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Ask The Readers: When is the best time to buy electronics?

Today’s question is from Angie:

My daughter is now a freshman in high school and needs a laptop. We want to get her one for Christmas, but our budget is pretty tight.

We probably won’t be able to take advantage of the Black Friday electronic sales because the quantities are always so limited. So I’m wondering, is it better to buy electronics before Black Friday or wait until Black Friday sales and hope that we can get something more affordable?

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  • Jessica says:

    I would like to know also, but referring to a 64GB iPad with WiFi that we plan to purchase as a family gift. I don’t want to stand in line at Big Box Mart for hours on Thanksgiving only to find that the store had a grand total of two but there were 2,000 shoppers wanting one.

    • Meredith says:

      Apple really doesn’t change their prices too much. However, I got my husband an iPad last year and I ended up getting it at Target when they were offering a $75 dollar gift card with purchase. I think I ended up ordering it a week after black Friday. That was the best deal I could find. Of course, I’m not buying on this year but that may help some. There are also some other great tablets out there you could look into (unless this person has their heart set on an ipad).

      • Alaina says:

        I concur on the Target option. We got my mom an IPad 2 last year for $399. Target is having deals for IPads, I already saw, and you don’t have to get up early…they just have them for the weekend. Sometimes it is with a giftcard back, but hey, you can use it for the other things in your budget.

  • Jenn says:

    Cyber Monday!! No lines, great prices, and buy from home. Look for free shipping or if your buying thru Amazon join Prime. Last year we bought a TV from Amazon and the shipping cost was more than the prime membership. Then the rest of the year enjoy free movies and shipping on everything else.

  • Jenna says:

    Probably black friday or cyber monday would be good. Last time I was at walmart, they had some laptops left over from back-to-school that were clearance. (I only noticed because I bought one of them for my husband a month or so ago, and I saw they had dropped the price again since I bought it for him.)
    If money is tight, do you have a family computer that your daughter can use so you don’t have to buy her another computer? If you start putting away some money every montjh, you could get her a nice one in a year or two without having the financial stress now.

    • Kelly says:

      I agree with Jenna. I know your daughter likely *wants* a laptop, but she probably doesn’t *need* a laptop. Sure, having her own laptop would be nice now, but not if you can’t afford it. She is only a freshman in high school. She can use the family computer to do her homework if the homework must be completed on a computer, or she can go to the public library and use one of their computers, or use the computer at the school’s resource center. I’d avoid buying her a laptop until high school graduation. That’s what we gave each of our sons for graduating high school.

      • Sue says:

        I think the need for a computer really depends on the school district and types of classes the student is taking. My 4th grader receives assignments to complete on a computer that also require internet access! My HS sophomore uses the family computer for assignments but the days of having a second computer available are coming quickly.

        I would recommend keeping an eye on the computer use however. It is incredibly tempting for teens to switch to Facebook or Youtube when “taking a break” that sometimes lasts a bit too long. Not that any of us adults ever get lost on FB. 🙂

  • Tawra Kellam says:

    My husband took each of my teenagers to Black Friday 2 years in a row. It wasn’t loads of fun but they got up at 3:00a.m. were in line by 3:30 and the stores opened at 5:00, stopped at McDonalds for treat and then were home by 6:00 and back in bed again.

    They were 1st and 3rd in line and it was worth the $600 savings they got on the computers.

    Of course our kids pay for their own computers so they were more than happy to spend 2 hours to save $600. $300 an hour “income” isn’t bad!!! 🙂

  • michelle says:

    Also try “Open Box” items at Best Buy. We got our lap top at a great price. Often BB will offer a ext a 10% off open box items and even price match too! Triple treat deal 🙂

  • Amy says:

    I would suggest checking out a store’s price adjustment policy. If an item goes on sale after you purchased it, you can stop back in with just your receipt. Stores will credit you the difference. Some stores will price adjust within one week, others within two. I have gotten price adjustments many times at Target, but also at the Gap, Old Navy, and Pottery Barn. I have never done a price adjustment on electronics.

