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Lower the Cost of Computing--Part I: Hardware

Shel Horowitz's Monthly Frugal Fun Tip for August 2006

An expensive and necessary habit--but one where you can lower the cost dramatically.

* If you (or a family member) are a student, teacher, or staff at a school, most computer manufacturers offer a special program just for you. We just bought my daugh ter a Mac laptop for college; the price was comparable to the big mail-order catalogs and hundreds of dollars cheaper than our local stores, and included a $179 iPod at no cost after rebate.

* Buy a discontinued or not-the-most-current model. Most of us won't even use 1/100th of the power on our desks. If your needs are simple, any computer that can support a fast Internet connection will work. Models brought to market a year or two ago should be perfectly competent, and a lot cheaper. (If you do cutting edge video or graphics work, this approach is not for you--but if you're just doing word processing, e-mail, spreadsheets, and surfing the Net, you'll be just fine.)

* Find an office that's replacing its computers. Many offices upgrade their systems every two or three years. Or buy a used one for $50 or $100 from a trusted friend. Or even buy one through a yard sale or classified ad. (For any of these, have a qualified technician go over it first)

* Barter

* Join a freebies board such as Freecycle.org, and post a "wanted" notice. I still have an ancient Mac laptop that someone was offering on my local board.

* If you're a light-duty user, consider sharing a computer purchase with a neighbor (this wouldn't work at our house--we can't even share one computer among the four of us--but Dina and I are both writers).

* Negotiate a good deal on a one-stop solution. If you're buying a computer, printer, storage device, scanner, etc., all at once, you ought to be able to get a much lower price than buying separately.

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