This includes reading customer reviews to find out what other people have to say about your dream machine; consulting Consumer Reports' computer ratings to see what the experts think; and reading up on the manufacturer to make sure the company won't hassle you if something goes wrong.
3. Buy an extended warranty
Even though it adds to your total, always spring for the extended warranty. Computers, especially laptops that you'll be carrying around from day to day, are easily broken, but they're also easily fixed (for free, no less) if your warranty is still valid.
In some cases, the manufacturer will even give you a whole new machine if they can't diagnose the problem and repair it. Trust us, a small investment now will save you tons on service down the line.
4. Invest in a respected brand
While you may not be ready to shell out for a fancy Mac, there is definitely something to be said for buying your computer from a company you trust.
Products made by respected companies like HP, Acer, Toshiba, Dell and others are less likely to have problems, and you're more likely to be able to find coupon codes and deals to subtract from the price tag -- Dell coupons in particular are widely available on the Web.
5. Wait on the extras
It's tempting to splurge on the latest software and accessories to go with your fancy new computer, but it's smarter to take the machine home and use it for awhile until you figure out exactly what you need.
You may find that you can easily do without that cutting-edge photo editing program, or that you can download freeware that works just as well as a software suite that would have cost you hundreds.
Even if you wind up buying a few extras later on, you'll be more educated about which products are essential to your work once you've had time to get used to the computer itself.
Spend less up front and save more in the long run with these shopping tips that will help you get your money's worth from your new machine.