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I Didn’t Buy a New Laptop, and Neither Should You!


Have you ever had an instance where it almost felt like you truly needed to get a new ______ (fill in the blank with your “necessary item”)? I had one of those moments last week with my laptop. Here’s my crazy story….

The New Laptop

Christmas time was on it’s way and my siblings (3 brothers, 1 sister) were beginning to ask each other what they should get for my mom and dad. Since their only computer was a desktop and it was dying a slow death, we decided that it was time to get them a new laptop.

I found them an excellent deal at Best Buy and the computer had some great specs for the price – 500GB hard drive, 4GB memory, and 2.1ghz processing speed.

Once they opened it up and we began showing them the ins and outs, I actually became a little envious and began to ponder if maybe I should buy myself a new computer as well! After all, my laptop is an old IBM Thinkpad with the following crappy specs – 40GB hard drive, 1GB memory, and 1.6ghz processing speed.

Since my machine was working completely fine though, I resisted and decided to stick it out until it puked. After all, that is the frugal way to go, right? Right.

The Death of My Laptop

Soon after the holidays, my anti-virus software warned me that a virus was present on my computer.

“Should we move the virus into the vault so that it does not harm any more files on your system?” was the message that popped up. Of course I didn’t want it wreaking havoc on my computer, so I sent the virus to the vault.

“Would you like to remove the virus from your system?” was the next prompt. Well, yeah, I don’t want this virus hanging around in the vault forever. Get it off my computer. I clicked, “Yes”.

“Are you sure? This action may cause some of your necessary files to be damaged with the removal of this virus.” Hmmm. I stared at this warning for a moment, but then I thought to myself, ‘How bad could it be? The anti-virus software caught the virus and put it in the vault. It most likely won’t affect too much if I remove it from my system.’ I clicked, “Yes, I am sure”.


I was immediately sorry after my final click. I tried to open up the Internet, couldn’t do it. I tried to open up Microsoft Word, couldn’t do it. I tried to open up My Computer….that didn’t work either. This virus attached itself to almost all of my important files, which busted them completely when I removed it from my system. I immediately told my wife that I might be needing that new computer after all, and was going to look for a deal the next day.

To Repair it? Or Buy New?

I now had to make the decision of whether I should buy new, or if I should try to get my relic laptop fixed. Money wasn’t really an issue – I had $3,000 stashed away in my business account, just in case something like this happened, but I wasn’t about to make a wasteful decision just because I had the money.

For the next couple of days, I checked all over the place for a great deal, but the cheapest computer I could find with the specs I wanted was about $400. After all of the extras (Microsoft Office, anti-virus, taxes), this computer could easily cost me $600+.

I really didn’t want to spend $600, so I decided to call The Geek Squad to see how much it would cost to get my computer fixed. Because they would have to re-install a whole new Operating System, it was going to cost me about $100. Well, this is better than $600, so I decided to bring it in for repairs.

What is That??

You know your computer is old when the Geek Squad employee starts laughing and says, “Hey Jimmy, take a look at this! I haven’t seen one of these in years!! It’s even got the old printer plug-in on the back!” In fact, it was so old that they couldn’t even help me. They said I would have to call IBM to get the disks for my Operating System (I was running Windows XP still).

At this point, I was incredibly tempted to just throw in the towel and buy the new computer. I had the money, and it would have been so simple, but there must be another way!

The Self-Repair

Instead of asking myself, “Can I afford to buy a new computer?”, I began asking the question, “How could I fix my old computer and who could help me do it?” Then it clicked. I had an old Windows XP disk from college that I figured I could use to revamp my system, and my nephew has redone computers in the past, so there was a good chance that he could help me!

I called him up and we started working on it the next day. After a coule hours of labor, I’m happy to tell you that my old relic of a computer is alive again! And, the best part is the total cost: $0.00 (I did tell him that he’d be getting an extra-special birthday present though :))! I’m so glad that I didn’t buy a new laptop.

What would you have done in my situation? Have you ever had any experiences like this?

Money Save Money


My name is Derek, and I have my Bachelors Degree in Finance from Grand Valley State University. After graduation, I was not able to find a job that fully utilized my degree, but I still had a passion for Finance! So, I decided to focus my passion in the stock market. I studied Cash Flows, Balance Sheets, and Income Statements, put some money into the market and saw a good return on my investment. As satisfying as this was, I still felt that something was missing. I have a passion for Finance, but I also have a passion for people. If you have a willingness to learn, I will continue to teach.


  1. Actually you know your computer is old when you mom starts saying I remember that computer. Zero dollars to repair… NICE.

    • Zero dollars was a pretty sweet deal huh? I wish I could figure those out all the time.

  2. I would have gotten the old OS disk from my garage and reinstalled 🙂

    Or there’s always Linux, if that didn’t work out…

    I think you did the right thing. Why waste the money when the one you’ve got will probably continue to work fine for a good long while?

