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9 Tips to Save Money on Your Next Computer

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My wife and I have two old laptop computers, and we recently decided to replace one of them with a new desktop computer. We’re not the kind of people to throw around money, so we did a few frugal things to improve our old computer’s performance before deciding to buy a new computer. In the end we were able to upgrade one computer, but decided to buy a new computer to replace the other one. Based on our new computer’s specs, I think we got a nice deal.

We bought a Dell because we have both used Dell computers for several years, we are familiar with their products, and we found a great deal on Dell’s website. We are also comfortable with Microsoft products because that is what we know. The computer we bought has a 2.4 Ghz Core 2 Duo chip, 2 GB RAM, 320GB hard drive, DVD burner, XP Professional, and a 22 in flat screen monitor. The total price including tax and shipping was $708. However, it would have been a lot higher if we didn’t remove a few items from the standard setup (mostly software). Here are more tips on how to get the best deal on a new dell computer.

We also followed a few of the tips outlined below.

How to save money when buying a new computer

These tips can help you save a lot of money on your next computer:

  • Understand your needs
  • Don’t buy too much computer
  • Don’t buy unnecessary software
  • Reuse software if possible
  • Shop around
  • Skip the extras
  • Consider an open box or refurbished computer
  • Build your own computer (if you have the time and knowledge)
  • Skip the extended warranty unless you really need it

Understand your needs

Do you need a desktop or a laptop? Laptop performance nowadays is almost as good as desktops, although you may spend a little more money on them. But if you know you won’t need the portability, then you might be able to get a little more computer for the same amount of money by purchasing a desktop. It’s important to know your needs so you don’t make the mistake of buying the wrong computer.

Don’t buy too much computer

Today’s computers are incredibly powerful compared to those made just a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy the best computer on the market. Determine your needs and buy only those features. It doesn’t make sense to purchase a several hundred dollar graphics card designed for high end video games when all you do is surf the web.

Don’t buy too much software, and shop around for the software you need

When we bought our computer, the only thing we purchased with it was the operating system – Windows XP Professional (I don’t want Vista, and I read Windows will stop supporting Windows XP for home use).

We didn’t add Microsoft Office because it was a $150 upgrade through Dell. We often use the MS Office software, but we could easily get it for less than $150 (A quick Amazon search has Microsoft Office for $120). Both of our employers offer an employee purchase plan for MS Office (we can get it for less than $50). You may also be able to find a cheaper version for students or teachers.

If you need software similar to Microsoft Office there is free option, Open Office, which is an open source business suite designed to work with MS Office and several other productivity suites. We downloaded Open Office when our new computer arrived, and we haven’t even purchased MS Office yet. We may or may not depending on how well we like Open Office (so far so good).

My company also provides us with a free copy of Norton AntiVirus. Many companies will do this because they know you will bring files back and forth from work. If you look around, you should be able to find many alternative means of finding software either cheaper than from the retailer, or possibly even free.

Reuse software from your old computer

If you are replacing an old computer, you may be able to transfer the software from your old computer to your new one. Beware of licensing issues though – some software programs can only be used on one computer at a time.

Shop around for the best deal

Sometimes a big box retailer will have the best deals, sometimes it is best to buy it from an outlet such as TigerDirect.com, and sometimes it is best to buy a computer direct from the manufacturer (like Dell). Some people even find great deals on Ebay. I’ve never bought a computer there, but I have purchased computer accessories. Just be careful when making purchases on Ebay. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Skip the extras

Many computer bundles are convenient because everything is ready to go right out of the box. But if you buy extras such as software, speakers, printers, and other goodies, you may end up spending more than you need to spend. It is often true that retailers will often give you a discount for buying a “bundle,” but you can often do much better than that by shopping around and buying each piece individually. You also aren’t saving money if you are buying something you already have and don’t need to replace, such as speakers, printer, software, etc.

Consider an open box or a refurbished computer

Open box computers: Many stores such as Best Buy or CompUSA will sell the floor models to customers at a reduced price. It is possible to receive discounts of 10-30% off the current sale price. The best part is that these computers come with the full manufacturer’s warranty.

Refurbished computers: Many times refurbished computers also come with the full manufacturer’s warranty, and you can often find them at substantial discounts as well. (Many times the deals are so good, the stores are not allowed to advertise them). One of the best places I have found that sells refurbished computers is TigerDirect.com. I haven’t purchased a computer through their site before, but I have purchased things like RAM and other accessories.

Build your own computer

Admittedly, this takes a little bit of knowledge, and isn’t for the faint of heart. But if you have the knowledge to build your own system, you can probably do it for anywhere from 50-70% of the cost of a new system. You can often reuse your old computer parts when building a new computer, so you are only spending money where it is needed the most – upgrades such as RAM, a better hard drive, or enhanced graphics cards.

Here is a quick example of how building a new computer to the same specs as one of Dell’s top of the line gaming computers can save you about 1/3 of the price. (If you are reading through a feedreader, please click through to watch the video):

Think twice about the extended warranty

The extended warranty is not always a good deal and you should consider whether you need it or not before purchasing it. If you have good knowledge of computers, you may be able to repair and problems that arise after the initial warranty period expires.

