Even in good times, consumer electronics can seem painfully pricey. Now, as we all try to scrimp and save, they can feel even more out of reach.
But there are cheaper options for those willing to do a bit of research and exercise some flexibility.
Refurbished goods, so-called "deal of the day" Web sites and online auctions are just a few alternatives for the budget-conscious consumer.
Just be wary of deals that look too good to be true and check out the return policy and warranty before you make a purchase.
1. Give second-hand a chance.
Not only are refurbished electronics easier on your wallet, they also keep electronic waste out of landfills.
Refurbished goods run the gamut from TVs, digital cameras, laptops and phones that have been returned to the retailer or manufacturer and then restored to look and work like new. Sometimes the products have been returned without having been opened.
Once the manufacturers receive a used product, they test it, clear the data off of it and then return the item to the original specifications.
The big box stores, such as Best Buy and Target, sell refurbished products at bargain prices. As do manufacturers, such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Sony Epson and others.
At Apple's Special Deals section, for example, the MacBook Air, which starts at $1799 for a brand-new laptop, can be had for $999 and up.
Best Buy also sells refurbished goods. For example, used iPhone 3Gs are on sale for $50 less than the price of new ones ($99 for the 8GB version and $149 for the 16GB version).
On its Web site, Best Buy said that prices on refurbished items are, on average, 15 percent to 20 percent lower than brand new products. But they still come with the manufacturer's 90-day limited hardware warranty.
E-commerce king Amazon.com also sells a range of refurbished electronics on both its flaghip site and its sister site WarehouseDeals.com.