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I am new to this Stack Exchange channel, sorry in advance if the story does not fit.

About 3.5 years ago I bought a laptop for my education. At the time it was a top of the line model etc. Recently, about a month ago it started to show some flaws. The battery sticked at 1% and when I unplugged the cable, the laptop dies. After a day of having the laptop on the charger it seems to function correctly again.

Now what does this have to do with finance? I don't really trust that computer and am looking to buy a new one. I work as a Software Engineer and saved really aggressive for the past months so basically reduce the basic necessities as much as possible so I could save more. The laptop in question costs 3199€. Currently I have 2458.94€ saved in my account.

Is it worth to save the exact amount and spent it all at once on one single item? Any suggestions?

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    This question will give you primarily opinion based answers. That being said; why do you think that a 3000+ laptop is what you need; could your needs be covered by a cheaper option? – ssn Dec 13 '19 at 22:07
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    Sounds like your current laptop just needs a new battery. Do you need the new one professionally or just for fun? – Daniel Dec 14 '19 at 0:37
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    Possible duplicate of "My car's wearing out, new Ferraris look real nice. Should I spend $100k on a car? I'm a student." – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 14 '19 at 4:06
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    What about just replacing the battery? – RonJohn Dec 14 '19 at 4:54
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    Or unless you actually need to travel, just leaving it plugged in. My own laptop, which is the machine I use for most everyday tasks (and I'm a software developer, too), hasn't left its dock in at least 3 years. – jamesqf Dec 14 '19 at 17:46
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It's going to depend on many things that we don't know and your personal preferences. I could have a Ferrari, but wouldn't be worth it to me based on what else I'd have to cut back to have it. Others would make that choice.

As developers, one thing we tend to get caught up on, though, is an idea that our computer's greatness is a reflection of our greatness. While there are some cool things that can be done, there are a great many areas of software engineering where you don't need to be able to host Google while on the train in order to be effective.

I run four instances of my IDE and 20 other windows at any given time on a machine that would make your jaw drop in its antiquity and not the most amazing of its day at that.

The fact that you're questioning it and that this is a significant outlay of cash, I'd suggest really closely looking at what you actually need the machine to do for you. Playing most modern games takes far more resources on a much tighter-time need than many applications of software engineering.

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    +1 this is a 12 year old Mac. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 14 '19 at 4:09
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    11 year old ThinkPad, here. While I don't usually run that many windows, I do all my development, compiling, and initial testing of some fairly compute-intensive stuff on it - the sort of thing where full-scale runs take hours to days on a largish cluster. And most of the time, the CPU load is poking along at 1-2%, with the frequency throttled down to 800 MHz. (If I did need cluster-sized compute resources and didn't have access to my client's machines, there's always the cloud computing resources of Amazon &c.) – jamesqf Dec 14 '19 at 17:52
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    For me, the sweet spot is buying a good used laptop. There's a substantial market of 3 - 4 years old laptops here in Germany (new laptops are written off over 3 a): I'm writing this comment from a 5 year old Thinkpad that I got last year to replace its ≈14 year old predecessor. The price of these used laptops is typically sufficiently low to allow me to write it off immediately, and even if I upgrade e.g. RAM and SSD/harddisk the price is around 40 - 50 % of a new laptop with similar performance. – cbeleites supports Monica Dec 14 '19 at 19:50
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    It's a great point that used laptops are a viable thing these days. – Fattie Dec 15 '19 at 12:55
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It's irresponsible to spend all your money on toys

Despite the good social services in places where the money symbol is €, you do need to have money back for actual, important things. If you don't know what those are, that's probably because you are young and don't have much life experience yet. So better to play it safe.

Laptops live a rough life. You could buy this thing, and accidentally fall on it or have it stolen, and then you're up the creek because it took a huge amount of your income. A single consumer product shouldn't occupy that much of your annual income, unless it's a house or a car.

And honestly I can't imagine what you're buying, I looked at every laptop on dell.com and not even the Alienwares are anywhere near that pricey. Even MacBooks are nothing like that, except for the very highest end MBP which only adds gaming-tier GPU and a slightly bigger screen, and even then you have to go crazy on RAM and SSD. Please stop. That end of the product spectrum is custom designed for people with more money than sense, the very opposite of a student.

