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Having your laptop die can be a painful experience — and it’s made doubly so by the fact that buying a new one to replace it can be a bank-breaker. But you don’t have to go into debt to get one that will suit your needs!

Keep these five tips in mind next time you’re shopping for a laptop and you could save hundreds of dollars.

1. Don’t Pay for Features You Don’t Need

Laptops come absolutely packed with features today. Backlit keyboards, extra SD card slots, high-end graphics cards, and tons of solid-state storage space are all really nice to have, but before you drop a couple thousand dollars on a top-of-the-line notebook, take a moment to think about whether or not you’ll actually need those things.

backlit-keyboard

Photo and video editing will benefit from a more powerful graphics card The Top Performing Laptop Video Cards For Gaming & HD Video [Technology Explained] The Top Performing Laptop Video Cards For Gaming & HD Video [Technology Explained] Read More . Complicated programs and calculations will need more RAM and CPU power. If you’re going to be traveling a lot, a larger battery will come in handy. If you have a lot of music, you’re going to need a big hard drive or solid-state drive. However, if you can skip out on any of these things, you’ll save money. You almost certainly don’t need all of them.

If you’re just going to be doing the basics, all you really need is a Chromebook Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) Make an Easy Switch to Chromebook Now (and Never Look Back) I've adopted, studied every Windows OS, adapted, and eventually learned to love each of them for different reasons. Are you curious to know why as of today, I'm a Chromebook guy? Read More . They don’t come packed with features, but they’re very affordable, and can handle almost any task you need to do on a daily basis (unless you need to run specialized software for things like audiovisual work, stats, or high-powered computations). The Acer CB3-111-C670 Chromebook packs a 2.1 GHz processor, 2 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, an 11.6-inch screen, and a 8-hour battery life. That will be plenty for most people, and it costs a minuscule $150.

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2. Buy Refurbished

Refurbished laptops often cost hundreds of dollars less than their brand-new counterparts, leading some people to wonder if they’re making a big sacrifice in quality or longevity. But with any certified refurbished computer, you can be confident that you’re receiving a machine that’s very close to as good as new. Manufacturers have rigorous testing processes that ensure that each certified laptop will perform as it should, and refurbished models usually come with a warranty to further set your mind at ease.

Many people find that buying a Mac is a lot more financially feasible once they discover that you can get refurbished models How to Buy Refurbished Mac Laptops and Save Money How to Buy Refurbished Mac Laptops and Save Money Apple's natural stranglehold on the Mac market means discounts on their hardware aren't frequent. That said, you can get a Mac for less — you just need to know where to look. Read More from the Apple website. Macs almost never go on sale (and when they do, it’s only $100 off or so), so getting a refurbished model can save you some cash if you’re an Apple fan.

refurbished-mac

How much? You can usually save between 10% and 20% on a new Mac. This won’t be enough to take a vacation on 7 Little Known Secrets to Get Cheap Vacations on Groupon 7 Little Known Secrets to Get Cheap Vacations on Groupon You can find great travel deals on Groupon, but you need to make sure you're not getting fooled into spending more money than you need to. Here's are our 7 top tips. Read More , but saving money is saving money.

If you’re looking for a Windows PC and you’re willing to start with an older version of Windows Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Windows 10 Is the Last Version of Windows. Ever. Microsoft is sick of you not upgrading, and has a solution: Windows 10 will be the final "version" of Windows. Ever. This could mean that you will never again have to buy Windows. Read More , you can find a lot of laptops for $200 or $300. The best way to find what you’re looking for is to just search for “refurbished [the computer you want]” on Google and do some exploring.

3. Discounts, Sales, and Buy at the Right Time

If you’re looking at spending more than a couple hundred dollars on a new laptop, even a price cut of 10% could amount to a fair chunk of money. If you think you might be in the market for a new laptop soon, start keeping an eye out for sales at places like Best Buy and Office Depot, where you’ll occasionally see sales that could save you $100 or more.

