Computers are expensive, and every dollar counts if you're building one on a budget. If you pick the right parts, shop in the right way, and use a few simple tricks, you can save quite a bit on that new PC.
Pick the Right Parts
Saving money on a home-built PC starts with picking the right parts. We've already talked about this a lot before, so we won't get into the nitty-gritty details here, but it's the first place you should look for savings. For example, when it comes to desktop PCs, processors don't matter all that much anymore. Buying Intel's brand-spanking-new Haswell processors won't make a huge difference in your build. If you want to save some money, check out last generation's Ivy Bridge processors and motherboards instead. They're similar in features, but you can often get them at a lower price.
You don't need a high-end (Core) i7 processor with hyperthreading to build a gaming PC. Very few games take advantage of the extra four threads, so an i5 offers the same performance for less money. You also won't need 8GB of RAM, unless you run a lot of virtual machines or perform other RAM-hungry processes.
Lastly, you may find that as you shop around, you see multiple parts that would all fit the bill in your computer. Maybe you don't care what brand of RAM you buy, or what kind of hard drive you get, as long as it's the right speed. Heck, you may even find one or two similar motherboards that will work in your build. In that case, monitor them all, so if one goes on sale, you can grab it and know you're getting the best deal.
Just remember: as you shop, don't buy something just because it's cheap. Pick your parts first, then shop around based on price. You don't want to get stuck with low-quality components just because you bought them on mega-sale.
Plan for the Future Now
Think about future upgrades when you design your build. Many people will buy brand new, expensive, top of the line parts in the name of "futureproofing", but that isn’t how futureproofing really works. For example, buying a super-expensive video card or hard drive now may make increase your computer’s lifespan, but it will cost you more in the long run than if you had bought something appropriate now and upgraded it later. On the other hand, you don't want to buy something really cheap with the intent to upgrade in the near future, since it will cost more than if you had just purchased a nicer part now. It's all about balance.
So, think about when you might need to upgrade this computer next, and make sure you buy compatible parts. For example, if you think you'll upgrade to an SSD the next time around, buy a motherboard with SATA 6GB/s support so you can take full advantage of it. If you plan on adding a second graphics card (which we don't always recommend), make sure you have enough PCI slots, a motherboard that supports SLI and Crossfire, and a power supply with enough wattage.
Lastly, many parts will last you multiple builds into the future. If you buy a nice case the first time, you can keep it around for years and years to come, which will save you money in the long run. The same goes for power supplies, CPU coolers, and other accessories. We've talked about all this before, but it's worth mentioning again. Check out the video above for a more in-depth explanation on how you can plan for the future and save money in the process.
Choose Your Suppliers Wisely
Shopping around is a vital money-saving tactic. We're big fans of staticICE for price comparisons from Australian stores. For some components, shopping overseas can save money, but the shipping costs on larger items such as cases can make that a deal-breaker. It's also worth searching on OzBargain for any current deals.
Once you've found the lowest price for each part, you may be tempted to buy them all from individual stores. Ignore that urge: when you buy from many stores, you pay a lot in shipping. Try and find a store that has reasonable prices on most of what you want, and see if it offers price-matching to reduce the overall bill.
You can buy your parts all at once easily, but if you're the patient type, many people recommend waiting. If you buy your parts separately over a two-month period, you can monitor their prices more closely and get the best deal on each one.
Buy Used (But Be Careful)
Lastly, if you're really hard up for cash, some builders recommend buying used parts online. This is just as risky as it sounds: you could end up with a broken part, you'll have a shorter warranty, and you don't get to see the product before you buy.
That said, if you want to go this route:
- Don't buy from sites like Craigslist. Buy from hardware-focused sites like Hard Forum, AnandTech's classifieds, the Overclock.net Marketplace, or Reddit's /r/hardwareswap. Again, keep location in mind.
- Buy from a store with a "reputation" feature (eBay being the obvious example) and ensure that the person you're buying from has lots of positive feedback.
- Look for parts that still have the manufacturer's warranty, and that it supports owners beyond the first.
You may want to poke around those forums and ask for more advice buying used as well. Use your head and be careful.
These are just some things I've learned from personal experience and digging through forums, but they aren’t the only ones. Just remember that your time is worth something too. At a certain point, it stops being worth it to spend hours looking for deals just to save just a few bucks. For more great tips, I recommend checking out Tom's Hardware's guide to buying PC parts, Reddit's guide to saving money when you build, and Tested's guide to properly budgeting your next PC. And, of course, be sure to check out our complete guide to building your PC from start to finish as a starting point. Good luck!