We're always so used to looking for the lowest prices when buying electronics (especially so close to Black Friday and Cyber Monday). But the thing to keep in mind this time of year is that the reason many electronic items are on sale is that the manufacturers are making room for new stock. Sure, you can grab a Blu-Ray player for $100 after fighting off hordes of zombie shoppers, but is it worth it?
Here are a few insider tips I recommend that folks remember when buying electronics this year.
1. Don't buy big ticket electronics this holiday season. Need a new TV? A stereo? A PC? While December may seem like a good time to shop, you're actually facing a coming onslaught of new models that will make your purchase seem obsolete almost immediately. Every January, after everyone has ripped open their presents, the consumer electronics industry meets in Las Vegas for its major trade show where it announces brand new products. This in turn drives DOWN the prices of existing products -- and creates future Black Friday door-busters -- as folks start shopping for next year. If you can wait, then give it a few weeks before you pull the trigger.
A better time to buy? Right around Super Bowl season. Electronics manufacturers are looking to move product, and it's the last chance they'll have to sell old gear before the new stuff rolls out of the factories.
2. As a corollary, if you have your heart set on a certain device, and you know exactly what you want, you might as well buy. Look: Prices on 2011 gear aren't going down unless they drop precipitously in a sell-off. Don't be an early adopter, but if you find a great deal on a 42-inch TV that you've had your eye on, pick it up. Consumer electronics profits are so low as it is, you're not going to see prices drop much lower until after the holidays are over.
3. Sell what you have. Hop on eBay or Craigslist, and sell what you already have. Treat this like a season to upgrade rather than shop. Most Apple gear, for example, sells for a little over 75 percent of what you paid for it, and many devices -- like laptops and stereos -- can easily find a second home and make you a few hundred dollars richer.
4. Buy the best laptop you can afford. You're going to see lots of deals out there for sub-$500 laptops, but you get what you pay for. Laptops are a commodity product now, and anyone can slap a slab of silicon into a case and call it a day. A laptop with lots of disk space, lots of memory (as much as you can get), and a nice, bright screen will go further than a nearly obsolete clunker. The price differential can mean the difference between buying a new laptop every year and buying a new one every three years.
5. When it comes to cameras, go one step up. Thinking of picking up a point and shoot? Don't go for the bargain basement model. These often start at $100 or so and seem to feature plenty of power. However, for a bit more, you can pick up something like the Canon S100 that takes excellent low-light shots and will really perform in almost any situation.
It's better to spend a little more money now -- perhaps by getting a DSLR for baby photos rather than a chintzy point and shoot -- if it means you'll be happier with your photos down the line.
Bonus tip: Does Grandma/Dad/Mom/Great Aunt want a tablet? When in doubt, go Apple. There are plenty of lower-priced Android tablets out there right now, and if you're a bit more computer-savvy, feel free to pick one up for yourself. However, if you're gifting this device to someone who might not be quite ready for Android's various oddities, you're better off with the iPad or, barring that, the excellent Kindle Fire e-reader or Nook Tablet.
What electronics are you planning to purchase this holiday season?
Image via faramarz/Flickr