How to Prepare Your Budget for a New PC

Getting a high-performance PC together is exciting, but also expensive. You can save a lot of money by building your PC from scratch, buying individual components rather than a preassembled unit, but even so, you can expect to pay several hundred dollars for even an entry-level machine, and several thousand for a high-end one.

Fortunately, with the right financial planning, your new PC can fit well within your budget—and serve your needs for years to come.

Cutting Costs

One of the best ways to save money for your new PC is to cut costs in other areas of your life. If you can scrounge up even $200 to save each month, you can gradually accumulate the funds you need to put together the PC of your dreams. If you can save even more than that, you’ll be in an even better position.

Consider looking to cut costs in these areas:

  • Entertainment expenses. The easiest area to cut costs is almost always entertainment expenses. What are you paying for things you don’t really need? If you’re like most people, you’re spending $200 or more on subscription services, like streaming services or services that offer free games each month. You’re also likely spending money on takeout, restaurant meals, or alcohol—none of which are strictly necessary. With a few smart cuts in these areas, you can free up at least $1-200 every month to put away.
  • Car and transportation. You may also be able to reduce costs related to your car, and transportation in general. For example, if you need to purchase a new car, or if you’re refinancing your current car, you can shop for a better car loan, with an attractive interest rate that can lower your monthly payments. You can also save a lot of money by forgoing the car altogether, and choosing public transportation or bicycling to get where you need to go.
  • Home expenses. It may be an extreme move to be able to afford a PC, but you can set your budget up for a better financial future by living below your means; if you’re currently overspending on rent or your mortgage payment, this is a perfect time to consider relocating to somewhere with lower cost of living.

Understand Your Performance Targets

At this point, you should have some extra money to set aside each month. So how can you determine how much you really need?

Here, your goal should be to determine your performance targets. How do you want your PC to perform? What kind of graphics card do you need? What kind of monitor do you want to buy?

There are a few approaches you could take here, but one of the most efficient is to look at the recommended specs for a game you want to play or a piece of software you want to run, and work backward from there. Depending on the circumstances, you may want a PC that performs slightly better than the top recommended specs you can find—that way, you have a little room to grow, and you can afford to multitask a bit while running this game or software.

Buy or Build?

The big decision at this point is to determine whether you should buy a PC outright, or build one yourself. If you’ve never built a PC yourself before, you might be intimidated at the thought, but it’s much easier than most people think; even a bit of technical experience (and the ability to follow directions) should be enough to get you through the process.

As you likely already know, building a PC from scratch by buying the individual components is going to be less expensive—and it will provide you with more flexibility for future upgrades and adjustments. Additionally, you’ll be able to shop for good deals on specific internal components, like your RAM and your graphics card.

This is a good chance to price-compare preconstructed machines, and start tallying the prices of your dream components.

Closing the Gap

If your dream PC seems slightly out of reach with your current budget (even with your new monthly savings), you’ll need some way to close the gap. For most people, this means picking up a secondary income, at least temporarily. Consider taking on part-time work, or picking up a side gig like photography, blogging, or rideshare driving.

A new PC can help you work more efficiently, run more complex software, and of course, run better, more graphically intensive games. The downside is that it’s probably going to cost you a lot of money—but you can mitigate and prepare for these costs with smart budgeting and adequate prep time. Think ahead, and do what you can to prepare proactively.

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