The Frugal Nerd’s Total Technology Setup - Under $400!

The Frugal Nerd’s Total Technology Setup - Under $400!
This is an article I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. Truth is, you don’t need to spend upward of a $1,000 on one piece of tech for your dorm, or even the whole setup!

Here’s how to get the whole shabang for under $400.
(Got a bit more fundage? You can score a newer laptop, and a smartwatch for just about $700. Check this article for that guide.)

At the end of this, you’ll have a good smartphone, durable and fast laptop, a pair of Bluetooth-enabled wireless headphones - Plus, a lightsaber err, really cool screwdriver that’ll let you fix just about anything. Sonic screwdriver? Idk, maybe.


Companies spend a lot of time regurgitating similar stuff. Fact is, a high-end computer made as long ago as 2009 can rock just as good as a mid-range computer you’ll spend 2-4x as much new today. The only thing you’ll want to be aware of is the batteries on ol
der computers tend to not last quite as long. Not true for all of them, but many.

The second thing you need to know is, if you’re spending less than $600 on a new computer, it’s probably garbage. BUT, if you get a high-end refurb computer (ESPECIALLY BUSINESS-GRADE) you can get it just dumb cheap, and it’ll probably last you more semesters than your bff’s super thin consumer notebook.

With that in mind, I present the Lenovo ThinkPad T420s.
You might not think this is that pretty, but you’ll quickly grow an affinity for it after your third roomie’s drunken stumbles destroy your second’s fifteen-hundred dollar MacBook Pro by knocking it off a desk, (leaving it a pile of molten metal); while your $150-$200 laptop survives being tossed out a third-story window after you tell that same roomie that, no, they can’t copy your homework.

Just make sure you find one from a reputable seller, with 4GB+ of RAM, and an SSD. It’ll be plenty fast, just don’t expect it to game hardcore. ‘Kay?

To top it off, score free backup and office software by installing Google Drive and Google Photos.
Now, you’ve got a winner.

Where to find this gem? eBay or Rakuten.


Remember all that stuff we learned about refurb’d high-end stuff above? Yeah, I’m not going to repeat it here.

Same gig, but with phones - the Nexus 5x or iPhone 5c can both be had for under $200.

Install the Google Drive and Google Photos app on these too, and you’ll keep your stuff backed up on your phone - plus, all your docs, powerpoints, photos and videos will be on all your devices. How cool is that?!
 File:iPhone 5c blue back.jpg - Wikimedia Commonsnexus-5x-topic-1.png

eBay - still your friend on this one. Same deal - reputable sellers are the key.

Need cell service on the cheap? AT&T GoPhone is the cheapest and most reliable if it’s in your area, running $40 for 6GB of data + rollover, and unlimited talk and text. No AT&T near you? Verizon’s prepaid service isn’t far off from that price. Make sure you get the right phone for whichever carrier you choose. ‘GSM’ for AT&T, ‘CDMA’ for Verizon. Make sure the phone is listed as ‘unlocked’ and ‘good IMEI (aka, not stolen)’.


Now here’s where we start to cheap out a bit, because this is the least crucial bit.

The Sentry BT200’s can be found for $15 in your local Big Lots or TJ Maxx. They aren’t Audio Technicas, but if you want good, wireless sound with a wired option built in, check ‘em out. If you REALLY want good sound, get the Audio Technica M50’s. Beats? Nah. 71wrusDh4eL._SL1500_.jpg

IRL Sonic Screwdriver

There’s a bunch of rebranded ones of these, but if you can find an auto-loading screwdriver in a discount store, it’ll be your friend. Look for Craftsman in a Sears if you can, so that if it breaks you get a free one.

Should be under $20.

Final notes…

Did you notice the title? Yeah, nerd’s guide. If you’re not a nerd, or don’t consider yourself a DIY’er, this guide can be frustrating and unproductive. Basically, if you can’t install an operating system on a computer yourself, make sure that computer comes with Windows 10 - otherwise you might be stuck with 7 which is not a good thing!

If you want a setup like this one on the cheap (and you live in Upstate New York) - for a bit more, we can help you with the purchase, setup, data transfer, and tutoring in basic computer/smartphone use. Sound good? Pop over to our main website by clicking here to contact us for an appointment via phone or email.

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