How Much Should I Spend On A Computer?

Sunday, December 25th, 2016
Last Updated:
Friday, May 18th, 2018

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One question I get a lot from clients looking to purchase a new computer, whether it's to replace an old one or to add a new one, is: "How much should I spend?". I've basically summed this up into one simple question I ask back: "How long do you want it to last?"

The following information is geared towards the purchase of new computers.

How long do you need your computer to last?

Over the last decade, computers have gotten to the point where they are very consistent with price to longevity. There aren't a lot of new major breakthroughs making your 6 month old computer obsolete like the good old days, so the general rule of thumb is how long you want to use a computer before replacing it . Obviously EVERYONE wants the best bang for their buck which means everyone wants to pay the least amount of money and get the longest amount of life but how much life you get, all depends on how much you are willing to spend.

General Rule

The following year to price rules are for general use laptops and desktops and should be used as a guide only.

1-2 Years:Spend $500 - $800
2-3 Years:Spend $800 - $1100
3-4 Years:Spend $1100 - $1500
4-6 Years:Spend $1500 - $2000

If I'm going to recommend a price point to focus on, look at the $800 - $1500 price range. This will generally give you 2 - 4 years.

Consider Upgrades

Upgrades are another thing to keep in mind when purchasing a computer. For example, a $1,000 computer might get you by just fine for 2 years, but it will start acting sluggish after that. Throw in an extra $300 to add more, or faster components and you'll get another 1-2 years. This now puts your total up to a $1,300 purchase. On the flip side, you could spend $1,300 up front to get the larger capacity parts and probably not need upgrades later. While almost all computers can benefit from later upgrades, the price point of where it makes sense is usually in the middle range of what you spend. A lower priced computer may accept some upgrades, but it usually takes so much to upgrade, it isn't worth it. You'd be better to spend that money on another computer.

Consider What Needs Accomplished

Depending on your work load, you should also think about the tasks that you need to accomplish on your computer. I get a lot of folks who tell me: "Oh, I just use Word, check email and surf the internet..." which is true, but after a year of software updates to the computer, their $800 good enough computer is now starting to run kind of slow, but not slow enough to complain about or warrant getting a new one. This is where most folks fail to look at Time as a monetary value. What used to take you 10 minutes, now takes you 20. Not because it's more difficult, but because the computer is just that much slower. Sure, you saved money up front by getting an $800 computer, but now you're spending it in time. How much is your time worth? Sitting in front of a slow computer can be far more costly than the monetary price you spend up front. You can always get more money... You can never get more time. Spending the little extra up front to make sure you have a decent computer might save a lot of time later.

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