6 Ways to Save Money on iPads, iPhones, and Macs

By Carlos Portocarrero on 15 January 2011 (Updated 1 August 2012) 17 comments

Apple makes powerful products that are intuitive and sexy. That's why I've been thinking of switching to a Mac for the past year. But one thing is stopping me: They're so damn expensive!

If you can't make your computer any faster and it's time to buy a new one, here are six ways you can "go Apple" and save some money while you're at it. (See also: How to Buy a Laptop Computer)

1. Buy Refurbished from Apple

Apple has one of the best refurbishing programs around. Some of these machines never left the factory and were simply held back due to things like scratches, dents, or additional testing.

You still get a one-year warranty (which is rare for refurbished products) and each product has gone through a rigorous testing process, so you are getting top-notch Apple quality.

The downside is there is a limited selection of products, but if you check out the refurbished store frequently, you're bound to find what you're looking for. This is one of those tips that long-time Apple fans have been taking advantage of for a long time: You're basically getting an almost-new machine at a pretty good discount.

Sample Deal: 16GB Wi-Fi iPad for $429
Typical Discount: 15-20%

2. MacMall

MacMall is a great place to find brand-new iPads, Macs, and iPods at a slight discount. It's rare to find a vendor that doesn't simply sell at the retail price, but MacMall manages to pull it off.

They are authorized by Apple to sell their products, and they offer Apple's full warranty program. If you want brand-spanking new and you don't want to pay full price, this is a great option. They'll even give you free shipping for orders over $49, which shouldn't be a problem with Apple's prices...

Sample Deal: 11.6" MacBook Air, 2GB RAM, 64GB Storage for $969
Typical Discount: 3-4%

3. The EDU Discount

Students and teachers can get up to an 8% discount on all Apple products. Pretty sweet, huh? You can even shop online at Apple.com and get the discount by looking up your school and purchasing via the Education Store portal.

I haven't gone through the process online, so I don't know if you can just say you go to a certain school or not, but if there is a check, I'm sure you can find a relative or a friend who can hook you up.

There are limits to how many products you can purchase with this discount in any given year, so make sure you review their terms and conditions beforehand.

Sample Deal: 15" MacBook Pro, 2.66GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive for $1,999
Typical Discount: Up to 8%

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4. Buy Used

Buying used has always been a great way to save some money. But you will have to do your homework. Craigslist and eBay are my favorite places to buy used anything, but please make sure you meet these people in a public place, check out the machines/devices carefully, etc.

And make sure to shop around: You might find a machine that's in better condition for a little bit more, and that might be a good sign that the device will last longer while you own it.

Sample Deal: 16 GB iPhone 4 for $440
Typical Discount: Sky is the limit

5. Buy the Previous Generation

You can save a lot of money by simply buying the previous version of any Apple product. Every time a new version comes out, the old ones lose a little bit of luster and a little bit of their wow factor. That means there are a bunch of people who want to upgrade, and they will sell their old Macs and iPods for cheap. You might not like the idea of being a generation behind, but unless you're a heavy-duty user and actually need the fastest hardware (most people don't), then why not save a few bucks?

There are already rumblings that the new iPad will be coming out this year and the current ones will be selling for cheap (cheaper, anyway).

Sample Deal: 13.3" MacBook Air with 2GB RAM and 2.13GHz processor for $1,125 on Amazon
Typical Discount: 20-40%; sometimes more

6. Other Discount Programs

There are lots of other places you can find discounts depending on where you bank and where you work. I have a Bank of America credit card, and that means I can purchase some products via their WorldPoints Mall and get extra points that I can then turn in for cash.

It's not a straight discount, but it does help bring the price down some.

For example, MacMall and Apple both give me two bonus points for every dollar I spend with this program. That means buying a $1,500 Mac would net me 4,500 points, which are "worth" $45. If I shop at MacMall, that's a $45 discount on top of their already discounted price!

Government employees can also get a discount, whether they are federal or state employees. There are also limitations here but the discount covers military members too, so make sure to read up on the details.

Sample Deal: 27" iMac with 4GB RAM and 3.2GHz for $1,595
Typical Discount: ~3%

I'm curious to hear from readers if they've found other ways to save money when shopping Apple or from people who have used these discounts successfully.

