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How To Save Money Buying A Laptop For A College Freshman

All universities and colleges have followed suit with the rapid growth in internet technology over the past ten years, and it is now essential for college students to have a good computer for school. Laptops are the computer of choice with college students, because they’re portable and pack enough features to help them with whatever needs to be done for school. This will be one of the bigger expenses you will face if your sending your child off to college in the next couple of weeks, and it’s important that you get them a laptop that meets their needs without breaking your checking account.

Don’t go shopping with your kid

Make the laptop a surprise, and what you buy them, is what they get. If you bring your kid with you, they will go straight to the Apple store and pick out the $1800 Macbook Pro, I guarantee it. Macs have branded themselves as the hip, fun notebooks that many young people want, because it has become a status symbol. If your budget isn’t above $1,000, then you need to stay away from the Apple store.

What If They Insist On A Mac?

If your kid is very brand conscious, and you think they will be devastated if they don’t get a Mac, then consider a refurbished Macbook. Remember, there’s a big price difference between the regular Macbook and Macbook Pro, but the specs that the Pro offers are not needed for the average college freshmen who will be using it to surf the internet and write papers. Right now, the Apple store website has a refurbished 13″ Macbook with great specs for only $899 with free shipping. It’s Apple certified, so you can rest assure that they will stand by all of their refurbished products.

The Most Important Feature

Many people get caught up in all of the tech features of a laptop, and they end up buying a computer that is much too powerful than the user needs. When buying any computer, you need to consider matching the user with the specifications. If your kid is really big into video editing, recording music, and shooting high-resolution photography, then you’ll need to buy them a powerful computer. But, if they are like most computer users and they’ll be using it for the internet, watching streaming video, and using MS Office, then they don’t need the most powerful computer on the market. So, what’s the most important feature on a laptop? Size and portability matter most to me. I really don’t like laptops that act like desktops. 14 to 15″ inch screen laptops that weight less than 6 pounds are what you need to look for. I am not a big fan of the netbook, only because their keyboards are so small and the size of the screen makes it hard to do more than one thing at a time. But again, pay more for portability rather than tech specs.

Here is a list of specifications that will be plenty of power for the average user:

  • 2GB RAM
  • 100 GB Hard drive
  • Any Core Duo processor above 2.0 Ghz
  • 128 RAM on video card
  • Wireless card G/N

Some extras that are nice to have, but not necessary:

  • Built-in webcam
  • Bluetooth capabilities
  • HDMI hook-ups (allows you to hook the computer up to a television

Good Brands for Windows-Based PCs

Stay away from HP, Compaq, and Toshiba. I have never heard of someone having a good experience with these brands of laptops, and they also lag behind on my most important feature, portability. For a laptop under $1,000, look for Sony, Asus, Acer, Lenovo, Dell, and Gateway.

Where To Shop

I would stay away from the large retail electronic stores like Best Buy, HH Gregg, Comp USA, and Office Depot. They try to discount the computers they are looking to get rid of from the less desirable brands. Wal-Mart, Costco, Sam’s, Fry’s, and Tiger Direct are all great brick-and-mortar locations to find an affordable laptop. My personal preference is to shop online for the best laptop deals as long as you feel comfortable enough to know what you are buying based on reading the tech specs. If you’re not, you can always look at models at a store to know what you are looking at before you buy online.,,, and are all good places to start looking. You can also check out deal aggregators like and product search engines like Google products to help you find the BEST deals on the internet from little-known, yet reputable internet retailers.

Figure out your child’s computer needs, don’t go overboard on tech specs, look on the internet, and you’ll get your kid a great laptop for a cheap price.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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