That nosebleed MBP has a $300 video card on it. Seriously. And you'll be married to it long after it's obsolete. For gaming, just get a dedicated desktop gaming PC. It won't get smashed or stolen, and you can modernize the $300 video card every year if you like. Keep the "thing at risk for being smashed or stolen" modest and expendable, like a Macbook Air.

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    Computers are a lot more expensive in Europe than NA. – RonJohn Dec 14 '19 at 4:56
  • this. If the performance that will cost 3 k€ in a laptop is really needed, a desktop will be the better choice. That will maybe cost around 1 k€, so OP could spend another 1 k€ on a used lapop (which will also be very good in terms of performance). – cbeleites supports Monica Dec 14 '19 at 19:16
  • I was recently helping someone configure a laptop that would end up at about 3 - 4k€ - that was far from a standard software development scenario though: it was to allow computations on site in a greenhouse/field environment where the measurement instrument produces ≈50 GB data per hour. – cbeleites supports Monica Dec 14 '19 at 19:20
  • Harper - I do think the OP is apparently buying it as a work item, ie, OP is a working programmer. Note that if you develop both iOS junk and Android junk, you do indeed need, ie must have, an apple laptop. It is true that (glancing at the apple UK web site) the basic "programmer's model" apple laptop (smallest drive, middle memory, max chips) appears to be "£3,429.00" I guess plus tax. – Fattie Dec 15 '19 at 12:23
  • Harper - regarding windows laptops. It is a fact that if you're a game developer or you develop attractions or the like you do indeed need a laptop that has has a certain video card etc; unfortunately (financially!) in some situations you realistically need a laptop rather than a simple box PC. (For example, we buy only the amazing and humorously named "iBuyPower" box PCs, which are spectacular value; but the fact is you do need one of those ridiculously-highly priced "gaming" laptops in some work situations.) – Fattie Dec 15 '19 at 12:30
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Well, this forum is personal finance and money, so the question is - is it worth it to you? How do you feel about spending 3k€ on a laptop? What utility does a 3k€ laptop give you that a 1k€ does not? What else could you do with the rest if you go with the cheaper option?

Aside from that, are there any other financial things you need to take care of before buying a nice new laptop? Credit card debt? Car payments? Student Loans?

I'm not saying you have to get rid of all debt before buying a laptop, but every extra dollar you spend on stuff is costing you interest equivalent to the highest interest rate of any debt you have. So it is something to consider when making discretionary purchases.

  • If it comes to debts I am pretty much clean aside from my student loan which, at this point is still building up, seeing as I am still in the process of completing my bachalors. In my opinion I think the money is worth it but also think it is not. I am currently in the middle of chossing what's right. – Rainier Laan Dec 13 '19 at 22:32
  • @RainierLaan , "student" debt is a nightmare. The very worst type. Also you mention you are "pretty much" clean, which sounds like a downer; that's like being "almost not pregnant" ! Debt is your nightmare and hell. It's inconceivable you should add more debt if - as it sounds - unfortunately you do now have some debt. Don't do it, OP. Do not add more debt. Even for a work laptop. – Fattie Dec 15 '19 at 12:54
  • @Fattie: Why do you think student loan debt is a "nightmare"? I think it's the best kind, other than a mortgage, since you're effectively using it to buy an asset that should appreciate. Now if you want really bad debt, try the payday loan places (if you're in the US). From last week's junk mail, I'm pre-approved to borrow $500 and pay only $19.23 interest - PER WEEK. – jamesqf Dec 15 '19 at 18:05
  • @jamesqf (i) just work while at college. at the very worst, in even exceedingly difficult courses, it might add 1 year. (ii) it's the biggest scam of the century from the "banking-government complex" (and that's saying something) (iii) it leads to absurdly high prices and crap courses, student debt for college is the "jet ski on credit card" of education. (lol on the payday loan btw) – Fattie Dec 16 '19 at 12:18
  • @Fattie: Getting off the subject, but most of the time it's pretty hard for an unskilled person to find a job that will even cover the costs of college, let alone have hours compatible with courses. Of course after the first couple of years, you might have enough skill to land a decent internship (at least in STEM fields). Of course it's possible to misuse student loans (like anything else), but in general they are a damned good thing. They certainly made college possible for me. – jamesqf Dec 17 '19 at 18:01
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Should you spend all your savings on one purchase?

No, you shouldn't. You should always retain an emergency fund in case something happens where you need to come up with some money quickly. How much money depends on how well you are insured against various disasters, how many expensive things you own which might require immediate repair/replacement at any time, safety of your sources of income / chance of finding new sources of income, if you have people who depend on you, if you have people you can depend on in an emergency, if you have a risky lifestyle, etc., etc..

