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Best Ways To Economize on a Tight Budget

It's certainly not easy to economize on a PC. That's especially true when you see so many people quickly spending thousands on "power machines" with huge hard drives, screaming CPUs and fancy gadgets. But take heart; there are ways that you can economize on your PC and still get an excellent system. It's all a matter of "brains over brawn"; anyone can plunk down a pile of hundreds and get a decent system; doing it for a good price is where the challenge is!

Alright then... here are some of the best ways to save money when putting together a PC:

  • Get A Slower Processor: High-end processors are the most over-priced, over-rated components in the PC world. To get the fastest CPU available at any given time you'll pay double what a chip that is 95% as fast costs. I never buy more than the third- or fourth-fastest chip currently available. You could save literally hundreds of dollars on this tip alone. See the discussion of "the sweet spot" for more on this.
  • Avoid Fancy Brand Retail PCs: With many of the retail-store branded PCs, you are paying for the name--and the company's marketing and advertising departments. In most cases you can do as well (often better) with a good mail-order PC or by buying from a reputable small PC assembly store. Don't compromise and buy a junk brand nobody has ever heard of, but don't overpay for a PC just because you've seen the company's commercials on your favorite TV show. ;^)
  • Custom-Build and Reuse Components: Have a PC custom-built for you at a local shop, so you can decide exactly where to save money to meet your needs. When you do so, you can probably also ask the assembler to let you supply at least some of the more mundane components. A good monitor is an investment that can be carried from PC to PC. Keyboards, mice, floppy disk drives, CD-ROM drives and other smaller peripherals are easy to "salvage" from older PCs; sometimes they are even thrown away with 10-year-old systems and often work perfectly fine. You won't save a fortune, but every bit helps, and it's certainly better for the environment than sending more plastic to the landfill.
  • Get A Smaller Hard Disk: Some may consider this "heresy" but in this author's opinion, most new PCs contain monstrous hard disks that the average person will never come close to utilizing. If your needs are modest and you aren't planning to do photography, audio editing or other similar tasks that require a lot of storage, you don't need 50 GB of hard disk space. Ask how much you could save by going with say, 10 GB of hard disk. In some cases you may not save a lot, but you could save over $100 on some configurations. You can always add another hard disk later on if you need the space; disk storage drops in price by over 50% every year!
  • Buy Used: Though there are certainly pitfalls to doing this, you can often get good deals on used PCs for a fraction of the cost of a new system, particularly if you don't need a very powerful system.
  • Eschew Extras: There are a lot of "extras" that many people don't really need but that are included in new PC packages; see if you can get them removed for credit.
  • Put Off Peripheral Purchases: Some "on the side" peripherals aren't really necessary to the basic operation of the PC. You may be able to put off their purchase until a later time. Examples of these sorts of peripherals: CD-RW drives (unless being used for backup); scanners; TV tuner cards; DVD drives; good speakers. There are many others too.
  • Use Your Stereo For Speakers: If your stereo system is in the same room as the PC, you can use its auxiliary input for your PC's sound output. The sound quality will be better than that of most PC speakers, even good ones, and far better than what you'll get from the junky ones you'll end up with if you are on a tight budget. Just make sure you keep the speakers away from the PC unit, the monitor, and any removable magnetic media! See here for more discussion of sound and speakers.

Also, a suggestion that is not really an "economizing measure" but a way of helping you afford a system: put aside a bit of money every week and save up for your PC over a period of time. If you normally go out to the movies twice a month, go once a month and rent a movie the other time; eat at less expensive restaurants; bring a bag lunch to work instead of eating fast food; carpool; buy groceries in bulk; clip coupons; etc. There are hundreds of small ways to save money over a period of several months; do whatever works for you. Put the money you save into your "new PC fund" and before you know it you'll be in much better shape to buy the PC of your dreams--or at least, a PC that won't give you nightmares. :^)

Next: Worst Ways To Economize on a New PC

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