    • Sounds like you are a techie too! Should I have called you? 😉

  3. I can’t wait to read the next post in 2 months about how your computer died anyway. 😉 Just kidding! Great job at staying frugal! I am wondering how long my current computer will last. My average is normally around 3 years and my current one is 2 years old. Granted, I get the cheapest computer I can find when I get one…

    • Haha! It’s always a possibility that this computer will start smoking at any minute! Who knows. I won’t feel so bad though, since my fix was free. If I spent the $100, then I might be a little upset. I bet you could use your computer for another 2 years, easy. That’s a challenge by the way. 😉

  4. Good work. My 6-7 year old desktop still has the original install disk so if anything like that ever happened, I’d be cool with starting over that way. If it were a hardware problem, I’d probably just scrap it and figure something else out.

    • I wish I had the disks for my laptop, but I bought it used and it didn’t come with any of that stuff. How long do you think you’ll be hanging onto that desktop? Does it still have some good life left in it?

  5. We recently sold our old laptop on ebay. Yay!

    We bought a desktop, but it’s refurbished. I prefer refurbished whenever possible. Way cheaper, and works great.

    • Congrats on being able to sell the old laptop! And, you were quite resourceful in buying the refurbished desktop. Pretty impressive! 🙂

  6. I am lucky because my husband is an ex computer technician currently going to school (and graduating as of May!) for electrical engineering. So I have had the fortune of my electronics lasting me as long as they possibly can. But I agree if you can fix it for cheap it is better. If it is going to cost you more to fix it than to buy a new one you have to let it go. Electronics have a short life and becomes outdated the moment you buy it, so you have to find a balance of when let it go. If you have a lap top that lasts over 4 years pat yourself on the back!

    • Well that would be nice to have a spouce as a computer tech! I guess I still have a good deal with my techie nephew. 😉

  7. I would have done the exact same thing. I wish I had a relative who was savvy with computers. I’ve reinstalled my operating system before, but I always worry I’m going to mess something up!

    • I feel great about my decision, and I honestly do love this laptop. It originally cost me only $100 and I’ve grown attached to it!

  8. I would have done the exact same thing. I know a wonderful computer repairman in Hudsonville, but also have lots of friends who are quite computer savy. I would have offered dinner out, or pizza and beer while they are fixing it. We bought a used laptop 2 years ago from a neighbor who wanted the latest-greatest…it works great!

    • Haha! Yep, sounds like you have the same mindset! I love looking for some barely used items at a severe discount! I bet that 2 year old computer was a great buy!

  9. I wasn’t as lucky as you. My new laptop’s screen cracked when it bounced off the bed. Then milk gets spilled on the keyboard. So now it has an old monitor and a USB keyboard attached to it, but it still works (for $50).

    • Sounds like you still had some great frugal ideas though! Nice work!

  10. I have been in those situations before and usually go through all the things you did. I would want more reasons to replace than just a problem. For example, I replaced my 10 year old desktop 3 years ago. It was slow and the cost to upgrade did not make sense considering its age.

  11. New operating systems – at least XP and up – have a system restore. If you go into safe mode, you can pull up a list of old software setups. Often, viruses don’t penetrate your system restores; although sometime they can.

    • Ha, yeah…this virus was a special one…. it took out my system restore!!! So, it definitely needed a complete overhaul… but, we’re all good now! 🙂

  12. And this is why I have a $300 3y/o+ laptop- because laptops break on me- not software break- I can handle software issues. They hardware break on me. My first beautiful lovely laptop first stopped being able to use it’s own screen- the connections wore out. So, it became our print server hooked up to an old monitor, until the hard drive died.
    My main computer is always going to be a desk top because I (or someone I know) can fix any part of a desktop that breaks.
    And you know your computer is old when it still has a 3.5″ drive. (Which my new computer also does because we built it, and we had the drive, and sometimes I find old floppies that need to have the data pulled from them.)

    • I built my first computer (a desktop) – it’s a pretty good experience, and has taught me a lot about how computers work. Now I know that pretty much anything is fixable! It keeps me from just running out and buying a new one when things look bleak. 😉

  13. Good deal! Unfortunately, my issue was that the charger was fitting quite loosely into the port (it’s used daily for two years)…and it wouldn’t take a charge consistently. My brother is an IT guy and said that the repair wouldn’t be worth it. Of course, I wasn’t totally opposed to getting a new laptop. LOL.

    • Mmmm, yeah. I’m glad my issue was fixable. This computer is rock solid other than that virus. IBM made this one right! 🙂

  14. Should have rewarded your nephew right away! After all you did save $600.

    There’s a thin line between frugality and cheapness.

    • Haha – yeah…. maybe. I did just feed him delicious cheesecake, does that count?

  15. It is all depends whether you are using your laptop for business or fun and if there any alternatives.

    If it is business, you should treat it accordingly, I would think, as the data might be quite expensive, same as the memories.

