How to save money when buying iPhones, iPads, Macs and other Apple hardware and accessories

No one said buying Apple gear was going to be cheap, but here are ways you can shave a few dollars off your purchases by choosing to spend your money wisely.

Thinking about buying an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or some other piece of Apple-branded hardware? Here are a handful tips and tricks to help you make your money go further.

Note: When referring to "Apple Stores," I mean both physical "bricks and mortar" stores and Apple's online store.

Storage

This is an important one, so I'm going to spend a bit of time on this.

Since Apple uses storage capacity to create price tiers within products. So, if you go into an Apple Store looking for an iPhone 6S, you'll be faced with a choice of capacities: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB. Each bump in capacity will set you back $100. A similar set of tiers exists for the iPad and iPad touch, and even Macs use storage to create differentiation within product lines (although the pricing is more complex).

My top money-saving tip here is to think about how much storage you need before you buy a new product. Buy one with too little storage and you'll end up being frustrated (and probably spend more money upgrading sooner than you'd intended to). Buy too much capacity and you're throwing money away.

If you're upgrading then use your existing device as a guide for how much storage you think you'll need. Then factor in owning that device for a few years.

As a rule, if your current iPhone or iPad has 16GB or 32GB of storage and you're using a good 50 to 75 percent of that, then 64GB is probably where you should be aiming. If you're current device has 64GB, and you're using some 50 to 75 percent of that storage, then spending the money on a new device with 128GB is probably worthwhile.

When it comes to Macs, it's harder to guess how much you need, and the final decision comes down to how much data your think you're going to be making and carrying around with you. In my experience, Macs with 256GB or thereabouts of storage are fine for people who live and work with the written word, but designers and A/V pros will need a lot more.

Remember too than you can add external storage to iPhones, iPads, and Macs, but factor in the hassle-quotient of carrying around a spare bit of hardware with you.

Know your upgrade cycle

Will you be upgrading yearly, every couple of years, or running your hardware until it's dead/obsolete? The shorter duration you plan on owning something, the less you have to worry about future-proofing it.

Know in advance if you can upgrade your Mac

Be careful if you plan on "cheaping out" on the installed RAM in a Mac because you think you can upgrade that down the line because not every Mac is upgradable. In fact, no current MacBook can have the RAM upgraded (although given that 8GB is the starting point for RAM in new MacBooks, this is unlikely to be a problem for most users), and some iMacs are also not upgradable.

Be wary of overpriced accessories

Apple Stores are full of cool accessories for your newly-purchased device. But a few minutes spent Googling once you get home will uncover a vast array of cheaper options.

Not everything you buy needs to be "Apple-branded"

Don't think that just because you buy an iPhone, iPad, Mac or whatever that you need to throw out your old hardware and replace it with Apple-branded stuff.

An example of this is backup hardware. Yes, Apple's Time Capsule is a great bit of kit and a snap to set up, but remember that OS X's Time Machine will work with any external hard drive and most network solutions - just point it to the drive and away it goes).

Consider "Apple Refurbished" hardware.

Apple sells refurbished Macs and iPads (and sometimes iPods and Apple TVs), as well as a range of other clearance items. It's a good place to find some decent deals on older hardware.

iPhone Upgrade Program

If you're the sort of person who upgrades their iPhone every year, then Apple's new iPhone Upgrade Program could be worthwhile, especially if you buy AppleCare+ for your iPhone (it's included in the monthly cost).

"Second-hand" doesn't always mean cheap

Apple products tend to hold onto their value incredibly well, so you can forget about picking up bargains from eBay, Craigslist or the like. Sure, I've come across the odd good deal here and there, but as a rule, second-hand iPads, iPhones and Macs tend to be vastly overpriced. I've seen items that are listed as broken go for stupid money.

Which brings me on to...

Your existing devices are worth money

If you're trading up, remember that your existing hardware - especially if it's Apple hardware - is worth money. Don't just recycle it or throw it into a drawer, but turn it into cash. You can either sell it privately - via the likes of eBay - or there are companies that will buy old devices from you.

Alternatively, Apple will allow you to trade-in or exchange for store credit certain smartphones, and might give you store credit for certain Macs.

Shop around

When it comes to iPads and Macs, you might be able to find better deals that Apple offer, both online and at brick-and-mortar retailers. So shop around before setting foot into an Apple Store, because once through the door, it's hard to leave empty-handed!

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