It’s back to school time again and parents are scraping their pennies in anticipation for shopping to send their kids off to school. Electronics can make up a substantial part of the budget. Kiplinger’s editor Cameron Huddleston offers parents 8 suggestions on easing the burden:
- Shop on sales tax holidays—seventeen states will have sales tax holidays in July and August that will allow consumers to purchase back-to-school items, such as clothing, computers and school supplies, tax free. If you live in these states, plan to do you electronics shopping on a sales tax holiday—it could help you save 4% to 10% depending on your state.
- Shop online—shopping online makes it easy to compare prices from several retailers. And there are plenty of sites that do the bargain hunting for you. Dealnews.com has a page devoted to the best computer deals; Amazon and PriceGrabber are good sources for comparing prices.
- Take advantage of price-match policies—if you find a good deal online but don’t want to pay shipping costs, you might be able to get the same price in a brick-and-mortar store if it has a price-match policy. For example, Best Buy and Target will match Amazon prices.
- Buy refurbished—you can save a lot by purchasing refurbished tech items, which are used but restored to like-new condition and usually have a one-year warranty. Try Apple.com, BestBuy.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com and Walmart.com to find refurbished electronics.
- Take advantage of trade-in programs—one way to pay less for new tech items is to trade in a used item. A number of retailers, including Best Buy and Radio Shack, have trade-in programs that offer cash, a gift card or credit that can be applied toward the purchase of a new item.
- lLook for bundles—look for bundle deals, which are popular back-to-school promotions among tech retailers. The deals typically include a gift card, printer, gaming console or other accessory along with a laptop—at a price near what you would expect to pay for the laptop alone.
- Get a free phone—mobile phone service providers, such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, often offer free smart phones when you sign up for a two-year service plan. Considering smart phones usually cost $200 or more, this can be a major savings. Or you could buy an unlocked phone and cut the cost of a service plan by more than half by opting for a prepaid wireless provider.
- Don’t splurge on features you won’t use—when buying a laptop for your child, look for systems with a dual-core processor (not a pricey quad-core setup). And you’ll spend about $270 less if you opt for Intel’s Ivy Bridge system—which should meet a student’s needs—rather than its new Haswell system. Also, say no to tech support and retailers’ extended warranties—your credit card might offer an extended warranty.