In this day and age, it’s important to have a computer.  Whether it’s to pay the bills, stream the big game, upload pet photos, or keep the kids entertained – technology has virtually become a necessity in today’s world.

While you can do many of these same activities on a tablet or (smaller yet) a smart phone, you run the risk of straining your eyes or using up all of your data and storage on such little machines. There are also some tasks that you will not be able to do on a smart phone at all.  Additionally, these undersized devices often come with oversized prices.  So how do you keep current without breaking the bank?

Step 1: Buy Refurbished

I know everyone prefers nice, shiny, and new; but the truth of the matter is that if you buy from a trusted source, you will ultimately save hundreds of dollars.  My refurbished MacBook Air may be six years old, but it works perfectly fine (and saved me about a grand).  I have not had a single problem with it crashing or losing my work, and the battery has held up pretty well, too.

These laptops typically start out around $100 – $150.   Although some may be cheaper, you want to be sure you are getting Factory Refurbished quality from a company that offers some sort of warranty.

Here is an example of an inexpensive refurbished laptop with high reviews that offers an extended warranty:

Step 2: Apply the Bells and Whistles

Now that you have your nice, shiny, new-to-you laptop, you may realize that it did not come with Microsoft Word, a photo editor, and – most importantly – antivirus software to protect your computer from Step 3.

You can actually find free alternatives that are comparable to those pricey programs.  From word processors to picture enhancers, you can find just about anything you need with a simple Google search (i.e. “Free Spreadsheet Software”).  You can also use programs like Apple Keynote for presentations, Google Docs for written reports, and Google Sheets for spreadsheet documents.

Free antivirus software can be found much the same way.  There are plenty to choose from, such as Adaware Antivirus Free, FortiClient, or Immunet.  Each one has different options and forms of protection to offer, so it’s important to consider your choices.  For example, FortiClient specifically has parental control panels, which would be optimal for families with young children.

For other software freebies, check out Doc Frugal’s article Top Six Free Applications for Windows

 Step 3: Uh Oh, It’s Broken

Hopefully this won’t be the case since you bought from a reputable company, but sometimes things just happen.  Since you made sure to purchase the warranty, you are in luck!  Simply reach out to the company you purchased from and inquire how to have your situation remedied.  Many times, they will even provide you with a shipping label in order to return the product free of cost and free of hassle.

Step 4: Enjoy Hours of Endless Entertainment

Remember to power off and unplug during times you’re not using to keep your battery healthy, and to keep your electric bill lower!

Bonus Tip:  If you still don’t think a laptop is right for your needs (if you only want the basics like e-mail, internet shopping, reading e-books, or playing games): A Kindle or other tablet is inexpensive and if you get a refurbished model, you save even more money. Try to get a larger screen size (8 – 10″) to avoid eye strain.



This article was written by Doc Frugal staffer, Elyse Carabello. Elyse is a graduate of Elizabethtown College and recently moved to Pittsburgh where she is enjoying all of the new opportunities the city has to offer. She is also a big animal lover who enjoys doodling in her spare time. Elyse is currently being “super frugal” to save money for a house. Before that, it was student loan debt that had her pinching pennies.  She is a paralegal by day and works other part-time jobs too. Her goals keep her motivated and busy, yet still finds time to help others.