I am hesitant to share what I’m about to share with you. And it’s for purely selfish reasons. I fear that the more people are aware of this, the fewer deals there will be available for me. Perhaps I’m overestimating my influence; and for once I hope I am. But it’s in the spirit of cooperation that I’m letting you in on one of my favorite budget-stretching secrets–the Apple Refub store.

Head on over to Apple.com/store and scroll all the way down and take a peak at the left sidebar. Near the bottom, in small type is a link to “Refurbished Mac.” This is your gateway to savings. I’ve saved several thousand dollars just in the last few months there.

For example, our new server was going to be an XServe. But then as I researched how much that was going to cost to get set up (everything is expensive for the XServe due the small form factor), I came across a 8-Core MacPro running at 2.8 GHz for $2,400. I made that my editor and used our older MacPro Quad-core for the server.

I bought both our new iMacs from the Refurb store, saving $300-400 each. In both cases I got more machine than I would have otherwise and saved money. What’s not to like?

The only downside is that you have to do a little extra work to get the tax removed from the sale. Since Apple has retail operations just about everywhere, they charge sales tax. However, by e-mailing them your state’s tax exemption form (with appropriate numbers), they will promptly remove the sales tax. I actually have the form saved as a PDF and just change the description to make it go faster.

Some people are leery about buying “refurbished” equipment. And with some manufacturers, that could be an issue. With Apple however, I’ve yet to have a problem. In fact, since they QC every item before selling in the refurb store, it’s actually been through the QC process twice. Most items come with a new-item 1 year warranty, and you can always buy AppleCare for them if you wish.

At the end of the day, it’s a good way to stretch your IT budget a little farther. Just do me a favor, OK? Don’t tell too many people. The more people that know about this means the supplies will become limited. And that means fewer Macs for me…