Buying at the right time of year could save you quite a bit of money as well — April, August, September, and November often see low prices that coincide with the release of new models, back-to-school season Back to School! Use the Internet to Save Money on Kids' School Supplies Back to School! Use the Internet to Save Money on Kids' School Supplies It's time to send the kids back to school, which means it's time to buy school supplies! We show you how to use the Internet so save money on their supplies. Read More , and the holidays. If a manufacturer has announced a new model, prices on the last generation of that particular laptop could drop significantly in price around these times. Students can sometimes get even better deals between July and September.

dealnews-laptops

Using a deal-tracking website 10 Alert & Notifier Websites to Keep Track of Stuff You Might Otherwise Miss 10 Alert & Notifier Websites to Keep Track of Stuff You Might Otherwise Miss Read More like DealNews or TechBargains will help you find laptops that are on sale, too. A quick look at DealNews today shows a refurbished HP 14″ laptop with a 2.8GHz processor and 4 GB of RAM for $240. There’s also a Samsung Chromebook for $138. It’s going to be tough to beat those prices.

4. Don’t Buy Direct from a Manufacturer — Shop Around

It might seem like a good idea to buy directly from Microsoft, or Lenovo, or Apple, when you’re getting a new laptop, but in almost every case, you’ll pay more than you would at an authorized reseller. Even big-box stores like Best Buy often beat manufacturer prices. Costco and Wal-Mart also regularly undercut manufacturers by quite a bit. You could even get a great deal from Amazon.

And there are plenty of websites out there that sell laptops at nearly unbeatable prices, including auction websites Computer Auctions And Why eBay May Not Be Your Only Option Computer Auctions And Why eBay May Not Be Your Only Option For most of us it's the only online auction site that matters, but if you're browsing through ebay to find great deals on computers, you may be better off using an alternative auction platform. Read More where you can get lucky and save hundreds of dollars.

walmart-laptops

This is where it pays to do your research. Searching for a laptop online can be an overwhelming experience with the huge range of results you’ll get — from reviews to sales to ads to tech support forums. But stick with it, and you’ll end up finding the best price for the particular model that you’re looking for.

One thing to be careful of when buying from a reseller is the warranty; make sure you check out the details of their policy to make sure that you can return the laptop within a year or so if any problems crop up. Extended warranties usually aren’t worth the money 5 Things to AVOID When Shopping for a Laptop 5 Things to AVOID When Shopping for a Laptop Read More , as any unexpected problems will likely show up within the first few months.

5. Bundle Up

If you’ve bought a laptop before, you probably know that you rarely leave the store with just a single item. You might buy a printer, an external hard drive The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now The 8 Best Portable Hard Drives You Can Buy Right Now Read More , a keyboard, a mouse, software licenses, or any other number of extras. These can tack on a surprisingly large amount to your total bill.

laptop-bundle

So be on the lookout for bundle deals, where you’ll get either a free item or a significant discount on an accessory when you buy a laptop. It might be $100 off a printer, a free iPod, a free subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Students Can Get Microsoft Office 365 for Free Students Can Get Microsoft Office 365 for Free Starting on December 1st, Universities that license Office Education for their faculty and staff can offer students Office 365 ProPlus for free. Read More , or any number of other things. While these don’t decrease the cost of the laptop itself, it will save you money on the entire purchase (or help you get an early Christmas gift for someone).

It might even be possible to negotiate an ad-hoc bundle deal from a dealer if you’re willing to put in a little extra effort. If you’ve seen a good deal at another store, or you’re thinking about buying online, let a manager know and ask if they’d be willing to throw in some antivirus software What Is The Best Free Antivirus Software? [MakeUseOf Poll] What Is The Best Free Antivirus Software? [MakeUseOf Poll] Because no matter how careful you are when using the Internet, it's always advisable to have antivirus software installed on your computer. Yes, even Macs. Read More or a discount on a printer. You might be surprised to find out that it works!

