One of the most in-demand items on parents’ back to school shopping lists is also the most expensive (and usually by a large margin): a computer.
This one device can easily cost more than a mortgage payment, but even in primary schools, it’s often assumed that students have access to a PC at home, and for those entering college or university a laptop is often mandatory.
If you know how to save money on this expensive piece of educational gear, you can dramatically cut your back to school expenditures.
Fortunately, this is the time of year when many retailers and PC manufacturers offer fall savings, with laptop deals being especially popular. You just need to know where to look.
Here are five ways to save money when buying a back to school computer.
How to Save Money on Computers: Retail Back to School Sales
Let’s start with the obvious: back to school sales.
Fall is one of the busiest time for retailers, thanks to the annual back-to-school shopping frenzy. To keep people coming through the doors (or filling those online shopping carts), big ticket items like laptop deals are frequently promoted.
You can also use price tracking websites like NexTag that scrape retailer websites and compare prices for specific computers.
How to Save Money on Computers: Apple Refurbished
One of my go-to methods for significant savings on Macs is through the Apple (AAPL) Refurbished store.
The company doesn’t exactly make it easy to find (it’s buried in fine text at the bottom of the standard online store), but once you get there, you’ll find Apple refurbished Macs and MacBooks that currently offer savings of up to 22% off the retail price.
Apple refurbished gear is cosmetically near perfect, carries the same one year warranty as new products, ships for free and offers free returns if you aren’t happy with the computer.
How to Save Money on Computers: Educational Discounts
Shopping for gear using educational discounts is an excellent year-round cost saver.
Apple, Dell and Microsoft (MSFT) all have education stores, usually requiring proof of enrollment. Many PC manufacturers also offer these educational savings through campus computer stores.
How much you save depends on what you’re looking for, but Microsoft, for example, is currently offering up to 20% off of the Surface for students through its online Education Store.
Educational savings can also take the form of back to school offers, with free software or gear thrown in.
Apple is famous for this, and this year’s back to school promotion offers education discounts on eligible Mac computers and laptops, plus a free set of Beats Solo2 headphones to sweeten the deal.
How to Save Money on Computers: Previous Generation Deals
When the new version of a computer is released, there is still inventory sitting on store shelves of the previous generation model.
Retailers are anxious to get rid of the old stock and that means significant savings.
Some of the best laptop deals of the year — at least for Mac fans — happen when Apple unveils the new MacBook Air and MacBook Pro versions. Last year’s models suddenly see slashed prices, even though spec bumps are usually modest, and visually, there’s no difference.
In the case of the Mac, to double up on savings look for Apple refurbished versions of the outgoing model.
You tend to see the deepest discounts when a new version of a PC isn’t just packing a next-generation CPU, but also looks different.
Many people don’t want to be seen with what is obviously older hardware, so the previous generation versions soon show up at fire sale prices — often on sites like eBay (EBAY) or Amazon.
How to Save Money on Computers: Coupon Codes
Finally, we come to the old money-saving standby: coupons.
In the age of online shopping, they take the form of coupon codes. The good news for back to school shoppers looking for laptop deals and savings on computers is that some PC manufacturers and electronics retailers offer these coupon codes.
For example, at the time of writing, Dell had coupon codes that knocked $50 off select PCs, or 10% off some All-in-One computers.
Websites like RetailMeNot collect coupon codes and are worth checking out once you’ve found the computer you want. You may just be able to shave the price down even more with the right code.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.