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Budget shopping tips: MP3 players

CNET Senior Editor Donald Bell shares some general tips on shopping for an MP3 player on a budget.

If you're on a budget and shopping for a new MP3 player, here are a few general tips for locking down a good deal.

First and foremost, do some math so you can get a realistic idea of how much storage you'll need for all the music, photos, and video you want to take on the go. The less storage you need, the cheaper the price. If an MP3 player includes a slot for memory expansion, you can always increase the capacity down the road.

Also, be realistic about the features you need. MP3 players that support video playback are fun at first, but few people have the time to transfer and watch video on a regular basis. You can find great audio-only MP3 players for under $50, but a decent video-capable device is hard to find for less than $100.

If you're specifically shopping for an iPod, you're going to have a tougher time snagging a bargain. Apple keeps a tight leash on prices, and sales are scant. You can always shop Apple's selection of refurbished iPods, available directly through the company's online store. College students and faculty can also take advantage of Apple's annual Back to School promotion, which takes place June through August, and typically offers specially priced bundles of iPods and Mac computers.

Back-to-school sales aside, we recommend not buying an MP3 player in late summer if you're after the latest and greatest tech. Apple and Microsoft typically release their new models in the fall. That said, if you're OK with being a step behind, summer sales can be a great way to snap up deals as stores clear their shelves of last year's models.