When I went off to college six years ago, the most expensive item on my shopping list by far was my new laptop, which cost about $600. Considering how much I’ve relied on my trusty notebook over the years, I can’t exactly complain about its price. But these days, students heading to college can find laptops that boast all sorts of impressive features for as low as $300.

Here are a few tips that will help you find a budget-friendly laptop that suits all your collegiate needs.

Before you begin shopping, it’s important to understand what you’ll be using your laptop to do. If it’s primarily to take notes, write papers and do research, you won’t need the more expensive models with features.

Go for memory

Instead, aim for decent memory space to ensure that your laptop won’t slow down or freeze when you’re multitasking. Computers operate from two points of memory space: random access memory (RAM), and hard drive memory.

Four gigabytes of RAM and 500 gigabytes of hard drive are the standard for most laptops in the $300-$400 range on the market right now.

Read reviews

This may seem like no-brainer, but it’s important to read up on a laptop before you make a purchase. CNET.com is my favorite online technology publication because it’s aimed at tech users, not experts. You’ll find all sorts of reviews and buying guides to help make the most educated choice.

Expert advice is a great place to start, especially if technology jargon looks like alphabet soup to you. However, the best technology reviews often come from the people who have actually bought the gadget. Read customer complaints and forums on the manufacturer’s website.

Buy used

RCW Systems in North Charleston is a repair shop and resale store for used laptops. Shawn Gibeaut, manager of RCW, said used laptops often come from businesses, which means many are of higher quality than some new models.

“The benefit to this is the computers, even if they’re older, are more reliable than retail grade computers,” Gibeaut said. “The simple fact is that businesses tend to get the better end of the stick when it comes to the hardware of these computers.”

Of RCW’s selection, Gibeaut recommends the HP Pro Book, which he said readily meets any student’s needs. Priced at $195, the laptop offers 4 gigabytes of RAM and 500 gigabytes of hard drive memory. If you’d like to add memory, he said the Pro Book can be easily upgraded.

Reach Abigail Darlington at charlestonsavvyshopper@postand courier.com.