    Price adjustments are a great way to avoid the crowds on Black Friday. Check out Black Friday ads, shop earlier in the week, and then return to the store on Saturday or Sunday for a price adjustment. Each store has their own policy and some won’t price adjust. Just ask!

  • Teresa says:

    I got a wonderful used HP laptop (only missing the #3 key button and a few scratches on the outside case). Got it for $36 shipped. It is normally over $450 and only a year old. Find a model you like and try Ebay. They also sell new models and you can get the warr. on them.
    We also bought one for my son on Office Max. I signed up for there emails and got a email on a model he had looked at. We had $150 in recycling money we paid toward it, so it was $140 OOP. And it is window 8 with a touchscreen. They have awesome sales, but normally they only last about a day.
    One thing to watch is some of the really small light models do not have dvd/cd drives. We had to buy him one for $25 more that he connects to his laptop.

  • Ann Noskowiak says:

    One of the big name radio spend less, save more avoid getting ripped off guys saying that b/c of the late Thanksgiving holiday and the fewer weekends between then and Christmas (b/c Christmas is on a Wed) that the stores are deeply discounting things now and on Black Friday things will mostly be done before then. So look now at what your requirements are and which sales would be the best.

  • Crystal Keplinger says:

    I have found that the best time to purchase a new electronic at the beginning of the year when the new models come out and usually the older models are discontinued.

    • kim says:

      I’ve found the same to be true! I also have had horrible time with best buy!!! But a remarkable time with staples. They’ll usually have coupons, rebates (check recyclebank ) and you get rewards too! I also use cnet for reviews (I think it is

  • Christy says:

    We buy online on Thanksgiving / Black Friday. Best Buy or MicroCenter usually have their deals up early. You get the same prices as those who go in store. We usually have them delivered to store. So, Saturday afternoon – when the crowds are down, we can go and pick it up.

  • Kelly says:

    Chek out the cowboom website. They sell all kinds of used/refurbished electronics. We bought a Kindle HD about 4 months ago for about $60 less than you can find elsewhere and you can add warranties etc. Also go direct to the manufacturer websites I just bought a laptop direct from one beacuse you cant find any laptops in stores that dont have Windows 8 on them, they have all kinds of instant discounts /coupon codes etc. Good luck!

  • Whenever friends and family are in the market for computer gear, they always check with my husband (he was in the tech industry before going to law school). It seems like he finds the best deals at He gets a daily email from them and always finds great buys there.

    I would suggest deciding on what you want (most important features, price, etc) and then watch closely for deals. I would expect the best deals between Thanksgiving and Chrtistmas.

  • celia says:

    We have to buy a laptop this year and are driving to Delaware, even without a sale, the taxes on the one we need( my husband goes to school online) will be a couple hundred dollars. so just paying the list price will be a savings. Maybe look for a place that has 3% sales tax around you.

  • Ray Lowe says:

    I know it would be late, but the best time to buy laptops, desktops, as well as tv’s is Mid January.They tend to have the lowest prices of the year on many electronics items then.

    • stacey says:

      You may want to determine what she will really doing on the laptop. It is possible that a Chromebook may server her needs if she is just doing web research, writing papers, and reading books. The chromebooks start at $200, but there is a groupon right now for a refurbished one for $130. I considered buying it for my kid, but he has gotten into programming so a laptop would serve him better. If I needed a new laptop I would for sure pick up the Chromebook groupon deal. If you don’t know much about Chromebooks, check into them!

  • Amy says:

    Students and teachers can get a discount at Apple year round. They don’t really have sales, so that always helps with their prices.

  • Amanda says:

    Walmart has done a really good job for the past 5+ years of having tons of stock on hand. Last year they gave internet rainchecks for items that sold out. You could choose in-store pick up to avoid paying shipping and it was the same price as the door buster. You do have to be in the door buster line to get the rain check, not sure if they will do it again this year.

