Yes, it’s fun to buy computers, gadgets, and all of the fun tools and paraphernalia that go along with the IT business. There’s also a good chance that the ongoing excuse to buy things is many people’s favorite part of the business. That said, I would caution against going on a buying binge, even early on. Why?
First, if you’ve been in the business for a while or even if you have just been an enthusiast, you already have a lot more than you think you do. At least try it all out for a while and see if it suffices and, if it doesn’t, how it fails to meet your needs: then at least you’ll have some idea about what would best replace it.
Second, “writing things off” is often misunderstood, and we recall from this famous exchange from Seinfeld:
Kramer: Jerry all these big companies they write off everything.
Jerry: You don’t even know what a write off is.
Kramer: Do you?
Jerry: No. I don’t.
Kramer: But they do and they are the ones writing it off.
You can’t just “write off” your tech purchases if by “write off” you mean “not pay for.” All “writing off” an expense means is that said expense won’t count toward your income, so you won’t pay income tax on it. For example, if you make $1000 and buy a $100 computer part that you needed to fix your computer, the tax law considers that $100 an investment in your business and not profit, so you would not have to pay income tax on it, and so only pay tax on $900 worth of income.
So businesses often like to “write things off” because the more you “write off,” the lower your effective income, the less tax you pay. Obviously this arrangement is ripe for and rife with bad faith accounting, in which business owners try to deem everything they buy “business related” and thus eligible to be “written off.”
So don’t do that and don’t buy a lot of tech stuff just because you’re “writing it off.”
For more details and Seinfeldian examples, check out this great post from Aharon Schreiber at Seinfeld Law.
Third, you can make do. I started my business with and spent the first year using only a Mid-2012 MacBook Air and a Core 2 Duo Acer laptop with 4GB of RAM and an unactivated version of Windows 10. I only bought a new phone because at the time I was using a flip phone.
I’ve since added hardware, of course, but all hand-me-downs from friends and family or systems clients were junking.
Now I probably purchased too conservatively. I was definitely constrained by not having a dedicated Windows laptop with me, not having enough storage on my MacBook, not having a test system to play with, and not having all my apps on all my systems.
I kept money in my pocket, but I paid in inefficiency and, to some degree, stress. It’s worth it for a little while so you don’t waste money buying the wrong or unnecessary things, but it’s not worth it in the long run. It’s also not worth it if the impositions of not having the right tools is hurting your ability to serve your existing clients or to get new ones or making it so stressful to run your business that you can’t function.
But if you can hold off a while, then when you realize where your systems and setup are lacking you’ll know exactly what you need to replace them. The right tools and an efficient mobile and desktop setup take the stress out of meeting client needs and give you confidence in your services. That’s good for you and good for your business.