There are many options in the budget laptop market. We won’t bore you with the top choices, but we will give you some simple insight into how to find the right model for you.

Determine if you really need a laptop.

Are you satisfied with your smartphone? Before you dive into the budget laptop rabbit hole, this is the question to ask. The majority of internet browsing, email checking, and photo storing that we need today is done by Androids and iPhones. If your digital tasks demand more screen real estate and a keyboard, a laptop may be the right choice. Before you spend hundreds of dollars on a new computer, take a look at your situation.

Calculate how much you can afford for a laptop

How much money (money you have left over) can you afford to spend on discretionary funds? According to the Nerd-preferred 50/30/20 budget, non-needs should be kept below 30% of your after-tax monthly earnings.

Popular review sites place the threshold for a good budget Chromebook or Windows laptop around $500. According to PCWorld, you’ll get more for your budget dollars with a Chromebook. However, there are still good Windows models. At this price, new MacBooks are not possible.

Do your “need” categories exist?

Use the app to keep track of your spending and identify trends.

Get impartial advice about laptop models and specifications

This is the hard part. It’s difficult to understand the complex tech language, tons of models at different price points, and endless stream of review sites that list “best of” reviews. It is important to understand what specifications and performance are available at the $500 laptop level. Reputable reviewers such as Consumer Reports or PCMag will do impartial, hands-on testing. They’ll also write in plain English. You will be able to decide if a budget laptop is right for you.

Purchase a laptop on sale

A seasonal sale can bring down the cost of a budget laptop’s price even further if you wait. If you are patient, Cyber Monday and Black Friday sales can be a great time to purchase consumer electronics such as laptops. August is a great month to find computer deals that coincide with back-to school season. You may find a better model at a lower price if you wait.

Buy at a reputable retailer

You may need to purchase more than one laptop before you find the budget model that suits your needs. You may not find the features you are looking for in a cheaper model. You can test the model and make your own decision by purchasing from a trusted retailer like Best Buy, Amazon, or Target that has a reasonable return policy.

To save money on a more expensive model, you can buy it used. The process isn’t necessarily less risky. Mac of All Trades, a refurbished Apple retailer, sells a variety of MacBooks that have been tested. They also offer a 1-year warranty for hardware. Gazelle, an electronics retailer that sells used phones, also offers secondhand MacBooks. They offer a 30-day return policy.

Ready for purchase?

If you are able, pay cash in full upfront. To break up your purchase, you can also use buy now, pay it later. This is an option that many online retailers offer at checkout. BNPL plans may include interest and fees, so it is best to reserve this option for essential expenses.

If you don’t have the funds right now but are able to pay it back in time, a credit card with a 0% interest rate introductory offer might be a better choice. This could allow you to stretch your spending to buy laptops that are more affordable.