If you have kids, or you happen to be a student, it’s safe to say that back-to-school shopping has commenced.
Increasingly, this means some high-tech purchases. Laptops, PCs, tablets … that sort of thing. These can be some pretty big-ticket items, so bargain shopping becomes more important than ever. Saving 99 cents on a package of lined paper is nice, but saving $400 on the purchase of a new laptop is a lot better.
To help you out on those high-tech student purchases, we’ve put together a list of 10 ways you can save money when shopping.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Educational Pricing
One of the easiest ways to save money is to pick a company that offers educational pricing.
For example, both Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) offer discounts to students. With Apple, the amount of savings varies by device, while Microsoft says students can save 10% on purchases. You may have to provide proof of student status, such as a valid educational e-mail account in order to qualify for the reduced pricing.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Special Offers
Some tech companies put together special offers for the back-to-school shopping season. These often take the form of bundles that net the buyer a nice extra for free with a big ticket purchase.
One of the best-known examples of this is Apple’s annual back-to-school offer. This year, students get a free pair of Beats Solo3 wireless headphones with the purchase of a Mac, or PowerBeats3 wireless earbuds with an iPad Pro. Those offers are worth $300 and $200, respectively.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Buy a 2-in-1
One strategy for saving money on multiple devices has become much more compelling in recent years as mobile chip advances have made 2-in-1 devices much more capable.
Pick one of these 2-in-1s, and a single device can do double duty as both a laptop and a tablet. They can take the form of a tablet with an add-on keyboard, or a laptop with a 360-degree hinge that allows the touchscreen display to rotate completely for a slate form factor.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Chromebook Offers
Before you spend any money on a new laptop for a student, it’s worth checking out whether their school has a program involving Chromebooks.
Many school boards now supply students with a Chromebook for the school year. There is usually no cost to parents (unless the laptop is lost), but that does mean that they have to be returned at the end of the school year. Still, a free Chromebook for class means crossing one expensive item off that back-to-school shopping list.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Trade Up
If you have some older high-tech devices that aren’t being used, it’s possible that you might be able to trade them in for credit toward new products, like a laptop.
For example, Apple’s GiveBack program offers Apple Store gift cards in exchange for older products that you trade in. And they don’t even need to have the Apple logo! For example, you could get $50 to spend on a new MacBook by trading in a BlackBerry.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Hand Down
Another strategy for leveraging a laptop or tablet that you already own is to hand it down to a student.
A laptop used for school probably doesn’t need to be especially high powered. Unless it’s being used in a specialized program like one involving video editing, most students are using laptops or tablets primarily for online research and completing assignments.
That’s a perfect opportunity for a parent who needs a new, more capable laptop to to hand down their existing model to a student.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Upgrade an Existing Laptop or PC
If you’re not afraid to crack open an older PC or laptop — and it’s not a model like the 12-inch MacBook where everything is soldered to the motherboard — you can get more life out of it on the cheap with two simple upgrades.
Adding more RAM pays off with the ability to open more windows and more applications, and may speed up system performance by minimizing use of virtual memory. But the big win with older computers is the addition of an SSD. Starting up takes a faction of the time, saving or loading files is far faster and overall system performance is zippier.
As little as a hundred dollars in components (SSDs have come down a lot in price) and an hour of time can make an old laptop or PC feel almost like new.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Wait For An Apple Event
I’m spiking out Apple here, but the same can be true of other major manufacturers of laptops and tablets.
If you don’t have a specific time when a new laptop or tablet is needed, the lead-up to a major event, and the weeks after can yield big savings when new models are introduced and existing stock is being cleared out by retailers.
For example, Apple is expected to announce new iPad Pro models and seems likely to finally launch a MacBook Air upgrade in the fall — if not September, then in October. So if you want to save big money on the current generation products, it might be worth waiting until those events.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Watch for Sales
This is the old school method, but it still holds true even in the days of PCs, tablets and laptops: watch for the sales flyers.
Back-to-school shopping is a big deal for retailers. Whether online or a big box store, the sales ramp up as the return to classes gets closer. So before making any big ticket purchase, make sure to give the flyers and websites a quick glance — a few minutes of time can pay off big when you’re talking laptop or tablet money.
Ways to Save Money on Back-to-School Tech: Go Refurbished
Finally, a tip that I pass along on a regular basis. You can save considerably when you choose a refurbished product instead of buying brand new.
But the gold standard remains Apple. The company keeps a regular stock of Apple Certified refurbished products. They come in a plain white box (but the packaging is still nice), they carry the same one-year warranty as new products and they are cleaned to be visually perfect. Refurbished iPads even get new batteries and a new shell. And you can save big — as much as 35% off the price of new.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.