Bonus Tip: Use Open-Source or Free Software

Software can add a lot to the cost of your laptop; if you want Microsoft Office, Apple’s OS X, Photoshop, or other powerful software, you could end up paying a couple hundred dollars more than the cost of the laptop. Before you do this, ask yourself if you can use an open-source or free alternative 14 Free & Open Source Alternatives For Paid Software 14 Free & Open Source Alternatives For Paid Software Don't waste money on software for personal use! Not only do free alternatives exist, they most likely offer all the features you need and may be easier and safer to use. Read More  instead.

Linux, a variety of office suites Which Office Suite Is Best for You? Which Office Suite Is Best for You? You'll be pressed to find an occupation that doesn't require word or number processing of some sort. And you may wonder, is Microsoft Office really the best solution? Here are your options. Read More , GIMP, Hadoop, FrontAccounting, Audacity, FreeFileSync, and a huge number of other pieces of software are totally free, and could potentially save you hundreds of dollars if you need to completely outfit your computer.

Don’t Pay Full Price — Ever

Buying a laptop at full price, whether from a manufacturer or a reseller, is just unnecessary. You can easily save hundreds of dollars by thinking about the exact specs of the computer you need, comparing retailers, and sleuthing out good deals. Spend some time doing your research, and your bank account will thank you.

Image credits: banknotes flying around laptop by yanugkelid via Shutterstock, TACstock1 via Shutterstock.com

  1. Howard Blair
    October 11, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    I wouldn't EVER buy a laptop or PC from WalMart - rumor has it all their PCs are "factory seconds," that had to be repaired and re-boxed (or shipped with something broken or not quite right).
    Can anybody attest to this? I'd like to know for sure...

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:52 pm

      I have to say that I'm very skeptical of that report. It just doesn't seem likely that such a significant retailer would do that, especially with the huge purchasing power that they have. If there's any corroborating evidence of that, I'd certainly be open to hearing about it, but I think it's extremely unlikely.

  2. Akshay Zade
    October 10, 2015 at 6:45 am

    Hadoop? HADOOP? What kind of regular computer user needs to run Hadoop for their day-to-day stuff? What would you even do with it?

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Regular computer users don't need tools like that—it just came to mind when I was thinking about free alternatives to things that people might pay for.

  3. Mark Rushton
    October 10, 2015 at 1:52 am

    The Refurbished Mac tip is perhaps the best of this list - you can save upwards of $300 on some machines. And it used to be - no idea if this is still the case - that some of those refurbished models arrived at your door with better-than-advertised specs, like extra RAM or larger hard drives.

    But in the Mac world, not buying direct from the Manufacturer is a mistake if you aren't very clear on the model being considered. I've seen certain resellers offer previous-generation models as "brand new" to unsuspecting customers. When you buy directly from Apple, you know what you're getting.

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:50 pm

      Yeah, I don't know much about buying Macs from resellers, as they're such a small part of the market. Apple refurbs are awesome, though. I don't know anything about getting them at better-than-spec, but that would be fantastic!

    • Howard Blair
      October 20, 2015 at 6:19 pm

      It's Apple's fault for reusing the "MacBook" and "MacBook Pro" monikers for a dozen years' models, ad infinitum. How do you tell one MacBook from another? one iMac from another? Aside from adding the word "Retina" or "Pro," one is (by name) the same as any other, without a distinguishing model number (except for the ID on the bottom label, which they only use as a tech support identifier.

      You won't catch HP or Lenovo just using "Envy" or "Yoga" without a model # after it in marketing...

      • Mark Rushton
        October 20, 2015 at 8:07 pm

        You're being ironic, right?

        I'd take the nice clean name of a 'MacBook Pro' over a 'Dell Inspiron I5547-5780slv' any day of the week!

        I gave up on those silly model numbers 'way back when I started shaving...

        I suppose you're also nostalgic for those stickers they (used to? Still?) slap all around the palmrest area? "Intel Inside" "Windows 7" "EnergyStar" "AMD Vision" "EpeatGold", etc.?

