Marketplace has a new podcast for kids, "Million Bazillion!" EPISODE OUT NOW
Financial Health

Tech Splurge or Steal?

Adriene Hill Oct 18, 2013
Financial Health

Tech Splurge or Steal?

Adriene Hill Oct 18, 2013

They’re sleek, shiny and sexy, but new technology gadgets come with a high price-tag.  But there’s a whole wide world of tech gadgets out there that don’t hit bank accounts as hard. CNET’s Executive Editor, Molly Wood, offered her help in picking out some frugal tech alternatives.


For tablets, Apple’s iPad is on most people’s wish list, but Wood says there are plenty of other options.

“Samsung makes a whole line of Galaxy tablets that come in just about every size you can imagine,” she says, “Those are all a little bit if not a lot cheaper than the iPad.”

Wood says she thinks the best alternative, however, is Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of tablets, which come in at $200 to $300 depending on the size of the device.

But if you’ve already invested in Apple’s content ecosystem by purchasing music or movies through iTunes, Wood says, you may want to consider saving cash by buying a used iPad to keep access to your old library.


Wood likes Nokia’s Lumia brand of Windows phones.

‘They’re nice, the design is wonderful,” Wood says, “The 920 in particular is $99 without a contract.”

If you’re looking for an Android smartphone, though, Wood says shopping around for older models might be the best option: “You can very often find the Samsung Galaxy SIII instead of the IV for $99.”

The same goes for iPhones too, as you can still find older models like the 4S for as low as $49.


For those aspiring audiophiles, a good pair of headphones, like Beats, can set you back sometimes $300. Wood says a good alternative is the well-reviewed Shure brand.

“The same pair that’s $300 from Beats by Dre is going to be $100 from Shure,” says Wood.

There are so many headphone options out there, though, that it may just come down to some careful shopping.

“Trust the user reviews,” Wood says, “The users will always tell you if the headphones sound as good; they’re going to be honest about it.”












Under $50

Want to get some good tech-mileage of out a small chunk of cash? Wood recommends a Roku, the box that connects your Netflix and Hulu accounts to your television.

“It allows anyone to have streaming internet TV with just about the easiest interface possible,” says Wood.

Under $25

Want to go even cheaper? Try Google’s Chromecast, a device akin to a USB stick that connects through HDMI and does the job of other streaming services in a small package.

“It lets you basically broadcast any streaming video from your phone or tablet, onto your television,” says Wood, who also mentions the device is perfect for sharing videos at parties.

Buy and Sell

Wood warns that it can be easy to get caught up in the hype over the latest gadgets, and you should always remember that there are plenty of good alternatives to the newest models.

“Last year’s model still has really phenomenal technology in it,” says Wood.

And if you really want to pad out your purchases, look for something you can resell. Buying last year’s model at full price, and then selling it next year (on sites like and eBay ) could be the best method of funding your future tech purchases.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.