Should you spend all your savings on this purchase?

That depends. Do you actually need this notebook for your profession? Or is it just a status symbol? Psychologists say that spending money on a status symbol only gives you a very short rush of dopamine. The enjoyment of simply owning an item quickly diminishes as soon as the item becomes a part of daily life.

Most people acquire far more enjoyment from spending money on experiences. For example, a vacation to an exotic country can be an experience you will recall and tell people about for the rest of your life. Long after that notebook is obsolete trash.

But on the other hand, it can be a good investment to spend money on acquisitions which help you make good experiences and avoid stressful experiences. So if the new laptop enables you to make good experiences (like playing a good game) or avoid stressful experiences (failing to complete an important project on time because the old laptop dies in the middle of it) then it can be an effective investment. But do you really need a 3.2k laptop for that? Can't you achieve the same benefit by buying a cheaper one? We don't know what kind of software development projects you do and we don't know your game preferences, so only you can tell.

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First of all, the battery situation you describe might be a relatively easy fix. Every laptop I have ever had needed a new battery 3 or 4 years later. You might be able to get one from the manufacturer.

Now onto the question.

From your question:

The laptop in question costs 3199€. Currently I have 2458.94€ saved in my account.

from a comment:

I wanted this specific laptop for a while, but don't know if it is the smartest way to spend all my savings in one time and be left with nothing after. Considering I'm living on my own and bills can come unsurprisingly.

from another comment:

If it comes to debts I am pretty much clean aside from my student loan which, at this point is still building up, seeing as I am still in the process of completing my bachelors. In my opinion I think the money is worth it but also think it is not. I am currently in the middle of choosing what's right.

Even though you are in school you know that some money needs to be saved for unexpected bills. You also need to make sure that your expected bills: tuition, books, food, insurance, are to be covered as well.

You will frequently see advice about saving 3 to 6 months in an emergency fund. This is to cover job loss. With students I don't think that advice is relevant, due to a growing student debt amount it is clear that many students have to spend more than they earn. They need to plan to graduate while still having a low enough debt to be able to afford it. Instead students need a fund that will get them through the cycle of tuition, books, food based on their aid, and loans.

The second piece of advice is to have enough savings in a life happens fund to afford an unexpected bill. Students need a life happens fund. This is to cover things that have to be replaced now because it broke. It is to cover things that you couldn't anticipate, for example having to purchase for a 3 credit class 4 months of rent of a expensive software package.

Adults out of school also have a savings account to save for big purchases. A new roof, a car, a summer vacation. It is fine to drain this fund when you make the big purchase. But in reality it might never reach zero because people can have several big purchases they are saving for.

Because the laptop situation you are describing isn't a life happens event, my advice would be to save money outside of the school fund and the life happens fund. When you have that money in the big purchase fund in addition to the first two funds, then you can afford the purchase.

  • it's a great point that all this could be avoided by simply having the battery repaired. – Fattie Dec 15 '19 at 12:58
  • @Fattie More likely replaced, but still. – user253751 Dec 16 '19 at 11:48
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The answer here is very simple.

  1. This is a work expense and a complete 100% tax deduction in almost all jurisdictions. We're not discussing a "jet ski" -type purchase here.

  2. Yes, of course, definitely, save save save to pay for it. Avoid debt at all costs.

Congratulations, and enjoy your NO DEBT purchase in a matter of weeks.

There is just no, zero, argument for taking on the debt if you can save the last little bit in a reasonable time.

Regarding buying expensive toys. I often literally get thrown off this list for swearing at folks who come on here asking if they should buy an expensive car, or other pointless expensive toy.

I am apparently the last-word, gold standard on this list for "do not waste money on toys" :-)

However this is a work expense. A programmer having computers is, self-evidently, like a gunslinger having a sidearm.

  • Always, always, always buy desktop boxes instead of laptops - if at all possible (this is true for both apple/'doze).

Allow me to copy and paste, as a working programmer always, always, always buy desktop boxes instead of laptops if at all possible

(A) Laptops are garbage technically. (Just one particular problem is the noise; it's very bad for you constantly listening to the stupid laptop fans. There's no real solution to this - ridiculously, I have to keep a pile of those frozen gel packs in a freezer and swap them under the laptop every few hours.)