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Mikey Rox's picture

Great tips! I can tell you firsthand that the college discount works. According to Apple, I've been a senior in college for the past 10 years. That's the problem with online-only verification. Perhaps it's a tad dishonest, but they're not gonna go bankrupt from my 10%.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Good to know Mikey, thanks! Now I'm brainstorming all the different ways you may or may not be able to combine some of these ideas...like using my BofA card to buy from MacMall...this feels more like a Apple Price Hacking type post though...

Guest's picture
Drew Custer

Haha Mikey, I agree with this. I've been getting my student discount for years, and I feel bad about it sometimes until I see Apple's stock price....

Guest's picture
michelle

I bought a new Macbook Air for $900 in early December from Amazon - $100 less than the Apple Store price. The price was fluctuating day by day and so I just watched it like a hawk.

This also saved me another $100 because buying it from Apple, I would've had to pay tax. Of course, that's only if you live in a state that Amazon doesn't charge tax.

I further lowered the price (to us) by previously sending in my husband's textbooks he was no longer using. They will buy them back for Amazon credits.

I also use the Swagbucks search engine and other Swagbucks tools to get about $25 in Amazon credit every month.

This meant I got the new Macbook Air for about $750 out of pocket.

Plus, I used an American Express rewards card - which had a $250 reward after the first $1000 spent in the first 3 months. Paid the card off immediately, now have $250 to spend on our ongoing home improvement project.

Guest's picture
Elizabeth

Great tips, but there's one thing I'd like to add. When you're shopping for a computer, consider the "all-in" cost. When I bought my Mac laptop, I didn't get a deal on the computer itself but I got free software I would have had to buy and talked my way into a deal on the extended warranty.

My point is there are other ways to save when buying these devices, even if you don't save on the device itself.

Guest's picture

We buy refurbished all the time. Not huge savings, but every little bit helps. Another way to save is to ask for the business discount. The stores will take information about your business--usually the discount is about 5%. Not sure if it work online though.

Guest's picture
Rebecca I Fletcher

Excellent article! thank you for posting. You did not mention anything about a military discount though. I believe it's 10%.

Guest's picture
Chelsea

In relation to the EDU comment, Mac has great offers for educators and students with an ID. If you buy a mac notebook around the start of school, they sell the MAC Books at a discount, with a rebate for a free ipod touch (8G) and a free printer. My rebate was received within the month too (fantastic in the rebate world). It may be worth waiting for those deals to pop up if you are looking to buy a new notebook.

Guest's picture

Don't forget the option of skipping the Apple tax altogether! Although Apple is the hot name, many similar products are available for half the cost of what they want. My MP3 player is from Creative. It plays music just as well, has an FM tuner so I can listen to the radio, and has worked for over two years now, and I paid $30 compared to $100 for the similar Apple model (which DIDN'T have an FM tuner).

So there's always the 'Skip Apple' option as well :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Another thing to consider: resale value

I purchased a MacBook 3.5 years ago and I just resold it for 40% of what I paid for it (including what I paid for the extended warranty). A similar performing non Apple laptop would have been cheaper at the time of purchase, but more expensive in the long term because it would not have been possible to resell it for so much.

Guest's picture
Jorge

If you take an old Apple product at their store they'll give you a 10% recycling discount. (Even if the product doesn't work anymore)
I was at one of their stores and a woman walked in with a broken first generation iPod. The sales person told her they couldn't fix it, but he'll gladly give her a 10% discount if she buys a new product and leave the old iPod at the store.

Guest's picture
amy saves

macmall does give great discounts. my friend just got a brand new mac air with all the bells and whistles for a killer deal!

Guest's picture
Carl Lassegue

Great tips! I read this post at a perfect time because it's about time to replace my dying mac. I'll most likely keep an eye out for the refurbished computers on the apple store.

Guest's picture
Kara

This is great! I've never purchased refurbished but I know others who have and were very happy. Thanks for the tips!

Guest's picture

Buying refurbished Macs is a great idea. Apple has quality products - the people who return their Macs probably just didn't know how to properly use a Mac. I'm sure that Apple puts a lot of effort into making sure their refurbished products stand up to their brand new products.

Great idea to save money on Apple goodies!

Guest's picture
jenn

Amazon is also a great source for Mac products. I was really surprised to see how many people resell their barely used brand new Macs for less than the Apple store

Guest's picture

Great tips! Thanks so much. I've had my macbook pro for 5 years. Sadly, I still have leopard. I can't even update Safari. So this hip and trendy gal is really not feeling too hip:) I'm going to investigate your suggestions. Thanks so much.