Image: Sony home theater system
Sony
The Sony BDV-E570 is a home theater system , complete with 5.1 wireless speakers and a Blu-ray player. It retails for around $400.
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updated 2/23/2011 8:00:28 AM ET 2011-02-23T13:00:28

Q: I've got a nice 50-inch plasma TV, and I'm considering getting some external speakers and potentially some other home theater gadgets. If I upgrade and get the speakers, is the cost going to balloon out of control?

A: Electronics are expensive, but they don't need to be something that gets out of control. Upgrading your home theater is just like getting work done on your car; only get what you need, and don't be taken in by all the unnecessary bells and whistles. There are some things you can do to keep costs under control.

Map out exactly what you need
The first thing you want to do is figure out exactly what you need. Write everything down, then go online and do some research to figure out some ballpark costs. And luckily, Tecca's a great resource for that. Browse our massive product database to help you compare prices.

During your rundown of what exactly you'll probably need in your home theater, be sure to give consideration to the following:

  • Speakers (make sure you know exactly what kind, a 2.1, 5.1, or 7.1)
  • DVD / Blu-ray player
  • Audio receiver
  • Speaker wire
  • Cables to connect all the devices
  • Power strip / surge protector
  • Mounting brackets for your speakers

Another thing to consider is whether you might prefer to buy everything in one package. While all-in-one packages are generally not as expandable and as powerful as a system for which you buy the components individually, they are still pretty good (like the Sony 1000W 5.1-channel system).

Plan to be a little over budget
Once you have ballpark amounts for all your individual components, add them all up and attach an extra $50. I always recommend that people plan to go over budget by just a little bit, so they're not forced to go with substandard equipment or make unnecessary concessions. Sometimes this will mean waiting until the next paycheck to buy your equipment, but that's okay. That extra $50 invested now will pay off many times over in the future.

Go shopping with a knowledgeable friend
Finally, when you actually go and buy your new home theater equipment, bring a friend who knows something about it all. Even if it's just someone you know who's got a home theater of his or her own, they'll be able to firmly say "You don't need that" to all the other stuff you'll probably get offered by the salespeople.

Do you really need a $70 universal remote control right now? Nope. Do you really need a Bluetooth-enabled audio receiver? Nope. If you have someone with you who can back up your "No," you'll find that your costs will stay right in line with what you want.

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