how to save money on technology

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Cost of living crisis: An unexpected laptop replacement can be very expensive. Photo: Issei Kato/Reuters

As inflation increases its grip on UK households, many are dreading the moment their old laptop will give way, as replacing it could be expensive in the middle of a cost of living crisis where every penny counts.

Here are some tips from consumer organization Which? on how to save money on technology and IT when it’s finally time to replace your laptop.

1. Shop on sale, but keep an eye on the price

Who? suggests looking for the best price, as sale prices can sometimes be misleading. Buyers should be aware that sometimes a “sale” price may simply be the normal price of a product at other times of the year. Who? repeatedly found that 99.5% of Black Friday “deals” were actually cheaper or the same price at other times of the year. If you know there’s an upcoming sale, it’s worth checking the price of the device before the sale, to make sure it’s a real bargain. Buyers can do this by visiting the website in the weeks leading up to a sale and checking the price on other websites to compare to better judge if a deal is as good as it looks. If you shop on Amazon, you can use the website camelcamelcamel to check price history.

2. Buy refurbished or used

A refurbished or refurbished laptop has usually been professionally restored by a manufacturer or retailer to as close to “as new” condition, they usually come with warranties. Who? found that refurbished laptops and phones sometimes cost hundreds of dollars less than buying a brand new model. Remember to check if the device is still supported with vital security updates.

3. Shop around before you buy

Consumers should shop around before purchasing a new device. For example, in May 2022 Which one? found an Asus C101 laptop for sale in Grade B used condition on eBay for around £220. That might sound reasonable for a laptop that originally cost £299 new, but Currys PC World had the same model on sale, brand new, for £199.

4. Trade-in of second-hand devices

Those looking to buy a new phone or laptop might be able to redeem it for cash on their next purchase or contract. For example, Apple offers to take old devices and exchange them for credit for new purchases or an Apple Store gift card to use anytime. If the old device is not eligible, that is, if it cannot be repaired, Apple offers to recycle it. The Apple Trade-In website offers a list of price estimates for iPhone models, from iPhone SE (1st generation) to iPhone 11 Pro Max.

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Depending on the age and condition of the device, customers could get between £35 and £610 for their gadget. Samsung also offers a trade-in program for mobiles, tablets, wearables and sometimes other devices. Customers can know the value of their gadgets on the brand’s website. It also has some ‘flagship’ deals, for example customers can currently claim up to £520 off a Galaxy S22 Ultra when they trade in an older phone.

5. Check student deals and offers

Students can often get discounts on laptops, especially at the start of the school year. Retailers and manufacturers offer student discounts, requiring either verification through a student email address or membership in a student deals website such as StudentBeans. Microsoft and Apple are both offering 10% student discounts and other exclusive perks. Dell and Samsung are offering up to 25% off. It’s also worth checking out other retailers who might be running their own limited-time student deals.

6. Check HP’s price after a month on sale

HP laptops can be found at nearly every laptop retailer, but most of the “deals” you’ll find are at Currys, with dozens of models available. Most HP laptops go on sale for a higher price and then get at least £100 off after about a month. HP also sells direct through its website, so it’s always worth checking discounts and coupon codes to see if it works out cheaper.

seven. Make sure it is compatible with Windows 11

If you’re buying a used or refurbished laptop, which one? recommend buying one that is eligible for an upgrade to Windows 11 in the future. Microsoft’s support website has a fully updated list of minimum laptop specs to qualify for an upgrade to Windows 11.

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If a computer is not compatible with Windows 11, it will stop receiving Windows 10 security updates in October 2025, when the device will no longer be protected against the latest threats.

8. Check reviews before buying

It’s important to check reviews before jumping into an expensive laptop or phone. If there are annoying issues with a new device, or if it needs to be upgraded after a year or two, it may not be worth what you spend on it. Who? has a range of advice guides to help buyers choose a laptop that’s right for them.

9. Think about the features you need

It’s not always necessary to spend a fortune on a laptop, especially if you only use it for daily use. Who? found decent models for £200 or less, if only to be used for browsing the internet and taking light notes. Cheaper laptops usually come with 4GB of RAM, which will be enough for some. Certain features and extras can also increase the cost of a new laptop. Buyers can avoid overpaying for a laptop by assessing what they need from a new device. For example, it is often not necessary to pay extra for more than 8 GB of RAM, Which? found that upgrading to 16GB with a Macbook Air can cost £200.

As many people are now backing up files and photos to the cloud, it might not be worth buying a laptop with massive storage potential. You save money by choosing a laptop with less internal storage and using free cloud storage instead, usually 15 GB (Google Drive) or less. Google One is available for around £1.59 per month for 100GB.

Watch: The risks of buying now and paying later

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