Smart Buying

8 Ways to Spend Less on Back-to-School Electronics

Follow these tips to save money on computers, tablets and smart phones for kids.

Electronics are on the back-to-school shopping lists of more than 55% of families with school-aged children, according to a National Retail Federation Survey. If you're among those planning to buy a computer, tablet or smart phone for your kid, you can keep the cost of these purchases under control by following these tips.

Shop on a 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 one of these states (see our list), plan to do your electronics shopping on a sales tax holiday. Avoiding sales tax can help you save 4% to 10% depending on the 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 by scouring the Web for the best deals. Our favorite deal site, dealnews.com, has a page devoted to the best computer deals. Amazon and PriceGrabber are good sources for comparing prices. Or you can find deeply discounted computers and other tech items on daily deal site Woot.com. Sign up for the site's e-mail alerts so you don't have to monitor it daily for deals.

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. See How Stores' Price-Match Policies Compare.

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, Dell.com, Newegg.com, TigerDirect.com (formerly CompUSA.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 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.

Look for bundles. If you're buying a laptop, 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 not much higher than what you'd pay for a laptop alone. according to dealnews.com. Among the best bundles dealnews.com has seen are Amazon's laptop and $100 gift card for $430 and Best Buy's Hewlett-Packard laptop with a flash drive, laptop sleeve and Kapersky Internet Sercurity for $300.

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. Check the provider's Web sites for offers. Or you could spend more to buy an unlocked phone (a phone that's not locked into a single-carrier's network) but cut the cost of a service plan by more than a half by opting for a prepaid wireless provider. See Cut the Cost of an iPhone in Half.

Don't splurge on features you won't use. When buying a laptop for your child, Dealnews.com recommends looking for systems with a dual-core processor (not a pricey quad-core setup). And you'll spend about $270 less is you opt for Intel's Ivy Bridge system -- which should meet a student's needs -- rather than its new Haswell system, according to dealnews.com. Also say no to tech support and retailers' extended warranties. Your credit card might offer an extended warranty. Another extra to avoid is Microsoft Office Home & Student edition ($139.99) because you can use Google Docs for free.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In
places to live

The 25 Cheapest U.S. Cities to Live In

Take a look at our list of American cities with the lowest costs of living. Is one of the cheapest cities in the U.S. right for you?
October 13, 2021
Gen X: How to Make Sure Your Future Self Remains Funded
personal finance

Gen X: How to Make Sure Your Future Self Remains Funded

If you’re a Gen Xer, like me, now might be the right time to talk to a financial professional to learn more about how to adjust your retirement planni…
October 20, 2021

Recommended

How Snowbirds Can Be Taxed as Florida Residents
retirement

How Snowbirds Can Be Taxed as Florida Residents

If you live in a high-tax state during the summer but winter in Florida, you can save big bucks by establishing residency in the Sunshine State.
October 25, 2021
Should I Use Credit or Debit?
Basics

Should I Use Credit or Debit?

Credit cards offer more protections and rewards, but debit cards reduce the temptation to overspend.
October 4, 2021
Negotiate a Better Deal
Smart Buying

Negotiate a Better Deal

For a price break on a number of products and services, all you have to do is ask. But first read up on tactics the experts use.
September 30, 2021
How to Haggle for Almost Anything
Smart Buying

How to Haggle for Almost Anything

These strategies will help you negotiate a better price for just about any product or service.
September 30, 2021