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Save Money On Your Next Computer: Five Rules to Shop By

Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or anybody else with the itch (or desperate need) for a new computer, it’s a good time of year to find deals. Follow these rules to save money on a new computer.

1. Don’t stretch—or go into debt—to buy the latest and the greatest.

When I went to college, I bought my first computer with money I had saved from a summer job. I bought a Gateway desktop with Windows 95 for the bargain price of $1,700. And back then, that was a deal!

Last month, I bought a brand new laptop for about $800. Like my college desktop, this laptop will be obsolete in a year. My father was right: Wait as long as you possibly can to invest in technology; it only gets better and cheaper by the day.

2. Buy only what you need.

In order to write college papers and conduct business in today’s wired world, some kind of computer is almost a necessity. But like a Honda Civic can get you to work the same as a Mercedes, most people don’t need a $5,000 12-Core Mac Pro to make a few PowerPoint slides.

Don’t know what you need? Ask a friend. Don’t let a Best Buy salesman talk you into features you don’t need; ask a friend or colleague who knows a thing or two about computers. Not knowing what you need when you walk into a computer store is like meeting a pack of hungry wolves when you have steak in your back pocket.

3. Find the discounts.

Only suckers pay the sticker price for a car. The same can be said for computers. At the very least, buy your computer on sale, or scour the internet for an even better price.

Amazon frequently has competitive computer prices. Buy.com is another popular site that features low computer prices and features a 45-day return policy (most sites are 30 days).

Even better, check with your employer to see if they have a corporate account with a computer manufacturer like Dell or Apple. (Students, don’t forget about Apple’s education discount).

4. Buy refurbished.

There are plenty of sites that sell refurbished computers that are only one or two years old. They’re priced several hundred dollars less than a comparable new computer and, though used, they come with warranties. For the price-conscious computer shopper, a refurb computer is a smart way to go.

According to a PC World article on refurbs:

The best place to buy a refurbished system is directly from an established PC manufacturer or mail-order vendor that provides complete product and warranty information and responsive customer service. If you’re tempted by a too-good-to-pass-up deal at an auction site, be careful. It’s almost always risky to buy a used PC from an individual, since in many cases you’ll have no warranty or customer support to turn to when something goes wrong (and don’t assume it won’t).

That said, one indy site for refurbished macs I really dig is SmallDog.com.

5. Leave enough time to make an informed decision.

Give yourself enough time to shop around. If you buy a computer at full price and it’s on sale a month later for 30% less, you will not be happy. Research when a new product is being launched and chances are you will be able to pick up a new “older” model for a lot less.

What about you? Ever scored a sweet deal on a new computer? How’d you do it?

Published or updated on August 16, 2010

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  1. Thanks for posting this, some good advice here! I’m thinking of making the switch to MAC, nice to here good reviews from others that have made the switch.

  2. Maeve says:

    Interesting article, could be true, if you were a PC user.

    BUT, I bought a black Macbook two and a half years ago with AppleCare. It ended up costing around $1800, with student discounts, which hurt my junior-year-of-undergrad-wallet. I have had Apple Care replace several minimal things (e.g. chipped case, CD driver that wouldn’t burn) free of charge, take good care, and gave it $29 to upgrade to Snow Leopard.
    My computer still runs as fast as it did the first day I bought it, runs faster than the laptop they gave me for work, and hasn’t had any issues Apple didn’t take care of happily for me. IMO, well worth the investment.

  3. Lindsay says:

    I had my college-issue Dell laptop for 6 years. When it came time to replace the dinosaur, I wanted several things. I work a fair amount at my desk, so I wanted a nice screen, keyboard, mouse, etc. But I also do a lot of note-taking in grad school that requires portability.

    I bought an ASUS EeePC for under $350. Its advertised battery life is 14 hours, and I’ve gotten over 12 quite a few times. When I’m home, I plug it into my screen, keyboard, and mouse, and use it like a desktop. But then when I need it to be portable, it’s extremely portable, and I don’t have to worry about syncing files.

    As a student, it cost me $79 to upgrade to Office 2007 (which I did late enough that I got to upgrade to 2010 for free), and $29 to upgrade from Windows 7 Starter, which came on the device, to Windows 7 Pro.

    The only other thing I intend to do is upgrade the RAM from 1GB to 2, but even without that, it works great. I really feel like I got two computer set-ups for less than most people spend on one, and all the awesome features I wanted. Don’t underestimate netbooks!

  4. Mike Boby says:

    Very good hints! I have another one for those who love to barter. I used to have several computers lying around and I don’t use them so I first asked my friends and family if they wanted to barter them but then I found out about barterquest. An internet platform for barter. I barted me a brand new MacBook and got rid of all my other laptops.

  5. My last computer was a MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s more expensive than its predecessor, a Dell. However…

    The MacBook fires up every time. Wakes itself up in seconds. It doesn’t crash multiple times daily, like every Windows computer I’ve ever owned. It probably saves me 10-15 minutes a day. Put a dollar value on that, and the allegedly expensive Apple becomes quite the bargain.

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