An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

How to Save Money on a College Freshmen Laptop

***This post is part of the Yakezie Blog Swap Series. The topic this time around is “Your best tip for a college freshmen”. This post is from Jon over at Free Money Wisdom. He was gracious enough to allow me to take control of his blog today, so I am returning the favor. You can also check out my post over at Free Money Wisdom today. Take it away Jon***

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It’s that time of year again where freshmen head to college to start their adventure of a lifetime. As technology has grown year after year, it has become more important than ever that college students have the right computer to get their schoolwork done. However, there are so many different kinds to choose from that it might be easy to get confused and frustrated in your search for the right kind of laptop. At the same time, you need to know how to save money when purchasing a laptop for your college freshman. Here are some tips and tricks to get you started:

Do your Research

Some experts say that there are certain brands of computers that you want to stay away from. In recent years, there are newer manufacturers who are at the cutting edge of innovation when it comes to laptops. This includes companies such as Asus and Acer, both of which provide great deals on laptops. It makes sense to do some research online by reading customer reviews on sites such as Amazon.com. That way you can see what actual customers have thought about their purchase before you invest the money.

Leave your Freshman at Home

One of the worst things you can do when shopping for a laptop is taking your college student with you. Remember that they are going to be very excited at the prospect of getting a new, shiny laptop. They might try to put a great guilt trip on you to buy a much higher end model than you really need. Unless you want to break your budget, make this a solo shopping trip.

Stake out your Shopping Area

There are many different places that you can search for a laptop, including the Internet. While it might seem logical to go to some of the larger electronic stores such as Best Buy or Staples, you probably won’t get the best deal there. Instead, go to some of the large, big-box stores such as Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart or Costco. Some areas also have a store called Fry’s that offers some great deals on electronics. Check out places such as Amazon.com as well since they often have special sales at this time of year.

Know your Specs

It’s also very important to understand exactly what you’re looking for in a freshman laptop. You don’t necessarily need a high-end computer with all kinds of bells and whistles. Most of the time, college students will be using it simply for the Internet, Microsoft Office and maybe watching video streams. You want to purchase a laptop that doesn’t weigh a lot since your student will be carrying it around quite a bit. Look for at least a 100 GB hard drive, a minimum 2 GB of RAM and a wireless card so that the student can connect from different locations.

Some students will try to insist that they need a Mac, but that isn’t always the case. If they are stuck on that idea, you can also look into getting a refurbished MacBook. You can get a refurbished unit at the Apple store, and it will be certified by Apple so you are protected (Editor’s note: This is a great tip! My wife did this while in college and her laptop worked flawlessly for the next 7 years).

Becoming a college freshman is a very exciting time in the life of your child. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to spend a lot of money to get them the right kind of laptop. Remember that you’re simply looking for something reliable, lightweight and well reviewed so that you know you’re spending your money wisely. In the end, the main idea is to get your child such a good education that they can purchase the best laptop money can buy one of these days!

(Editor’s note: The only thing I can add to this article is that often times the individual schools have specific requirements for their college freshman. Even more important, certain programs also have minimum requirements on laptops. For example, a graphic design or landscape architecture major will require a Macbook. Colleges also have laptop vendors that partner with the schools to provide great deals. The college I work for has an Apple vendor on campus. They automatically factor in the education discount, and you can use any excess financial aid to make your purchase).

Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon

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10 Comments

  1. Good idea about leaving the freshman at home. I didn’t think of that. Kids can sometimes get swayed with the new and flashy. However, if you are not computer savvy I would recommend taking the kid with you because you won’t know what to get that will meet their needs.

    • @Miss-T — Great point. Kids can be a hindrance when they want the newest toy, but they also have a fresh perspective on technology that is important to consider!

  2. if going gets tough, students can rely on lab computers, generally labs are open for longer time. For socializing your room mates laptop can also help. I know room mates buy a laptop jointly, and operate at set time to avoid conflict. Good information
    SB @ One Cent At A Time recently posted..Don’t Be Stupid, Tips For A College FreshmanMy Profile

    • @SB That is a really good point. Sharing a laptop would make sense if you had a roomate or friend whom you could trust. Lab computers on campus are also a great resource. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Don’t forget to use your student discount. I know Apple and Dell usually have discounts. Last year they gave an ipod touch along with the laptop, if you can sell off the ipod touch that is another couple hundred back into your pocket.
    Suba recently posted..In pursuit of (paperless) happinessMy Profile

    • @Suba Great point. My campus actually has dealerships on campus with the discounts already figured in. They make it pretty easy!

  4. I totally agree with the tip on getting a refurbished Apple since you can save between 15-20%. Also I would recommend using Amazon.com since they have really great prices on great brand names and you can usually get FREE shipping. Also, this tip my be a little late, but don’t wait until back-to-school season to buy a laptop since businesses know that don’t have to give big discounts during this time of year. Off season shopping is always best.
    Jackie @ freeismylife recently posted..FREE Appetizers & Drink Specials at 24Grille to celebrate Detroit Restaurant Week 9/8 5-8pm RSVPMy Profile

    • @ Jackie Amazon really is an amazing resource. And you are exactly right on buying the laptops in the “off” season. It’s all about supply and demand!

  5. Great advice, especially about not always needing the Mac. I know it is very popular with students but that doesn’t always justify the extra cost.
    Dave recently posted..College Student Money Management, College Student BudgetingMy Profile

    • @Dave You are exactly right. Many folks will benefit from a Mac, but many others will end up paying a premium when a MUCH cheaper laptop would have done the exact same thing for them. Lifestyle inflation can start at an early age!

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