    I bought an HP laptop 4 yrs ago on BF at Walmart. It was the best possible deal out there and I am very happy with it. I plan to get a new one this year.

  • Bert says:

    Check Newegg for something refurbished. I recently purchased two Elite Book laptops. Excellent price, excellent value and looked brand new!!

  • Shirley says:

    If it is a basic laptop you are looking for, I would look into one of the latest Chromebooks. Most people will dismiss that you’ll need a wifi connection, but I LOVE the fact that most of them are pretty light (especially the Samsung Chromebook 3) are under 3lbs, has a physical keyboard and a majority of them are under $300. If you’re using “Office” equivalents like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, that can be done offline.

    There are even a few models under $2oo. I have the Chromebook Pixel (and the original Samsung CB 5) and it could be argued Windows and Mac are more functional. I personally don’t like Windows have switched to Mac, but I, like you, have a limited budget. Macs are great if you’re planning to keep it long-term (I’ve had to replace multiple Windows computers to my one Mac), you would need to see it as an upfront investment.

  • Mary says:

    If you are close to a Walmart, they are offering the 1 hour in-stock guarantee. Although I don’t like that more stores are now opening on Thanksgiving, (Kmart has done it for over 15 years) I will shop to take advantage of the sale items. I have been a Black Friday shopper for as long as I have had kids. That’s one of the ways I help stretch our family budget. My best tip: Don’t use a cart unless you have to for larger items. Bring your own recycle bags and just fill those. Much easier to get around in the store. My husband and I actually tag-team now, since I have converted him. One of us works our list at home online and the other goes to the store, if needed.

  • Holly Banff says:

    What about a notebook – I just bought one for my son and it was $199. He actually bought w/ $ he has saved from birthdays and Christmas’. Or how about a Chromebook? They are now giving them to kids in our local high school. I saw them on sale at Staples (I think) for $175

  • p kull says:

    My kids have to work online. One is required to have computer. The other has online classes and her life is easier if she can use her own computer due to limited access at schol. For both, it has become a need. That being said, if she is taking it to school, price is everything because so many things can happen. I have found that walmart during the back to school season is good, but staples is also good. They often have the old model marked way down before the newer model comes in and that is just fine for what most kids need. Good luck:) I know what you mean about Black Friday:)

  • Tonisha Beckham says:

    Don’t give up on Black Fiday!! Plan in advance, not only for what you want, but what your plan is to be able to get what you want. My husband and I have 4 children (13-17). Last year, we decided we were willing to fight the midnight crowds and stay out all night to get what we wanted. We were able to snag 2 laptops from Kmart (who allows Black Friday items to be placed on layaway) and another 2 laptops from Walmart. We got a total of 4 laptops for approximately $400!!!! While they are not ‘top of the line’ models, they have proven to be more than sufficient for the needs of each of our kids!! Also, one year later, all four laptops are still functioning appropriately without any problems!!!! If you are unsuccessful, then you can re-group and go from there. This is still the season for the best prices on all electronics. Good Luck!!!!!

  • Jennifer H says:

    We ordered our laptop last year online on Thanksgiving form Best Buy. It might not have been the “best” deal, but it was pretty darn good. The trick is to research ahead of time what you want/need in a laptop (and what are nice to have features, but not necessary) and current prices (sale and regular) and then decide what is the most you are willing to pay. That will help you decide when to buy. Watch all sales from now till Christmas until you find your price. If you can only find one for more than you can afford, maybe you can just give your daughter the money for Christmas and she can earn the rest to get what she wants (plus there may be different after Christmas sales).

  • Emily says:

    My daughter’s PC died, and then mine got hit by lightning 6 months later. We replaced both with laptops we got on sale at Office Depot. Often these places have pretty good deals. Also you can find refurbished ones online at places like Amazon or Groupon. But I see a good Black Friday deal at Staples for a GPS this year. I don’t exactly expect a stampede there!

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