Visit Dell Outlet

My savings tip for the day: If you need a computer and are on a tight budget, consider getting a refurbished desktop or laptop from Dell's outlet store.

Also, a few weeks before buying your computer, sign up for their newsletter so that you can get coupon codes by email. Go to Dell.com and click My Account. There's a line there asking if you want to create an account.

I got a refurbished Inspiron e1505 laptop on financing they provided. (Apply for it ahead of time!) Their outlet store has laptops, desktops, printers and other computer accessories that are all in limited supply. If you see a configuration you like (processor, memory, software), put it in your cart and be ready to check out in 15 minutes; otherwise, Dell removes it from your cart and offers it to another customer.

My experiences of dealing with their sales reps haven't been pleasant. When I was considering a brand-new system, I had the misfortune of being stuck with a cocky one for an hour on their online chat service and it was the most irksome (and slowest!) to-and-fro that didn't get me anywhere. (G says doing it over the phone is more efficient.)

I decided to just rely on my own knowledge and go straight to the outlet store and pick out what I wanted from what was available.

As for the hardware itself, I've never had problems with Dell. I bought a desktop system from them 5 years ago, and I can personally vouch for Michael Dell's fastidiousness when it comes to quality control (I went over the internal memos of their suppliers for some suit a few years ago and they were all agog about his emphasis on quality control!).

Tomorrow, I'll compare my old laptop with my new one (it's refurbished but looks brand-new!).