirling around in your head and you’re overwhelmed, exhausted and excited – a strange, heady mix. You need to let your newfound gadget knowledge marinate in your brain for a few days, consider all the reviews and ratings you’ve read about so you can find your footing again, narrow down your choice to the top 2 or 3 contenders and then ultimately make a decision you feel really good about.

Et voilà! Gadget purchased, existential crisis avoided. Enjoy your lovely new toy and go easy on the $4 lattes for a while.

Deepina Kapila

Dee is a fun-loving instructor with diverse tech experience across Fortune 500 companies, early-stage start-ups, government agencies & non-profits. Dee works at mobile product design studio Funsize, in Austin Texas where she lives with her husband, 2 border collie mixes, & 2 cats.

In her spare time she enjoys playing video games, reading on her Kindle & scuba diving in her hometown (Curaçao - an island in the Caribbean!).

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