Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stewardship of Our Family's Electronics

"Meredith, there's this solid state hard drive that I really need that's on sale right now for $180.  These things never go on sale."

"Why do you need a solid state hard drive?  Your laptop is already pretty fast."

"Oh, it will make such a difference!  Just imagine... a computer that boots up in 6 seconds, and only takes 1/2 a second to open Photoshop..."

"So you want to spend $200 to save yourself three seconds every time you open an application?"

"But it will increase the value of my computer too!  You know I'll make it worth it when I sell."

"You're right, I know you will."

"Now what can we sell right now so I can buy this..."

Anyone who saw the inflow and outflow of our family's electronics would think we were severely indulgent.  Probably they would think we spend a ton of money on computers, cameras, tablets, etc., and knowing how quickly electronics depreciate, they would probably assume we lose a lot of money via our electronics


Actually, most of the time we make a profit.

I am going to describe the way we operate, knowing that many people might not be quite as technologically savvy as my husband, and also acknowledging that there are people who will be happy with the same device for ten years.  But at the end I'll list three principles that everyone should be able to apply in order to conserve family resources when it comes to electronics!

It's pretty simple.  We buy things when they are on sale, sell things while they can still get a good price, and almost always do those two steps at the same time so that we have ready cash.  Cameron watches deal websites continuously which does give him an itch to buy things he otherwise might not "need" --- rarely --- but mostly tips us off when something we are going to need down the road anyway is available now at a really good price.  So we sell and we buy.

Here are some examples of transactions during our married life:

  • We built our first computer together (it was a rite of initiation --- if I was going to be Cameron's wife, I had to know how to build a computer) back in 2011.  All parts cost us $550.  Recently we realized I need something portable so I can work when the baby is sleeping.  Cam started watching for great deals on laptops, found a great one 50% off within 24 hours, and posted a Craigslist ad for our homemade desktop.  We sold it for $600. 
This is it.  I miss it.
  • Cam found a great deal on an Asus Transformer (tablet + keyboard), for $350.  We decided to sell my Macbook laptop before it lost all its value, which we did on Craigslist for $400.  
  • A year later we sold the Asus Transformer, because I wasn't needing it enough, even though I still used it every once in a while.  (My parents had given me an iPad mini, and I still had my home desktop and my work desktop).  Sold for $300.
  • We knew that we would want to upgrade our camera eventually, and Cam saw a great deal online for a new T3i Canon, and a free laser printer to go along.  We bought all of it for $400, then sold our old T1i still in great condition for $400.  We sold the printer for a $100 profit.
  • Two times, Cameron has bought something just to sell it, when he saw a great deal.  We bought a new Asus Transformer and sold it for a $100 profit.  He bought two laptops his work was liquidating for $300 each, and sold them for $650-$800 each.

Everything counted, we've actually earned $440 by buying and selling smart.  (CORRECTION: by Cameron's being smart.)  Even if you exclude the lucky break on company laptops, we haven't lost more than $100 on major electronics since we got married.

Some principles to help your family conserve $$$ on electronics
If it applies to you, apply it!

  • Don't let anything gather dust: it you don't use it every day, analyze whether you should sell it
  • If you know you are going to want to upgrade eventually, watch for deals NOW.  When you see one, go for it.  Sell the item you are replacing before it depreciates too much.
  • Take care of your electronics: they sell for more when they are still pretty and in good working condition!

Computers, tablets, phones, cameras, and other electronics don't have to be a drain on your family's precious resources.


  1. Excellent post! I love the way you two work together on these things :) way to team work.

  2. Wow, some good new things to think about. This is pretty unchartered territory for me! Maybe we should hire you two to take stock of our electronic inventory and tell us what to do. ;) That might set me on the right path.

  3. Selling your stuff while it still has a value is a good decision! Gadgets, like many other materials, lose their value because updates are as fast as lightning. In doing so, you are giving others a chance to buy their desired gadget at a lower price. You're helping others while earning profit at the same time. Thanks for sharing your tips, by the way.

    -Joanna Daniels @ TechPayout