You may want to consider an extended warranty for a laptop, particularly if you anticipate traveling often. I purchased the extended warranty on my laptop when I bought it 6 years ago. I was in the USAF at the time, and knew I would take it with me wherever I went. I ended up taking it with me to around the world, and even though I never had a problem with it, I felt reassured knowing I had the extended warranty. Since I don’t travel nearly as often anymore, I doubt I would purchase the extended warranty for a laptop (we didn’t purchase it for our desktop either).

Good luck saving money on your next computer purchase

Remember these tips, and you should save a lot of money on your next computer. Good luck!


Published or updated June 15, 2010.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 FFB

I haven’t used them all but I hear Google has really good software. Free is a better price than $150!

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2 The Personal Financier

As computers evolved prices lowered significantly. The most expansive part of a computer, today, is the graphics card. You can save alot there if you understand your needs.

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3 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

Great list Ryan. I’ll use these when I get ready to buy a laptop for my daughters to go off to college.

Tip #10 – Shop around for cables elsewhere or re-use the ones you have! A lot of retail stores stick it to ya when it comes to cables. If they start pulling items off the shelf saying that you need these to “complete your purchase,” throw the brakes on! You can usually find these online for less than half of the cost in the retail stores!

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4 Curious Cat Investing Blog

I would reword it to extended warranties are almost always a very bad idea. Also consider Ubuntu (free operating system) computer. I bought a machine with it installed on it (just so I didn’t have to worry about any compatibility issues) from Groovix. They were great. And the computer was powerful and like $500, I think.

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5 Writer's Coin

Don’t buy too much computer is a good tip, but it can also be a bad one: if you go too cheap then you’ll be upgrading sooner, which will cost you more. Then again, most people don’t need as much computer as they end up buying.

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6 AndyS

Thanks – I am shopping for a new PC (laptop most likely) and this article is very timely!

I’ll write a post about my experience and link back to this one for those that want more information.

Andy

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7 Shanti @ Antishay

Additionally, buy used if new is too much. As you touched on, the warranty isn’t worth it (I would argue that it never is), and so buying new isn’t necessary. Apple and Dell both refurbish slightly old computers so that they function as new – but cost a lot less.

I also buy more expensive software used off of Amazon. I got QuickBooks that way, and InDesign. It’s possible to save money, even on technology!

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8 Elliott - 21st Century Dad

There are some great FREE software suites available.

Open Office and Star Office have nearly all the functionality of Microsoft’s offering for exactly $0.

Picassa by Google does a great job of sorting your photos and doing some basic editing.

For more advanced editing, there’s GIMP, which rivals Photoshop.

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9 Ryan

Elliott, I really like Open Office so far, and I love the price! I’ve downloaded Picassa and GIMP, but I’m not very good at photo editing, and I admit I haven’t gotten very far with them yet. One of these days I will learn a little bit more about photo editing. :-)

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10 Monroe on a budget

Attn: college parents and students: Do not buy any computer for use at college until you know what the technical specifications or requirements are at your campus.
The details can be very different from one college to the next, and you don’t want to buy the wrong machine!

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11 Jim

Nice article.

If shopping on Dell.com I’d recommend watching their site for a bit and waiting for a deal that favors what you’re looking to purchase. It seems to me that they are always running some sort of deal like free memory upgrade or free shipping.

I’d also recommend shopping around for the monitor separate of your desktop computer purchase. For example at Dell the 19″ LCD monitor added $190 and 22″ LCD was $280 for one system I looked at. But Bestbuy.com has 19″ LCDs for $170 and 22″ for $220

Jim

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12 Dennis

Watch out for Tiger Direct. I found them to be a very shabby operation, especially when teemed with “On Rebate” which is their rebate subsidity. Suffice it to say, if the deal is good enough without any rebate, maybe Tiger is okay to deal with. You’re never going to get any advertised rebate. Check their Tiger and On Rebate on Ripoffreport.com and you’ll see I’m not a lone kook.

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13 Ryan

Dennis, I’ve never had a problem with Tiger Direct and I enjoy shopping with them. I have always received the product as advertised and on time. I have never used a rebate with them, however, so I can’t speak for that.

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14 Michelle

This post should be a compulsory read before anyone buys a computer because you’ve packed it full of some invaluable information.

I recently bought a new laptop and nearly fell into the trap of buying a whole range of features I didn’t need. Luckily I put my sensible hat and reined back, but it’s so easy to forget!

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15 BobV

Great Post! I just recently purchased a Dell Laptop. While I wish I had read this article first, I did do a number of things. I used several discounts, configured it the way I wanted and got rid of a few things. I am going to check out Open Office and if not, I can get the Office Suite I want off of Ebay for about half what it would have cost me at Dell.

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16 Ryan

Thanks, Bob! I’m happy with my Dell. I used Open Office on my desktop for awhile, until I decommissioned a laptop that had MS Office on it. Then I installed it on my Dell desktop.

A few months ago I purchased a Dell laptop for my business and I got a great deal on it – and it included MS Office, so I didn’t have the need to use Open Office.

Here is a little more related information: How to Save Money on a New Dell Computer.

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