    I do realize that if you would would spend $1,000 on a new laptop, than after 3-4 years, you would need to replace it. Essentially it would mean saving $250 a year…

    I do make allowances for that – there is no choice. We calculated all the big tickets items in the house hold – cameras, camcorders, car, phones, laptops and it was realized that we need to save $600 a month just to be able to replace them in time!

    It is only natural. I think that the nerves of loosing precious pictures or data would cost more than $250 a year.

    • Yeah, luckily, the virus didn’t wipe my precious data off my hard drive. That would have been a years worth of work completely gone! I definitely have a back-up now.

  16. Congrats on the cheap fix. I find the operating system is often the issue with computers and if you update them, things are fine after. Even if you had to buy a new disc for an operating system it would still be cheaper than sending your computer into the shop.

    • Yep. I’m glad it was just the OS and nothing with the motherboard or something. Now that we fixed it, it’s working like a dream. 🙂 Love it!

  17. My husband keeps the computers in our house running… we have 3 laptops, 1 desktop, and 2 tablets. And out of those only 1 laptop doesn’t work because the mother board went out (which would have cost way too much to replace).
    I bought my old-old laptop when I graduated highschool….11 years ago. And it still works (and so does the floppy drive).
    My big computer tip….right before you graduate from college…buy all the software you think you might need while its cheap.

    • I can’t believe that you have an 11 year old laptop! How much did that cost when you bought it? A couple thousand bucks? I bet you were big stuff.

      • It was a $2000 laptop….at the time. It lasted me 6 years, the only reason I replaced it was because I needed a built in CD burner and the battery could no long hold a charge and I needed to travel overseas (so I wanted a battery for the plane).

  18. I seem to be in the same boat – my computer is from 06 and it’s still hanging on, but i’m waiting until it shoots craps. Still works good, but i’ve been saving up because I know it’s coming.

    • Yep. Just use it as long as you can! That’s all you can do.

  19. Hi Dereck,
    I found your post little funny and at the same time important too. I believe that you should buy things depending on your needs. If my work gets completed quickly with the laptop(although quite old) then I should not care to buy a new one. Buying a new product without its need is a waste of money. My external hard disk(that contained 300 Gb of personal data) got corrupted last year due to some hardware problem and was not getting detected on any system. I got it repaired from the experts just for the sake of personal data even though it could be replaced free of cost as it was under warranty. The repair cost me almost $90. So the most important thing I learned from this incident is that “always have backup of your data and system”.

    • I hear ya about the back-up! I didn’t have my files backed up before this scare either, but I certainly do now!

  20. My PC is on its last legs, but I still refuse to buy a new one until this one completely craps out (pardon my French!). I’m just cheap like that. Plus, I’m not into technology. Great job on fixing yours by yourself!

    • I’m glad there are others like me out there! I’ll hold onto this ancient technology as long as I possibly can!

  21. I would have done the same thing. After all, you did save $600. I don’t know about the cheesecake gift for your nephew. That’s something I would have done. Lol!

    • Are you saying he needs more props than a slice of cheesecake? Yeah…maybe. You know he’ll be reading these comments too – so now I almost have to give him something more!

  22. Hopefully your nephew is old enough for the six pack you’re going to buy him. I can see “uncle Derek” corrupting his “new” favorite nephew.

    Great story. – j.

    • Haha, he needs to be about 4 months older before the 6-pack gift! I’ll think of something super-sweet though.

  23. If it’s a software problem, you can always wipe & reinstall! Yep, your nephew deserves a nice present now. 🙂

    I replaced my old laptop since the battery was completely dead. It’s nearly 5 years old but going on specs alone doesn’t seem like it was quite as old as yours! 😉

  24. This really is a tough one. I of course believe in being frugal, but there’s also such a thing as throwing good money after bad. In this case I think you made the right call. 🙂

    • Thanks Jason! I think I made the right call too. My computer is working awesome, and I think it has at least another full year of life in it! If I finally do have to stick some real money into it, then I will definitely go for a new one (unless I find a great used deal). The only question at that point will be PC or Mac??

  25. Old computers are great. I find that especially these days, with most of our work being text based – any old Mac or PC will do. I’m currently running some modern Acer notebook, but I’m tempted to buy a ten year old Mac just to play with and see if in 2012, I could use it to get my work done. It would make for a fun experiment, I think.

    I am so over the new car, new computer thing. Old, (like me) is just fine. 🙂

    • Ha, you know I’m with you on this one! As I’m aging, I don’t mind the old stuff either!

  26. While like JIm, I’m perfectly cool with driving an old(er) car… I like my technology! My laptop just turned five and I have a feeling it’s running onto the end of it’s life, I bought an external harddrive to back everything up just in case and am keeping an eye out for new laptops. I think you made the right call, but I do hope you’re keeping you’re options open if it dies on you later this year 🙂

    • Yeah, that might not be a bad idea. Maybe I should invest in an external hard-drive myself…

  27. Nice blog. Thanks for sharing it with us!!

    • You’re welcome!

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