3 Tips to Take a Bite out of Apple Computer Prices

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When I was a high school junior, I had only two friends with cars. One drove an old Ford Mustang he rebuilt in his family’s garage. The other drove an old Chevy Nova he rebuilt in his family’s garage. They fiercely argued all the time about which brand was better. I didn’t care, as long as they gave me a ride.

These days, the big argument is between Apple fans and Microsoft fans. Do you prefer an iMac or a Dell Inspiron One? A Macbook Pro or a Sony Vaio laptop? An iPhone or a Windows phone?

Like my high-school pals with their cars, I don’t care who wins this argument. I’m typing this on an iMac, but my father worked for most his life at IBM, and he brought home PCs for us to use as we grew up.

One argument that seems unassailable is that Apple products cost more than its competitors’ products. Apple fans insist this is because Apple products are built better to last longer, while PC fans derisively call it the “Apple tax” – slang for the concept that Apple can charge more because it pretends to be hip, cool, and edgy.

Both sides of the debate acknowledge that Apple products rarely go on sale, and you’ll never see this sign at your local Apple Store: “HALF OFF! TODAY ONLY!” But there are a few ways to save on Apple products …

1. Know what’s in store

If you live near an Apple Store, go there. Just don’t buy there.

I live within driving distance of two Apple Stores, and I love to go there and touch the stuff. Then I go home and make my purchases at the Apple.com store. Why? Because up until this summer, I worked part-time at a public university, and I still volunteer there. So I’m entitled to a 10-percent discount in Apple’s online Education Store. So are students, teachers, and staff. There’s a similar store, with similar discounts, for government and military employees. Chances are, someone in your family is either in school, in government, or in the military.

2. Like new, with old prices

Buying a new Mac computer is like buying a new car: It’s not the best deal.

I’m reminded of Money Talks News owner Stacy Johnson, who’s financially independent but has never bought a new car. As he describes in Why I Don’t Buy New Cars, “Even if you drive the hardest possible bargain, that new car is still guaranteed to lose thousands of dollars in value before you can get it home.”

Ditto with a computer that’s probably going to be at least cosmetically damaged within months of buying it. So like Stacy does with cars, you should do with computers: buy them refurbished. I’ve mentioned this before – most recently in Don’t Get Shocked: 3 Tips for Smart Electronics Shopping – but Apple has a top-notch Refurbished and Clearance Products store.

The deals change daily, but as I peruse it today, various Macbooks – even recent models – are selling for $250 off the price of a brand-new version. The latest iPads and iPods are only $50 off, but everything comes with a one-year warranty.

3. Check the tech sites

Apple doesn’t tout this, but it’s blessed a handful of companies as “authorized resellers” of their products. The best known is Amazon.com, which regularly knocks off a modest $50 to $75, but there are others that discount more deeply: MacMall, MacConnection, and B&H Photo, among them.

But instead of spending hours scouring these sites, AppleInsider has done it for you. The Apple news site constantly updates its Mac Pricing Guide, even telling you the exact date someone last checked.

If you’re planning to gift someone a Mac this holiday season, here’s one last piece of advice: Don’t wait for last-minute sales. Apple isn’t known for that. In fact, a week before Black Friday, Apple refused to even tell CNN what slender deals it was planning to offer on that day: “Last year Apple’s Black Friday deals included $101 off the 13-inch MacBook Pro and $31 off a 32GB iPod Touch. (Calls to Apple about a Black Friday sale this year were not immediately returned.)”

Can’t imagine Ford or Chevy doing that …

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