Do you remember the days when school supplies consisted of pens, pencils and a few notebooks? Sure, the occasional highlighter or Trapper Keeper may have found its way into the mix, but nothing needed charging, wi-fi or 4G to work properly. Now there are entire generations who know nothing of these archaic ways, back when notes were taken by hand.
If your heart sank when you saw the prices of supplies your kids consider essential, you're not alone. The National Retail Federation estimates a whopping $83.8 billion will be spent on K-12 and college essentials this year. Despite this alarmingly high figure, lots of parents are searching for ways to buy those gadgets with the hopes of not overspending. Before you begin back-to-school shopping, consider these tips to cut costs on high technology.
Take Advantage of Add-ons
Video games often play the foil to homework, but both Dell and Microsoft are offering a free Xbox 360 with the purchase of a computer priced $699 or more. For the Mac loyalists, Apple is providing a $100 gift card for downloads from the App Store and iTunes with qualifying computer orders.
There are still traditionalists who will never make the switch from the printed page, but the time may come when anything other than the e-reader is an anomaly. Luckily, the top-of-the-line models of both the Barnes & Noble NOOK and the Amazon Kindle top out around $200.
In the vein of embracing change, you don't have to rely on in-store stock to get what you want. Sites like FreeShipping.org offer online coupons to TigerDirect, where you can find a huge selection of laptops, tablets, printers, monitors and more. Similarly, Newegg has an open-box section offering previously-owned items for a fraction of their original cost.
Pay in Advance
For most students, socializing with schoolmates is far more interesting than biology or calculus. If you've ever been the recipient of a sky-high cell phone bill due to your son or daughter's social life, it might be time to switch them to a prepaid plan. Boost Mobile offers a plan for popular Android phones which includes unlimited talk, text and email for just $55 per month.
When you upgrade to the newest gadget, what happens to your old stuff? Instead of letting it sit in a drawer collecting dust, take advantage of trade-in programs and get yourself some cash. Stores such as Radio Shack will provide you with an online appraisal as well as free packaging and free shipping should you decide to sell them your outdated items.
If a class assignment calls for equipment that's pricey and you won't necessarily need after the work is complete, consider renting it. Sites like Snapgoods.com connects people interested in renting or borrowing each others' gear for an affordable fee. Search by city to uncover local electronic rentals like photo scanners, video and digital cameras, laptops, and projectors.
Look Beyond the I's
The iPad gets all of the attention, but the tablet market is rapidly expanding and over saturated so you can find competitive prices from other brands. These days there are quality tablets from brands like Samsung and Google available under $300. If your student's social standing can't handle the impact of being seen with anything less than Apple, Gamestop has refurbished iPads that will save you more than $100 over buying brand new.
Brush Up on Tech News
Technology changes so fast these days, what was at the top of the list last year might as well be a quill and ink set this year. Apple users are already reeling from news the new iPhone 5 will have a smaller charger port. This means previously purchased accessories such as speakers and chargers will also need to be upgraded. Sometimes waiting a few months to make a purchase leads to less expense in the long run.
Use Student Status
While most students bemoan their status as they strive for adulthood, it does come with some advantages. For example, Amazon Student offers a free six-month trial with a valid .edu email address which includes benefits like free two-day shipping, exclusive discounts and access to streaming videos. After the six-month trial is up, membership costs only $39 per year. Apple is another brand who offers a student-discount advantage with special education prices on computers, software and select third party goods. For more ways to exploit student status, try these discounts.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers.
I'm a former 7th grade Science teacher turned stay-at-home mom that lives in Houston, Texas. I am married to my college sweetheart and have a beautiful daughter named Riley, who definitely keeps me on my toes! I am also involved in starting a small business which would both manufacture and sell an invention that I've patented, called Toothpaste 2 Go. I love interacting with my readers and hope to learn as much about you as you learn about me!