7 Ways to Save Hundreds of Dollars on a PC or Mac

A new Mac or a new PC is a big purchase. Whether you’re buying a laptop or a desktop, a new machine will cost hundreds, or perhaps $1,000 or more. (If you’re really looking for a top-of-the-line machine, $2,000 might be a more realistic ballpark figure.) Whenever you’re planning on spending that much money, it pays to think carefully about what you’re getting. And also to figure out if there are some smart ways to save money.

Fortunately, you can save hundreds of dollars on a new PC or Mac if you buy the right machine at the right time. (All while avoiding common computer-shopping mistakes.) You just have to know when and how to make your purchase, and what to look for in order to save the most money. Read on to check out our most useful tips, and you’ll be well on your way toward saving hundreds on your next computer purchase.

1. Plan ahead

smiling man using a laptop

Planning is a key part of saving money on a PC or Mac | iStock.com/cyano66

If you wait until your PC or Mac is dying (or dead) to purchase a new one, then you’ll deprive yourself of the opportunity to save. If, instead, you take a few months to find a replacement for an aging machine, you’ll get a few benefits. First of all, you’ll have the opportunity to find sales and promotions. You’ll also benefit from a wider selection as new models are introduced. Plus, you’ll have time to research exactly which components you need. And you’ll be able to spend more time reading reviews and making sure you’re choosing the right PC or Mac. Plus, you may be able to figure out when sales are coming (late summer back-to-school sales, for instance, are good ones to plan for). 

2. Choose a few models to watch

woman at cafe using laptop

Once you’ve figured out what you want in a computer, narrow the list down to a few models to watch | iStock.com/jacoblund

Once you’ve done your initial research on what models are out there and which ones are best for your needs, it’s a great idea to make a short list of models to watch. Then, in the upcoming months, you can do a couple of things. Perhaps the most obvious of which is to watch for sales, promotions, and other events that can bring the purchase price down. Some manufacturers (Apple included) rarely mark their merchandise down. So you’ll need to keep an eye on third-party sellers in search of those deals. Another task to tackle once you’re armed with your short list? Make sure you know the ins and outs of each model, and continue to read new reviews as they surface. 

3. Determine whether you need the latest model

laptop in girl's hands sitting on wooden floor with coffee

Think about whether you really need the latest model, or if it’s a better choice to go with one that’s six months or a year old | iStock.com/happydancing

Many people in the know, including ZDNet’s Ed Bott, advise waiting anywhere from six months to a year after a model is introduced to consider buying it. That’s because early adopters “pay a premium price and are also the first to run into bugs and teething problems with new components.” Waiting to buy a new model “gives the hardware and OS makers an opportunity to work out driver issues, and it gives you a chance to read reviews and look for reliability issues in support forums.” Waiting also gives the opportunity for the manufacturer to introduce a new model, or to get close to doing so. Which means if you aren’t buying that latest model, you’ll likely get a cheaper price on the one you want. 

4. Consider refurbished models

manager sitting in cafe working on laptop

If you’re serious about saving money, think about going with a refurbished computer | iStock.com/Halfpoint

Buying refurbished gadgets is a great way to save money, particularly on a pricy purchase like a new PC or Mac. And shopping for a refurbished computer isn’t nearly as complicated as you might imagine. You’ll want to stick with retailers you already know and trust. (This isn’t the time to scour eBay or Craigslist for deals.) It’s a great idea to shop for refurbished machines being sold directly by the manufacturer, since you can be confident in the quality of the refurbishing job that way. No matter where you shop, you’ll want to make sure you know the details of the warranty and return policy. 

5. Think about making some upgrades yourself

female hand on a laptop keyboard

Investigate whether you can make some upgrades yourself in order to save money | iStock.com/Poike

If you find a machine that has almost everything you want with the exception of an upgraded component or two, you’ve probably realized manufacturers charge an arm and a leg for those upgrades. If you’re pretty handy and don’t mind a DIY or two, you should consider making those upgrades yourself. Replacing parts yourself is an easy way to save a lot of money. But you do need to make sure you can actually complete the upgrades you want. Do your research on what can and can’t be replaced. And make sure you have the requisite tools (and patience) to get you through the process. 

6. Consider what software you need

Mother and son in a kitchen looking at a laptop

Think carefully about the software you need, since finding cheap or free alternatives can save you some significant cash | iStock.com/omgimages

Chances are good all the software you need won’t be included in the purchase price of your new Mac or PC. So it’s a good idea to think about what software you currently use and what software you’re going to need for your new machine. A relatively pricy software suite might be non-negotiable. But if you only need that software — think Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop — occasionally, it may be worth looking in to lower-priced, or even free, alternatives. There’s plenty of open-source software available online or in the Mac App Store. Take a look at what’s out there, and read reviews to determine whether free or cheap software will do what you need. 

7. Make sure you know all the strings that are attached

Businessman working on laptop with some documents on table

Before you buy, look into details on warranties, return policies, and restocking fees | iStock.com/jacoblund

Wherever you choose to purchase, whether directly from the manufacturer or from a third-party retailer, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting and what you might want to pay extra for. The first thing to check is the return policy, especially if you can’t try the model in-store first. How long do you have to return a machine if it’s not what you expect? Will the retailer charge a restocking fee? And if so, is it too high to risk purchasing a device that may not suit your preferences? You may want to consider an extended warranty, which will make a screen repair or battery replacement much more affordable in the event that they’re necessary.