Computer prices may have plummeted in recent years, but they are still quite expensive, especially for students. With some planning and looking around you can avoid a lot of unnecessary costs without compromising on quality. Some of the stuff I’ll talk about is free, while others just cost a little less. However they do require that you invest some amount of time and effort, so it’s up to you if the savings will justify the work you have to do.
If you’re an average computer user, almost all the software you’ll need can be gotten for free. There are lots of free (and in many cases, open source) software that will take the place of popular commercial software. You might have to sacrifice support services if you want things absolutely free stuff, but if you pay just a bit, you can buy a supported Linux Distro and get help with your problems. If you’re even a bit computer-savvy, you can easily get free help from online forums and mailing lists and take care of most problems yourself. This may well be the largest saving that you’ll be making.
2. Don’t get standard upgrades
Most computers that you buy nowadays let you upgrade things like RAM and hard disk space for an extra price. This is certainly convenient, but in many cases you could buy the parts for a fair deal less and install them yourself (or ask a tech-savvy friend to do it for you). If you think you won’t need the upgrade immediately, it makes sense to wait until you do. Prices keep falling, so in 6 months time, chances are you’ll get a bit more for your buck.
3. Keyboard and Mice
These things don’t really cost much, but you can get them even less of Ebay and other auction sites. Unless you’re a hardcore gamer or you’re typing all day long you probably won’t recognize the difference between a new one and an old one. If you work in a large corporation or are in a college environment, chances are the IT department has a fair number of unused keyboards and mice lying around. If you’re friendly with the IT guys, you could get yourself one for free.
4. Look around and wait a while
Computer stores and websites often have good deals going on things like printers, scanners and other peripherals as well as many seasonal discounts. Often you can get things for a good $100 or more less (often in the form of mail in rebates). If you don’t need a computer right now, try waiting a while, and if you do need one now, look around. In addition to looking at websites for the best deal, also visit physical stores near you, they might have special local offers going.
As for college students, if you have a student discount, remember to use it. Late summer is a particularly good time to buy thanks to lots of ‘back-to-school’ offers going around. Apple is currently giving rebates on iPods and Printers bought with a desktop or laptop.
A combination of all of the above could easily knock a few hundred dollars off your computer expenses. Of course, just buying a computer isn’t the end of it, there’s also a certain price associated with running a computer (upgrades, printer supplies and of course the monthly power bill). Tomorrow I take a look at the things you can do spend less money on running your machine.