Lots of people, especially entrepreneurs, think they can get by with whatever computer they can dig up from a garage sale. It’s certainly important to guard cash flow, but think twice about using unreliable equipment. A computer doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest, but you want it to turn on every single day. Anything less makes it more trouble than it’s worth.
To keep your expenses in line with a shoestring budget, you still have options when selecting a computer.
- Buy used. Often called “refurbished,” or refurb for short, this is a computer that has most likely been traded in. Reputable computer stores that resell these have tested them to make sure everything works and most likely reloaded the operating system. A refurb may come with a limited warranty, usually 30-90 days. For a few hundred dollars or less, this option will get you off the ground.
- Buy new, but scaled down. If you have a little extra cash and feel strongly that you need something more reliable and long term, then consider a namebrand computer without all the bells and whistles. A desktop is usually going to be less expensive than a laptop. You can upgrade some things later, such as memory (RAM), and save a little on the initial purchase price. Get a smaller hard drive for just software, and buy an external hard drive for data. There are lots of little contortions you can do here to stay within budget.
- Wait to buy software. It’s no secret that software is expensive and can eat up the budget quickly. Depending on your needs, you may be able to get by without all the packaged software. For example, keep track of expenses and invoices with a spreadsheet until you can afford an accounting package. Use free programs, such as GoogleDocs or Open Office, which are scaled down versions of word processing and spreadsheet programs. They don’t do everything, but they are functional.
Of course, there are items and services you don’t want to skimp on. Since your data is important, consider getting an external hard drive to save all your data to or pay for an online backup. This option is not overly expensive and worth the money to protect your information.
If you need more help with identifying the right computer for your needs, join my mailing list for a free tip sheet.