Money

The Best Ways to Save Money on a Laptop and Other Big-Ticket Items

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Ready to splurge? If you’re wondering how to save money on a laptop or another big purchase — even how to save money on a car or how to get the best deal when house-shopping — we have your answers. Experts weighed in on everything from the best time to shop, the best questions to ask, and the best web sites on which to score extra deals and savings. Armed with this information, you’ll be well on your way to getting the item you want, but paying far less than you typically might have.

Whether you’re looking for a laptop or hunting down a new home, these tips are guaranteed to help you save more and stress less.

How to save on a laptop.

Zero in on the best buy. Want an inexpensive laptop with the speed and ease-of-use of a pricey computer? Then Acer is your best bet. While you can find cheaper laptops, they often use sub-par (read: slow) components, reveals computer expert Matt Smith, “Acer specializes in giving you lots of bang for your buck. The speed and screen quality of Acer’s V3 and V5 series are especially good values.

Avoid the biggest laptop trap. When you’re shopping for a new laptop, there’s one feature that matters most — the processor, or “brain,” of the computer — which determines how fast it loads information. To be sure you get a good one, says Smith, you only have to know this: Look for AMD A-Series or Intel Core processors because they’re fast. And there’s no need to spend a fortune for them: “You can find a laptop with a fast Intel Dual-Core, for example, for around $400,” says Smith.

Pinpoint bargains. Always comparison shop, urges Smith. “The same laptop will often cost $100 less at Amazon than it does at Best Buy or vice-versa,” he says. Great news: The competitive back-to-school season is the best time for sales. Check newspaper circulars for savings and rebate offers or head to FatWallet.com or Ebates.com; they work directly with laptop brands and stores to offer exclusive savings, such as free shipping and cash back.

Ask for special ways to save. Manufacturers such as Apple and Dell offer discounts to teachers, students, and even parents buying for students — so always ask if you qualify before you buy.

How to save on a car.

Time your buy. When is the best time to buy a new car? “Toward the end of each month is when dealers are most willing to be flexible on price,” confirms Gregg Fidan of RealCarTips.com. “Many manufacturers offer hidden incentives to dealers to hit monthly sales quotas, so if you contact a few dealers as the month winds down, you’ll likely find a salesperson who needs to sell only a few more cars to qualify for a ‘perk’ and is willing to really bargain.”

Negotiate the hassle-free way. “When you visit a dealership to negotiate, you’re at a disadvantage,” says Fidan. Why? “You’ve invested time to get there, so chances are you’ll be more willing to compromise on price. That’s why salespeople will often try to get you to waste more time at the dealership, so you eventually give in and accept a higher price.” The way to sidestep this sales maneuver? Go virtual. “Most dealers have an Internet department that’ll negotiate online or over the phone,” he explains. And most online departments don’t work on commission, which makes the process more relaxed.” Also smart: Visit CarWoo.com, says Fidan. “Submit the make and model you want and put in your zip code. Local dealers then compete to offer you the lowest price. Through CarWoo, you remain anonymous, while getting bids from several dealers. On average, people save $3,000 on a new car.”

How to save on your house hunt.

Speed up the process. The shortcut to finding the perfect neighborhood? NeighborhoodScout.com, says real estate whiz Eric Tyson. “Simply plug in the criteria you want, narrowing your search to, say, towns with a lot of young families. As you search, you’ll get a sense of what homes are worth.” “Help me save on my next big-ticket purchase.”

Interview your agent. Ask potential agents about their work experience. “Agents often move into real estate from other professions,” says Tyson. “Someone whose background is in, say, psychology, might be skilled at negotiating.” Also ask for their “activity list.” It’s all the houses they’ve sold in the last six months, and it’ll let you see if they have experience getting deals for the types of homes you’re interested in.

Ask for a CMA. “That’s a comparable market analysis,” says Tyson. “It’s how much the house is worth based on how much similar homes in the area sold for.” If the CMA for a home listed for $190,000 comes back at $160,000, you’ll know it’s overpriced.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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