        • Dann Albright
          October 20, 2015 at 11:18 pm

          Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with you on that one. Using single-word modifiers instead of ugly model numbers is way better. Although it does seem like more companies are just using generation numbers now, like Microsoft's Surface 3 and Pro 4.

        • Howard Blair
          October 21, 2015 at 1:51 am

          Not at all, when it comes to model numbers.

          "I've got a MacBook."

          "Is it a Retina MacBook? This year's? Last year's? Two years ago?"

          "I dunno."

          No way to find out when it was made, what's under the hood (and it's definitely not the top-of-the-line CPU or GPU)...just "a MacBook."

          You can't even look up the specs via model number, because it's just "a MacBook."

          This laptop is an Asus U46E-BAL6 (the first part is the series, the second part denotes optional specifications: RAM, HD, etc.) The only stickers are "Intel Inside - Core i7" and "Windows 7." What's your MacBook got under the hood?

          Exact model: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834230358

        • Dann Albright
          October 28, 2015 at 1:50 pm

          Is this the sort of information you're saying isn't available for a MacBook? http://www.apple.com/macbook/specs/ Also, each Mac has a system information window that give you all of the stats on what's in that particular computer. As for finding out when it was made, that's also available in the system report (which is just two clicks away from the Apple menu on any screen).

          I'm not sure if I've addressed the issues you say that Macs have, though. Were you really saying that you can't find out the specs on any given Mac? Or am I missing something?

  4. hildyblog
    October 10, 2015 at 1:09 am

    I agree with not buying from a manufacturer's site if you're buying new but if you're buying refurbished always buy from a manufacturer's site. You are assured of an actual refurbishment and a manufacturer's warranty.

    Generally look for their "outlet". Also, sign up for email announcements to get special offers which they send out when they're getting too much inventory.

    You can probably get more bang for your buck with business computers because the manufacturer gets big shipments coming off lease but sexy is also available. The last Dell sale I saw included specced out Alienware computers.

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:49 pm

      Have you had any bad experiences with non-manufacturer refurbs? Or have you heard stories about people getting sub-par products?

      • hildyblog
        October 12, 2015 at 12:19 pm

        I haven't but I have read of of problems with cheap and even incompatible parts, missing software or licenses, etc. There are undoubtedly many reputable resellers but for a neophyte it's easier to go to the source.

        • Dann Albright
          October 20, 2015 at 11:16 pm

          Hm, interesting. I'll have to keep an eye out on for more info on that. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Zhong Jiang
    October 9, 2015 at 11:18 pm

    This advice is useful for people with no preference whether they want the newest model since newer models will take time in order for its price to be cut and most people don't usually wait that long.

    I brought an Zenbook UX305, while Microsoft dropped its price by 100$, its sales tax made it more expensive. If people are budget conscious then buy only what you need.

    Don't buy a laptop for gaming even though it can be done, you'll be wasting money.

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      Yes—if someone wants the newest model, then they're not going to be worried too much about saving money on it. That's just the tradeoff you have to make!

  6. likefun butnot
    October 9, 2015 at 9:21 pm

    For a better overall experience and overall better hardware, buy a business product. Lenovo ThinkPad, Toshiba Tecra, Dell Latitude, HP Elitebook, Microsoft Surface. These products aren't sold at retail, buy they're typically the best mainstream PCs in their product classes. One of the biggest differences with those products is getting business grade support, which means calls and repairs are greatly expedited compared to consumer hardware. Business machines also tend to.be easier to repair and have more parts available for those who self service.

    Don't buy a computer unless it has an SSD. Period. That disqualifies a lot of crappy hardware? Good.

    Most of the improvements in PCs over the last few years relate to power efficiency and graphics performance. A three year old computer is not going to be a slug compared to a newer one with a class of CPU. Buy refurbished or lease returns with confidence.

    • Dann Albright
      October 11, 2015 at 10:47 pm

      How do you go about buying a business laptop? Do you have to buy it through a company? Or do you have to go through a specific vendor?

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