I can see why a post about buying a MacBook on a budget may seem strange. MacBook and budget are not words you see together in a sentence often.
If you’ve purchased a computer — or any product, honestly — from Apple, you know they are expensive and they don’t go on sale.
I know this from first hand experience. I have been using Apple products almost exclusively for the last 10 years. In fact, it was only last year that I traded in my iPhone for an Android device (more on that here. One year later, I still don’t have any regrets) and it should be noted…I still have my old iPhone and use it as a music device.
Apple products are pricey but the user experience is enough to keep me coming back. And as a result, I’ve learned a few things that have saved me a few dollars along the way.
(Also, it likely goes without saying but this post is in no way sponsored by Apple. There are no affiliate links in this post or anything like that. These are just some honest thoughts from my experiences buying Apple products over the last 10 years. In the unlikely event that ever changes, I’ll update this and let you know)
Before I get into some shopping tips, I’ll address the question that is the obvious elephant in the room.
Why are you spending money on an outrageously expensive computer when you have $35K of student loans?!
Simple answer: because I want to. And because I can.
If you’ve been reading here for a while, this answer won’t surprise you.
Here’s the thing: I absolutely refuse to buy into the idea that you should deny yourself every single thing you want just because you’re paying off debt.
That’s not to say I think it’s a good idea to indulge in wild, reckless spending and ignore your debt. Obviously that’s a terrible idea.
But…I don’t think swinging so far in the other direction is a great choice, either.
The purpose of money is to spend it. I absolutely believe it is OK to spend on wants, as long as you’re also taking care of your needs.
A new MacBook wasn’t something I needed, but I don’t regret the purchase. As I mentioned, I’ve been using Apple products almost exclusively for about 10 years and I have had great experience with them, particularly when it comes to how long they last. This purchase was definitely a want, but it was absolutely worth it to me.
So with that out of the way…
Is it even possible to buy a MacBook on a budget?
My answer, of course, is yes. It is absolutely possible to buy a MacBook on a budget.
That said, it does require some planning.
The thing about Apple products is they don’t really go on sale. With that in mind, I have three tips to help you afford a MacBook on a budget.
1. Know what you need from your computer
This has to be the first step. Before you go out shopping, think about what you need from your computer.
If you ask me, the most important question you need to ask yourself before buying a new computer of any kind is this: how will I use it? This will help you determine which model you should be looking at — and how much you can expect to pay.
In the case of MacBooks, you’ll pay more for a MacBook Pro than you will for a MacBook Air. That said, if you’re heavy into video or audio production, the Pro will likely be a better choice for you as it is a more robust system.
Knowing what you need from your computer is the most important step to successfully buying a MacBook on a budget.
2. Set a budget and start saving
Knowing what you will use the computer for should help you narrow down the model — and once you know that, you can figure out how much you need to save to make it possible.
Like I mentioned earlier, Apple products don’t really go on sale. If you’re buying a MacBook, you’re going to be spending more than $1K regardless of the model. When I started saving for my new computer, I set a savings target of $1.5K. Your total will depend on the model you choose.
One thing I did that helped a lot was put my MacBook money in a separate bank account. I stashed away the cash in an EQ Savings Account, which had the added bonus of earning a bit of interest along the way. The nice thing about this is that the account was separate from our every day banking account, which meant I only saw it when I went to look at it.
Once I paid for my computer, I transferred the money out of the EQ account to pay the bill. Easy peasy.
No matter what model you choose, it’s going to be pricey. Once you know what you want, set a budget and start saving.
How do you figure out how much to save? That leads me to my next, and best, tip.
3. SHOP. REFURBISHED!
The single best thing you can do to get a MacBook on a budget is to shop refurbished.
What is a refurbished Apple product? Essentially, it’s a “like new” Apple product. From the Apple website:
Every Apple Certified Refurbished product completes a rigorous refurbishment process that includes full testing that meets the same functional standards as new Apple products. Your refurbished device is truly “like new,” with special savings of up to 15%.
Refurbished products are cleaned and inspected and come with all the accessories a new product comes with — including the one year warranty and the ability to purchase Apple Care*.
This is also the only section where you will see products marked down.
In my case, my MacBook Air was priced at $919, down from $1,199. Taxed at 15 per cent, it came to $1,056.85 — which means in total, I saved $322! Not too bad!
With the exception of my iPhones, every single Apple product I have owned over the last 10 years has been purchased refurbished. I cannot say enough great things about the experience I’ve had buying Apple products this way — they have arrived quick, worked flawlessly and lasted for YEARS. If you’re looking to buy a MacBook on a budget — or any Apple product, honestly — you should absolutely consider buying refurbished.
*AppleCare: do you need it?
I wish I could tell you I have a hard and fast answer for this one but I don’t.
For those unfamiliar, AppleCare is an extended warranty option for Apple products. In the case of the MacBook, it extends the warranty to three years. From the AppleCare+ site:
Every Mac comes with one year of hardware repair coverage through its limited warranty and up to 90 days of complimentary support. AppleCare+ for Mac extends your coverage to three years from your AppleCare+ purchase date and adds up to two incidents of accidental damage coverage, each subject to a service fee of $129 for screen damage or external enclosure damage, or $379 for other damage, plus applicable tax. In addition, you’ll get 24/7 priority access to Apple experts by chat or phone.
AppleCare+ covers a range of different hardware and software issues; I can totally see why some people purchase it.
Personally, I have always opted out.
In the past, this was a total dollars and cents decision. I was already dropping a chunk of change on the machine and I didn’t feel like spending any more.
This time around, I opted out for a different reason.
I purchased my MacBook Air with my favourite credit card — my Tangerine money-back MasterCard. One thing I love about this card is that it actually gives me a one year extended warranty, just for using it to make the purchase! In that case, AppleCare+ really only adds one year of warranty coverage to what I already have.
Bonus: Don’t forget to factor in costs associated with the switch
One of the big lessons I learned making the transition to a new MacBook is it is so much easier to do if you have an external hard-drive.
While most Mac’s do have the ability to connect over WiFi through Migration Assistant (or through file sharing), using an external hard-drive is so much easier — and faster.
I didn’t factor this in when I was shopping and I absolutely should have. Thankfully, Best Buy had a great price on a 1.5 TB external when my computer arrived, so I was able to scoop one of those up for less than $100. If you are planning to get a new computer, I absolutely recommend having an external hard-drive of some kind.
It is possible to buy a MacBook on a budget — it just takes planning.
Knowing what you want from your computer, making a plan to save the cash and knowing the best place to shop for a deal can easily save you hundreds of dollars on a MacBook. It’s not a fast way to make a purchase, but if you want to save money, it’s a great way to do it.
Have you ever bought a refurbished piece of technology? How did it go?