With the winter holidays around the corner, you may be contemplating investing in a new computer. And if you think now is the best time to buy a computer, you would be right. With shopping holidays and promotions such as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday as well as numerous other sales throughout December on the horizon, it is a smart time to buy a laptop or a desktop computer to maximize savings. That said, there are other times throughout the year that can be advantageous if you're on a budget.
In any case, if you're in the market for a new computer, read on for pro tips -- and the best times of year -- to score the best price.
The Best Time to Buy a Computer
There are exceptions, but as a general rule, the best times to buy a computer are Black Friday, Cyber Monday, three-day weekends (think: Presidents Day weekend), Amazon Prime Day and back-to-school season. Black Friday, in particular, is a beneficial time to save. This year, Black Friday falls on Nov. 29, though some retailers, like Best Buy, Kohl's and J.C. Penney, open on Thanksgiving Day in the afternoon, and begin offering sales the day before Thanksgiving or earlier. For eye-popping discounts for laptops and desktop computers (think: 75% off), shop Black Friday sales. Small Business Saturday, on Nov. 30, is an advantageous day to shop at independent, mom and pop stores. And Cyber Monday on Dec. 2 is an ideal time to capitalize on steep discounts from online retailers.
January, after the Black Friday and holiday shopping hoopla in December, is also a prime time to snag a bargain. "If you are able to be flexible in your requirements, the best overall prices are in January, during post-holiday shopping efforts to clear inventory," says Diana Brown, a technology director for the Puget Sound Education Service District in Seattle. Brown's job involves buying a lot of computers -- and getting the best prices for them. She oversees technology purchases, implementation and operations for the agency and works with multiple entities in school districts and at the state level to make sure that when computers are purchased, schools are getting the best return on their investment.
While the deals available vary, Brown offers up the example of the HP Spectre x360 laptop. She found it on sale on Dec. 27, 2018, for $1,449; on Jan. 10, 2019, it was priced at $1,299.
Another great time to land a bargain is during holiday weekends, including Presidents Day weekend, Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. Amazon Prime Day in mid-July is another prime time to secure deep discounts on laptops and computers, in addition to back-to-school season . Many children and college students are in the market for computers at this time, and so that's a good time to find deals, especially if your state has a sales-tax-free weekend in the summer to encourage shoppers to open their wallets. Last year, 16 states held sales tax holidays in the summer to encourage back-to-school shoppers to spend. Tax holidays can be an advantageous time for students and adults to buy a desktop or laptop, though there are sometimes limits on how much the computer can cost to avoid sales tax.
The Best Times to Buy an Apple Computer
When shopping for a new computer, you need to prioritize what you're looking for: Do you want the best price or the newest product? While you can find discounts for desktop and laptop computers during the holidays for all brands, you may want to buy an Apple computer at a different time if the goal is to get the lowest price. In other words, if a new Apple product comes out, you'll want to look at what the new desktop or laptop replaced. You may want to buy an older version, which is likely to be offered at a steep discount.
As for the best time to buy an Apple desktop or laptop, Brown suggests typical shopping holidays and holiday weekends. That said, she says she has had particular luck getting good deals on Apple laptops and desktops during Black Friday.
The Best Times to Buy a Microsoft Computer
If you're interested in a Microsoft laptop, it's best to stick to shopping holidays and the aforementioned times of year. Brown says that if you don't end up buying a desktop or laptop during the holidays, you'll have plenty of other chances to get a good deal.
"For those with the patience, or who are planning ahead, Amazon Prime Day in July is also becoming a force in sales. Other vendors match prices or plan sales of their own to capitalize on the shopping frenzy," Brown says.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Computer
While timing is important when it comes to scoring a good deal, you'll want to think beyond the date you make a purchase. Take the following considerations into account before you buy.
Price. Dan Gudema, a software developer in Boca Raton, Florida, says that the bigger your family, the better the odds you shouldn't purchase a new computer every time you need to buy one. "We don't believe it is necessary to buy new computers," Gudema says.
Gudema and his wife have two sons, ages 9 and 10. In total, they have five computers; two are Gudema's for work. Sometimes, they'll purchase new computers, but Gudema has had luck buying used computers off of Craigslist. If you're interested in buying used Apple products that have been tested by Apple and come with a one-year warranty, check out the "refurbished" section on Apple.com.
Brown says that used Apple computers and desktops are often a great deal. "Like comparably priced PCs, Apple hardware is high-end and has a long life. For this reason, refurbs from the Apple store site can be a great option," she says.
Gudema also often purchases refurbished computers or open-box computers, which simply means the customer returned the computer in the box, but the computer has been inspected. Often, you'll get a pretty decent discount -- say, 20% -- but you'll want to make sure there's a warranty available before you buy an open-box computer.
In any case, Gudema says that with young children, going cheaper is often a smart way to go. "Trust me, making a major investment with kids who destroy things is not a great thing to do. What is most important for us is making sure we are all satisfied," he says.
Features. If you buy a cheap computer that doesn't work for you, you'll end up wasting a lot of money. If you're a serious gamer or are running a business, you might want to opt for buying a computer from a company that builds computers on demand.
Tim Lynch, owner of Psychsoftpc, an artisanal computer hardware manufacturer based out of Quincy, Massachusetts, says that while "many folks will be satisfied with a cheap machine" at big-box stores and office supply stores, you're taking a risk. "They will perform OK for internet browsing, word processing, email and the occasional non-complex spreadsheet, but (computer users) will struggle to handle gaming, video streaming and will find virtual reality an impossibility," Lynch says. He says that with 64-bit operating systems, even the cheap machines should have at least 8 gigabytes of RAM.
Both Lynch and Gudema say that if you see a computer with 4 gigabytes, it's extremely cheap, and you should stay clear. Brown agrees that 8 gigabytes should be your minimum. "If you tend to keep lots of programs open at the same time, or lots of web browser windows, more memory will reduce the amount of time you spend waiting to switch between them or load new ones," she says.
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