I'll admit it, I'm a bit on the frugal side, well actually I'm cheap. I seldom buy brand new cars, if I do they're always with the base features and few options. When it comes to buying computers I never like to pay full retail. So, how can you buy a decent computer without spending a ton? Well you could try EBay, I've bought several computers on EBay and it's worked out fine. I think the key to EBay in general is only buy from sellers with lots of feedback. Usually you never have to buy from anyone with less than 99% positive feedback. When you buy from someone on EBay, ask lots of questions, make sure the deal includes the operating system disks. Also don't buy a computer that's running a operating system that's more than 1 generation older than the current OS. In other words don't buy a PC running anything older than Windows XP, unless it's going to be a Linux box or won't be used online. I also wouldn't buy any computer if it didn't have some kind of return policy. At least 30 days or more, if possible. At least if it's DOA you can return it. All of that said, EBay is still a bit risky, people still get burned, usually for not following common sense rules.
Craiglist.org is another great place to find great deals. An advantage Craigslist has is you get to check the item out before you buy it. Never...never buy from Craigslist unless it's cash and carry. Don't send money to someone on Craigslist as there's no recourse if you're burned. Going to some strangers can be a little creepy, so use common sense when you buy from someone you've never met before. That leaves one last category for getting a great deal on a computer.
Buying from a manufacturers outlet store, is my favorite way to save money on a computer these days. Most large computer makers have online stores. Somewhere on the home page you can usually find a link to their outlet store. The great thing about the outlets of major manufacturers is you get the same warranty as a regular, full price product. Also the computers sold from outlet stores have all been checked out by a technician prior to being shipped, unlike a new factory built computer that ships directly from the factory. People shouldn't worry about buying a so called refurbished computer from the original manufacturer. If a computer is merely opened and then returned the manufacturer cannot call it new anymore, by law it has to be listed as used or refurbished.
A quick check of the online stores from Apple, Dell, HP, Gateway and Sony all find outlet stores with substantial savings. My own experience was with Dell and I was totally impressed. I was looking for a current model the Inspiron 1420. I found at least 150 different machines available. I specifically wanted a dedicated graphics card, a 2.2 core 2 duo processor and a 160GB, 7200 rpm hard drive. I found several and quickly had one in my cart and was checked out. I was very happy with the Dell, it was on my front porch in 3 days with standard shipping and was equipped with no extra "crapware", exactly as I wanted. The machine came with the install disc for the operating system and all the necessary drivers ect.
About the Dell Outlet in particular, I am amazed at the sheer volume of product on the Dell site, and how fast it changes. For people needing XP you can find plenty of machines with XP installed. This is important, if you need XP on a new computer for some reason, either an application or piece of hardware you need, that wont run with Vista you don't necessarily want to downgrade a machine that shipped originally with Vista. Not only will you waste money by buying a copy of XP, negating most of your savings you just scored. You might find XP won't run that well on a computer that shipped with Vista. Some recent models of computers that shipped with hardware developed after Vista was released, don't have an XP compatible driver available. This is especially true with some of the newer video cards. So try to find a deal on a machine built with the operating system you intend to stay with.
Just browsing a few of the major PC makers online stores you find a great selection of refurbished computers selling at a considerable discount from their retail list price. Dell and Sony appear to have the most models in sheer volume. HP Lenovo, and Apple have many models but no where near their full selection of what's available new.
So if you want to save money on a new computer certainly check the outlet of the brand you are interested in before you shell out full price on a new computer.