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Laptop Payment Plans for College Students

Updated on April 13, 2016

For many students, going back to school is both exciting and scary. Whether it’s the first day at a local community college or the first day at a major university, having the best laptop for class can help make the transition easier. From finding the local library to submitting homework assignments – and everything in between – college life is almost impossible without a quality computer that can survive the hazards of daily use. With the increasing cost of tuition, however, many families find themselves struggling to keep up.

Families with multiple students are hit the hardest as they have to stretch their budget to cover household expenses and the extra cost of the students being away from home. Paying cash for a laptop is simply not an option for a lot of students and their parents. So where do people go to find quality, brand-name laptops on a payment plan? Before now, the choices were limited to paying cash up front or using credit to make a purchase. There are a few other options available, but finding them requires a little bit of patience and luck.

Buying a Laptop: Student Purchase Programs

It is hard to avoid the constant news about the increasing cost of a college education. NPR reports that college tuition rates are rising faster than income and inflation. Almost two-thirds of students seeking a bachelor’s degree receive some form of financial aid, and with interest rates on federal student loans set to hike again, the costs of going to college have almost quadrupled over the past generation. When the average student loan debt is $25,000, adding even a laptop to that cost can be a burden after graduation. One option for purchasing a computer allows students to obtain a laptop from their college if the school participates in a purchase program. While this may seem convenient, the choices for these programs are typically limited to a specific brand or model of computer. Not only will a person be limited on their choices, but the programs are designed to use federal student loan funds to cover the cost of the computer. An article in the New York Times shows how one student with around $50,000 in student loan debt will owe almost $900 per month to stay current – and many students aren’t properly informed of the actual costs associated with their student loan debt. Even with low interest rates, purchasing a laptop with this method can be very expensive in the long-run, and it uses funds that may be critical for textbooks and other school expenses.

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Payment Plan Outlet: Payment Plans for College Students

One unique option for purchasing a laptop or tablet computer on a payment plan comes from PaymentPlanOutlet.com, an online-only company that offers students and their parents a chance to lease a laptop with an easy payment plan. Payment Plan Outlet is a great choice because:

  1. It features payments based on your schedule,
  2. They only sell high-end computers;
  3. Your account is paid in full in 12 months;
  4. There are easy early payoff options!

The monthly prices do not change based on a person’s credit score and there is no additional fee at the end of the lease term. PaymentPlanOutlet.com is committed to providing flexible and fair payment plans on the best student laptops.

In-Store Financing: The Minimum Payment Trap

Between the cost of textbooks and purchasing meal plans, students and parents are often strapped for cash at the beginning of the school year. For a number of American consumers, a monthly payment is the only way they will be able to afford a computer. If an individual has already established a credit history, he or she may qualify for a credit card or in-store financing at a local retail center. The setback with this approach is that many struggling students unintentionally fall into the minimum payment trap. A minimum payment is typically a small percentage of the outstanding account balance; however, the unpaid balance continues accruing interest over time – the time it takes to pay off that balance can sometimes be longer than the time it takes to graduate college. The best way to manage a credit card is to pay off the balance each month, but many students – undergraduate and graduate, alike – are compelled to use the cards for living expenses. A US News article reports that in 2009, almost 20% of college seniors held approximately $7,000 in credit card debt. This can be increasingly expensive when paired with rising student loan balances. While credit cards are not a terrible option if the balance is paid in full each month, adding a laptop to that balance will only make it harder to pay off.

Renting Computers: A Last-Resort Option

Another option for acquiring a computer is to rent a laptop from a “rent-to-own” company. While not the most preferred method of obtaining a laptop for the semester, some students and their parents don’t have access to credit or purchase programs. With a rent-to-own company, a person will most likely need multiple references and a verifiable source of income; if a payment is missed, collection activities tend to include disruptive phone calls to references or visits to a person’s home and work. Payments are usually scheduled based on a person’s source of income, and can be as often as once a week. Some rent-to-own companies even base the payment amount on a person’s credit history. For students with no credit or parents with bad credit, this can be especially damaging to monthly finances. Another catch with rent-to-own companies is that they often require permission to use the laptop away from the listed address, which is especially inconvenient for traveling students. With the cost of college steadily on the rise, this particular method of purchasing a laptop is both expensive and inefficient.

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With so many choices for purchasing laptop and tablet computers, figuring out where to start can be overwhelming. A great place to start is with a budget and there are plenty of resourceful tools online to help with that, including the budget planners at Mint.com and SimpleBudget. Planning out a budget helps avoid overspending by giving a clear dollar figure on the amount of money that is left over after monthly expenses each month. The next step is to take control of credit by working with a company that reports payment history to all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – and pull a report from AnnualCreditReport.com, for free once a year. When it comes time to select a laptop or tablet computer, make an educated decision by reading laptop reviews that address key technical questions: Is a Blu-Ray player worth having? What is the best processor? What size screen would be best for college? And check with a campus advisor for their recommendations. With a little bit of – extra – homework, finding a great laptop to get through a college education should be a breeze.

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