(B) Laptops are rarely used "on your lap", people just plug in some extra monitors and a real keyboard and use them in place.

However the fact is, in many business / contracting / work situations, you do realistically need a laptop. Unfortunately Apple models are plain expensive. (It goes without saying, they are junk and overpriced, but there's not much you can do.) And for your PC side, in certain programming fields you do unfortunately need a ridiculous" gamer" laptop with a recent vid. card etc. So it's expensive.

(Indeed, note that if you work in the rofl "app industry" you'll also unfortunately need to spend a small fortune annually on devices, in most cases. Again, 100% tax deduction at least.)

By all means, don't buy the 4000 laptop if the 3000 one will suffice. But, as a programmer you only have one work instrument .. "computers" .. so you can't skimp on it. It has to last for years, long hours per week.

One caveat ... notice today's date ...

OP, you should save to purchase. But it's Dec 15.

Depending on your jurisdiction and situation, it may be that if you purchase this week, you can put it in this year's tax calculations.

(Indeed, for example we unfortunately have a whole pile of purchases coming up, and, as much as it makes me grind my over-ground teeth, might as well do it before Jan 1.)

So that's a possible consideration. Maybe you can pay for it on a card but pay it off before any interest strikes? (I believe you get a few weeks "grace period" when using a credit card.)

Summary

  1. Do not use debt. End of story.

  2. If at all possible programmers should use desktops, not laptops. Laptops are a lose/lose/lose/lose situation versus desktop boxes

  3. Conceivably there's an argument to get the purchase in before Jan 1, depending on your jurisdiction / tax details.

  • Your comment on laptops is off the mark. For one thing, even if you don't use them on your lap, the moment you frequently use them in more than one place (e.g. work and home) for anything more serious than all in-the-cloud work, they can make sense over having (e.g.) two computers. Second, since the introduction of 10W TDP CPUs it has been very easy to get a laptop that is very quiet, even when under load. Finally, regarding laptops, have you priced out a MacBook Pro versus an iMac (not Pro!) with comparable specs lately? – Michael Dec 16 '19 at 23:33
  • ciao @Michael ! You may have misunderstood the tenor of my post (my bad) ....... YES, in many situations, realistically, you do - for better or worse - have to have a laptop. But if at all possible, don't buy a laptop. On the Apple side, regarding what you say about MBP v. iMacs - (we, very unfortunately for my company's bank balance, have to buy many of every unit :/ :/ ) - I'm not quite sure what you're point is on that one. (If you know a cheaper way, pls tell :) :) ) – Fattie Dec 17 '19 at 1:58
  • I'm referring to the fact that in some cases it's actually more expensive to get a desktop Mac than a laptop. If you need more than 1TB of solid state storage, the iMac won't go that high and you'll have to spring for the Pro model, which starts at $5400 ($2400 more than an entry level MacBook Pro with 2TB), even if all you need is a bit of extra storage and not the other specs. – Michael Dec 20 '19 at 1:26
  • @Michael - an excellent example of Apple's pricing policy eh! Wait, do you think they did that specifically knowing that video editors buy their stuff - or was it a sheer coincidence?! ;) – Fattie Dec 20 '19 at 10:27
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Let's try a thought experiment:

About 3.5 years ago I bought a laptop for my education. At the time it was a top of the line model etc. Recently, about a month ago it started to show some flaws.

Suppose the laptop didn't start having "flaws", and now let's assume it will never have flaws (it will last forever). How long would it be before you purchased a new laptop because you needed a faster or more powerful machine? One year? Two years? More? (For most people it's more...)

Now calculate: how much does it cost to buy a brand new laptop that has similar specs to your current one? I'm guessing it is at least 1/3 the price, and it will probably be even better than your current laptop in some ways. The takeaway here is that you probably need much less than you're tempted to buy. Even if you bought a new cheap laptop every 1-2 years you'll still be better off in the long run compared to buying an expensive one every 3-5 years. There are very few occupations where you always need the latest and greatest hardware. And if you have one of those occupations, you must purchase a new 3000€ (or more) laptop every year.

To put it in perspective, the owner of a company I once worked for purchased a $3500 laptop for himself because he thought it was cool. A year later he still didn't need it anymore and he sold it to me for $1000. When it died about 4 years later I was able to buy something even better for $600. Ever since then I've been buying $600 laptops about every 5 years, and have never regretted it.

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