These Strategies Will Help You Figure Out How To Pay For New Tech Items On Any Budget

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This article includes paid advertising content from American Express.

As a freelance writer and student, my laptop is essentially my lifeline. I use it to access virtual portals and submit homework, and to write and edit the articles that get me paid. For all of these reasons — and, OK, there’s social media stalking, too — I was jolted when my laptop charger suddenly stopped working a few mornings ago. That sudden shock of having a computer I could no longer re-charge got me thinking: Had my laptop itself gone on the fritz, I’d be in a heck of a lot more trouble.

Being someone who is constantly relying on various forms of technology every day — from my laptop to the headphones that keep me from interrupting other students in the library — the harsh reality that even the shiniest, newest of tech items will eventually wear out reminded me that it's never too soon to start planning ahead for the next unexpected yet inevitable technology fail. Knowing that this struggle isn't unique to just me, Bustle partnered with American Express to bring you a few smart strategies for paying for new tech items on any budget so you never have to stress about replacing an old gadget, or even treating yourself to an upgraded device.

Rule #1: Invest In Your Essentials

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Maggie Germano, a financial coach for women, recommends getting really clear on what you value most at this point in your life, then making sure your money is going towards those things. Just because you want a new speaker system or smart device for your apartment doesn’t necessarily mean you need it — but if you’re a freelance writer, having a reliable laptop is essential.

To help fund your essentials, Germano recommends setting aside time at least once or twice a week to review your spending habits, with the overall goal of recognizing repeat careless purchases that add up over time. For example, having headphones handy may be key part of your day-to-day, but investing in a quality pair that comes with a warranty will ultimately be much wiser than picking up a cheap, lower-quality pair every time your set breaks.

Rule #2: Create A Designated ‘Tech’ Budget

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It may seem silly to budget for technology fails, but mistakes — especially in the form of a cracked phone screen — happen. Whether you need to buy a $20 phone charger at the airport after forgetting yours at home, or you have your heart set on a new, updated laptop that costs more than your monthly rent, it pays (literally) to have a technology-specific savings strategy, according to Germano.

“It’s always worth planning for purchases because you never know what might put you over budget, even if it seems like it’s not a big deal,” she explains.

Similar to a "fun fund" designated for shopping and dining experiences, Germano recommends setting aside a separate fund that you contribute to regularly for tech purchases that might not necessarily fit into your normal budget. How much you contribute to that fund is up to you: If you're constantly forgetting your chargers, or dropping your phone, you may want to adjust accordingly. However, any regular contribution can help offset dipping into your savings or going into debt for surprise technology purchases.

Rule #3: Take Advantage Of Helpful Credit Card Features

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No matter if you have a larger budget or if you need to spend carefully, everyone can benefit from familiarizing themselves with the benefits of their credit card. Some credit cards have additional features, like the Pay It Plan It® feature*. Card Members with an eligible American Express Card can choose to split up large purchase amounts of $100 or more — think a laptop, fancy headphones, or a new TV — over a fixed period of time for a fixed monthly fee and no interest so your plan is clear from the get-go. Or, you can pay off smaller purchase amounts individually once they hit your statement — all while still earning rewards for purchases in the same way you would for other purchases.

Rule #4: Automate Your Savings

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Once you do identify how much you can and should reasonably set aside per month or week for tech-specific savings, it’s a smart idea to automate your savings, says Liran Amrany, a personal finance expert.

“Whether you use an app, or just set up an automatic transfer out of your checking account every payday, the best way to make sure you don’t spend that money is to keep it out of sight as soon as it hits your account,” Amrany says.

Rule #5: Shop Smart

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Despite our best intentions and planning strategies, tech emergencies can still happen. If you’re thinking of dipping into your savings or charging an item completely on your credit card, Germano recommends evaluating your individual situation and thinking carefully about your purchase. For instance, if a brand new laptop isn't in your budget, you can opt for certified refurbished versions for 20 to 40 percent off the retail price.

This post is sponsored by American Express.

*Terms apply. Visit americanexpress.com/payitplanit to learn more.