With the cost of living crisis putting a huge strain on household budgets, non-essential expensive purchases are likely to be put on hold. But sometimes when an essential bit of electronic kit goes wrong, finding a fix or an alternative can’t wait.
Says Lisa Barber, Editor of Which? Computing:
“No one wants to fork out hundreds of pounds on a new laptop or phone, especially as the cost of living crisis continues to put pressure on household budgets. Unfortunately, this kind of spending is often out of our control as our devices can pack up or need replacing at inconvenient times.”
In conjunction with Which? we’ve produced these top tips for tech and computing that could help save you some money.
1. Shop in the sales, but keep an eye on the price
Which? suggests shopping around for the best price, as sometimes sale prices can be misleading. Shoppers should be aware that sometimes a ‘sale’ price is simply the usual price but with a red label on it. If you know there’s a sale coming up, it’s worth checking the price of the device prior to the sale, to ensure it’s a genuine bargain. Doing this helps shoppers make a better judgement on whether a deal is as good as it looks.
2. Buy refurbished or second-hand
A refurbished or reconditioned laptop has usually been professionally restored by a manufacturer or retailer to the closest it can get to ‘as new’ condition. They usually come with warranties giving protection in case of damage. Which? found that refurbished laptops and phones are sometimes hundreds of pounds cheaper than buying a brand new model. Always remember to check if the device is still supported by vital security updates.
3. Shop around before you buy
Shoppers should shop around before purchasing a new device. For example, in May Which? found an Asus C101 laptop on sale in Grade B used condition on eBay for around £220. This might seem reasonable for a laptop that originally cost £299 new, but Currys PC World had the same model on sale, brand new, for £199, a saving of £21.
4. Trade-in second-hand devices
Those looking to buy a new phone or laptop might be able to trade it in for money off their next purchase or contract. For example, Apple offers to take old devices and swap them for credit towards new purchases or an Apple Store Gift Card to be used at any time.
If the old device isn’t eligible, i.e. if it’s damaged beyond repair, Apple offers to recycle it. The Apple Trade-In website has a list of price estimates for iPhone models from the iPhone SE (1st generation) to the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Depending on the age and condition of the device, customers could get between £35 and £610 for their gadget. Samsung also has a trade-in scheme for mobiles, tablets, wearables and occasionally other devices, too. Customers can find out the value of their gadgets on the brand’s website. They also offer ‘spotlight offers’, for example, customers can currently claim up to £520 off a Galaxy S22 Ultra when they trade in an old phone.
5. Check for student deals and offers
Students can often bag discounts on laptops, especially at the start of the educational year. Retailers and manufacturers offer discounts for students, either requiring verification through a student email address or a membership with a student deals website such as StudentBeans.
Microsoft and Apple both offer 10 per cent off for students as well as other exclusive perks. Dell and Samsung offer up to 25 per cent off. It’s also worth checking other retailers who might run their own limited-time student deals.
6. Check the price of HP after a month of it going on sale
HP laptops are found in 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 at a higher price, then are discounted by at least £100 after around a month. HP also sells directly through its website, so it’s always worth checking for discounts and voucher codes. As many people now back up files and photos to the cloud, it might not be worth buying a laptop with massive storage potential.
7. Make sure it’s Windows 11 compatible
If buying a second-hand or refurbished laptop, Which? recommends buying one that’s eligible for a Windows 11 upgrade in the future. The Microsoft support website has a fully updated list of the minimum specifications of a laptop in order for it to be eligible for a Windows 11 upgrade. If a computer isn’t compatible with Windows 11, it’ll stop getting Windows 10 security updates in October 2025, at which point the device will be unprotected from whatever the latest threats may be.
8. Check the reviews before buying
It’s important to check laptop reviews before splashing out on an expensive laptop or phone. If there are annoying problems with a new device, or it needs upgrading after a year or two, it might not be worth what you spend on it.
9. Think about which features you need
It isn’t always necessary to spend a fortune on a laptop, especially if only using it for day-to-day use. Which? found decent models for £200 or less, if they’re only going to be used for browsing the internet and light note-taking. Certain features and extras can also add to the cost of a new laptop.
Shoppers can avoid overpaying for a laptop by weighing up what they need from a new device. For example, it often isn’t necessary to pay extra for more than 8GB of Ram.