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Kip Tips


How to Save on Back-to-School Electronics

Cameron Huddleston

Follow these six tips to cut costs on computers, phones and other devices for students.



Among the most-expensive items on many families' back-to-school shopping lists are electronics, such as computers, tablets, MP3 players and smart phones. According to a National Retail Federation survey, families are expected to spend about $218, on average, on these items during the back-to-school shopping season this year. That might cover the cost of smaller items, such as phones, but families will have to shell out more if they want to buy laptop computers or certain tablets.

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However, there are ways to keep the cost of electronics under control. Jon Rettinger, president of gadget review site TechnoBuffalo, offers these tips:

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 by scouring the Web for the best deals. Our favorite deal site, dealnews.com, has a page devoted to the best computer deals. Other sites that feature deals on computers and other tech items include MacMall.com (Apple products), Offers.com, Shopping.com and Shopzilla.com.

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Monitor daily deals. You can find deeply discounted computers and other items on daily deal sites that specialize in tech products, such as RedTag.com and Woot.com. These sites feature just one product a day, but both offer e-mail alerts so that you don't have to monitor the sites each day.

Set up price alerts. If you want to buy a particular tech product (not just the lowest-price computer, for example), sign up for price alerts so that you can receive an e-mail when the price on that product changes. There are a number of price alert sites that track electronics, such as Gazaro, PriceSpider and PricePinx.

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. Among the sites where your can find refurbished computers, tablets and other products are Apple.com, BestBuy.com, CompUSA.com, Dell.com, Newegg.com and Walmart.com.

Take advantage of trade-in programs. One way to pay less for a new tech item is to trade in a used item. A number of retailers, including Best Buy, Circuit City and Radio Shack, have trade-in programs that offer cash, a gift card or credit for the value of a used item that can be applied toward the purchase of a new item.

Avoid extras. Just say no to tech support and retailers' extended warranties, Rettinger says. Your credit card might offer an extended warranty (see How Credit Cards' Extended Warranty Coverage Stacks Up). Or Rettinger suggests buying extended warranty coverage through SquareTrade.com, which offers warranties 40% to 60% cheaper than retailers' warranties. Another extra that he says to avoid is Microsoft Office Home & Student edition ($120) because you can use Google Docs for free.

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