5 tips for investing wisely in a laptop

Today, a laptop is pretty much an essential for college students. And if you or your son or daughter is entering first year at college or university they might need to buy their very first laptop. I say laptop because of the portable nature compared to a desktop. Laptops really do cater to the mobile student’s lifestyle—and students can conveniently lug a laptop from home to class, and to study group to the local café without much trouble. Plus, laptops still offer all the various features—word processing and editing, spreadsheets, internet surfing for research, photo and video storage—and really whatever the student needs to do their school work.
However, laptops don’t come cheap. And this isn’t an investment to frivolously buy without doing a little research first as it’s important to invest in a laptop that meets the majority of all student needs—at a decent price.
To help you make a wise investment, here are five tips to help you save money on a new laptop…

1. Don’t shop at box stores
I always recommend steering clear of box stores when it comes to making electronics purchases. Why? Well, firstly, box stores like Best Buy, Costco, and Future Shop only provide sales on laptops from less desirable brands that they want to unload. And secondly, what does a salesperson at Costco really know about a laptop. My personal recommendation is to shop at an electronics store (i.e., Tiger Direct) or bring along a tech-savvy friend to help you make a wise buy.

2. Shop online
You’ll always snag a better deal on a laptop online, so I typically do my research in the stores then make my actual purchase online. This way, you’ve already visited stores, talked to sales reps, and tested out the physical models so you know what you are buying based on this footwork.

3. Buy a laptop based on need not want
Figure out your needs as a student (or your kid’s needs at school if you’re a parent) and forget the brand loyalty. For instance, a lot of kids will be set on a Mac laptop; however, Apple products are really expensive if you look past the “cool” factor of the brand name. Plus, Macs not needed for the average college student who just needs a computer to research and write papers. Remember, there are some great brands out there that offer deals on quality machines (i.e., Lenovo ThinkPad deals). Instead; stick to your basic computer needs and you’ll get a decent laptop for a good price.

4. Buy refurbished or used
If you are downright set on a Mac book Pro, then look to refurbished sources that are Apple certified. That way, you get to stay brand loyal and save a bit of money in the process. By the way, always seek a refurbished machine with a warranty.

5. Don’t go overboard on features
As mentioned, most students need a laptop to research and write papers—not for professional video editing or shooting high-resolution photography. However, many that just need the basics get blinded by the promise of features and spend way too much on a computer. Instead; honestly ask yourself this question: “What’s the most important feature for my laptop to have?” It might be small size or low weight, or it might be speed or a large, bright screen to prevent eye strain. Remember, extras are nice to have, but not necessary if you’re probably never going to use them.