These days, it seems a computer is almost as necessary an appliance as a refrigerator. Once thought of as a luxury or a device solely reserved for business, the home computer performs many necessary functions that keep daily life running smoothly. Paired with an Internet connection, the home computer closes the gaps of communication between family and friends, helps keep finances balanced, and serves as an invaluable tool for organization and education.
It isn't just for video games anymore! That said, it is important for a family on a budget to choose the computer system that is best for them. When shopping for computer systems, one should not get carried away by unnecessary bells and whistles if they are not needed to perform the business and personal computing tasks that need to be done. So when you are out shopping for your next, or first, computer, take the following into consideration before you commit to a purchase: Functionality - What do you need a computer to do for you? Do you have a student in the home who needs to compose term papers and reports? Do you wish to keep track of family finances and pay bills via the Internet? Do you operate a home-based business that requires a computer to maintain long-distance communications with clients? Depending upon your business, the platform you use can make a difference. In education, for example, teachers and administration lean toward one particular platform over another due to the increased functionality for making graphs and flowcharts, presentations for overhead projection, and spreadsheets for tracking grades. For the graphic artist, it is important to choose a platform compatible to advanced graphics software.
A writer may need a specific platform that can easily transfer documents to be read by editors, agents and publishers. Whatever your profession, it is always a good idea to consult with others in the field to determine the platform best suited for your needs. Speed - How often do you use a computer? Do you fire it up once a month when the bills are due, or maybe a few times a week to check e-mail from family and friends? Are you a die hard user, and literally have to leave it on all the time for business or other projects.
Do you require a powerful Internet connection to transfer large files to and from clients, or is a standard dial-up account suitable for what you do? Some may argue faster is better, particularly if you are a heavy Web user who prefers to download sites without constantly checking your watch. However, high-speed modems and tons of memory may not be necessary for all computer owners. If you fall into the category of occasional user, you likely don't need the expense of a mass connection package if you only surf the Web on occasion.
Determine how much time in the week is spent on the computer and on the Internet as opposed to your other priorities and work out a connection and memory package from there. Don't feel you have to keep up with the Joneses as far as speed is concerned. Sometimes it is best to take things slowly. Software - What kind of software do you need? Do you need a word processor for everyday correspondence and reports? Do you need graphics software to edit photos and images? Do you need accounting software for bookkeeping purposes? Some platforms and speeds work well with some software programs, so if you have a specific task in mind for your computer you should consult with a knowledgeable sales representative to help you choose the right system for you.
Don't allow anybody to sell you what you don't need. If you have no use for an advanced program like Photoshop but would like a program to sort photos from a digital camera, don't let anybody convince you to spend the extra money. Consequently, if you need a program like Word but don't need other office peripherals, shop for the best suited package for you. If you are an educator or student, look for discounted or specialized software for your needs. Shop smartly when you prepare to take home a computer. Learn what each system does and how well it runs programs.
If you have something specific in mind, ask a sales clerk and weigh all payment options before making a decision. A computer is a good investment for any family to have, so make it a good one.
Kathryn Lively writes for The Computer Connection, affordable computer financing for military personnel.