I have your guide to making 3 of life's biggest purchases. The things you need to know before you shell out for a computer, a car, or a house.

  • First, the computer. According to Geek Squad - the 24-hour computer repair company - you should resist the temptation to buy only the bare minimum. Because what you think you need now, could change dramatically within a year. So maybe you only want a computer to email friends and look up recipes - but next thing you know, you want to store your digital pictures - but you don't have enough memory. So always get a bit more than you need now. But buy last year's model. It'll have all the current do-hickies, but it'll cost less than the new one all the computer geeks just "have to have!" And the best time to buy? Early summer - around graduation time.
  • Next - when buying a car, with today's $3 dollar + a gallon gas prices, make sure you get one with a good fuel-efficiency rating. Check it out at FuelEconomy.gov. And the experts at Consumer Reports say always do a thorough test drive. You need to make sure you fit comfortably in the car and have a good field of vision. Even go back and test drive the car at night. But do not test drive the car on the day you plan on buying it! Because the minute you're in the driver's seat, you make an emotional connection with the car. So plan a different day to buy. Your head will be clear and you can negotiate unemotionally.
  • The final big purchase: a house. The New York Post's real estate editor says it's essential to check out the neighborhood if you want to sell your house for a profit someday. And a good way to tell how the neighborhood will look in 5 years - check out the cars parked in nearby driveways. Are they rusted and up on blocks? Or are they well taken care of? Your neighbors will take care of their homes the same way. Also, look for signs of remodeling, new coffee shops and boutiques. And a biggie? Look to see if a Home Depot or Lowe's is near-by. Those companies do massive research to find up-and-coming areas. If there's one nearby, it's a good bet the area is on the upswing.