By Nathaniel Sillin
It’s increasingly common to find classrooms filled with the blue hue of computer and tablet screens. Early education or postgraduate work, there’s a shift towards technology-driven, or at least technology-aided, schooling.
Students that learn to use technology to stay organized, conduct in-depth research and collaborate with peers can also use these skills in college and their professional lives.
What devices might students need? Laptops, tablets and smartphones are the primary devices that many students use. Although your child likely doesn’t need one of each, a graphing calculator is sometimes a second necessity for classes and standardized tests.
Some high schools have a one-to-one program and issue students a laptop or tablet that they can bring home. Other schools let students borrow devices while in class, or let students bring their own device.
While the upfront costs of purchasing a device are understandably higher, you might want to buy one anyway. You won’t need to return it, and it can be used during summer breaks and subsequent years at no extra cost.
Saving money when purchasing your own tech. If you decide to buy a device, you may be able to save money by timing your purchase and comparison shopping.
Find discounts during annual sales. Back-to-school sales often include electronics, making this a good time to buy. Some manufacturers release new models between June and August, which can lead to an even better discount on last year’s models. Labor Day and holidays sales are prime deal times later in the year.
Use retailers’ outlets. Manufacturers sometimes offer older models, open-box items, and refurbished electronics for a discount at their online outlet sites. The product might even be as good as new, but can’t be sold at full price because the box is damaged. Check back often because the sites frequently post new items.
Look for student deals. Some software companies and electronics manufacturers offer student discounts to high schoolers, while others restrict the savings to current or incoming college students. Research policies from manufacturers, as well as online retailers, and compare them with your local stores’ policies.
Educational discounts for homeschooling parents. Homeschooling parents may be eligible for manufacturers’ educational discounts even if their child doesn’t qualify for a student discount.
Shop at resellers. If you’re looking for a particular type of tablet or laptop, search far and wide for the best price. There’s no guarantee that buying directly from the manufacturer is cheapest.
Trade in old devices. Some retailers give you store credit for your old electronics. It’s a good option if you have a device that’s just gathering dust on a shelf.
Buy used. While used electronics may be older and slower than the latest model, that’s not always a problem. For example, some standardized tests forbid test takers from using newer web-enabled graphing calculators. You can find used items online, at garage sales and in local Facebook buy/sell/trade groups. If there isn’t a warranty or guarantee from a reputable company, determine the device’s quality before making a purchase.
Always check for coupons and rebates. Whether you’re shopping online or in a store, always check for coupons and discount codes. Researching the store’s name plus “coupon code” will often result in a list of sites with the latest codes. Look for more savings by searching the product’s name plus rebate.
Consider budget laptops. There are laptops available for just a few hundred dollars. Although these less expensive options may come at a compromise on performance or storage capabilities, they can be well suited for students’ basic tasks.
Where you find the best deal can depend on what you’re looking for, the time of year and one-off promotions. Consider all your options and weigh the pros and cons of buying an older or used device.
Bottom line: Understanding technology is a necessity for many of today’s students and professionals. Ensuring students have access to technology at home could help them excel at school and later in life. While some devices can be costly, there are programs and opportunities that can help you save money if you know where to look.
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney