In reply to Jeff Girard's post on Sat 15 Jan 2011 :
the oldest and still the best place on the web for all things computer-related is www.pricewatch.com
originally in DOS, pricewatch used to list real-time prices with discounts as they appeared online. nowdays it provides links to both retail and online computer supply stores.
ok, that's one option. #2 is my own personal suggestion: you want a laptop and new ones are like new cars: the moment you bring it home the price decreases about 50% – because they are all overpriced. what to do? a couple of options – you can build your own – since you aren't working and have some time, this is a real option and w/price watch and Fry's nearby...
another option: go for the refurbished model. there are SO many out there – I bought a Samsung notebook in 2003 that was about 2 years old; new it was priced around $5000 because that's what they cost back then. I paid about $250 for it and it was loaded with goodies. I was happy if it would last 6 months – guess what – I still have it and it still boots up just fine. Over time tho, memory allocations increased and I can't upgrade for a reasonable price so it's not really practical to use anymore; I just don't want it to wind up in a landfill somewhere or I'd chunk it.
which is another good reason to buy refurbished – there's simply nothing wrong with recycling a computer – many are still worth keeping around. Just check and double-check your hardware requirements, ask about warranties and you're good to go. the cheapest models come with no operating system which if you already have one, you can just use that.
if you can register for a class somewhere, you can qualify for academic pricing on software which will also save you $$
good luck and hang in there.