moms

5 ways to save on tech bling this back-to-school season

Aug. 30, 2013 at 8:35 AM ET

Video: From calculators to laptops, the tech your kids need for school can cost a fortune. But TODAY’s digital lifestyle editor Mario Armstrong has helpful tips to keep costs down, like finding refurbished items and making group purchases.

School is expensive — there is no doubt about that! Whether you are paying tuition or not, it has really become pricey just to buy the supplies. So, I have put together a few tips on how you can possibly save a little this back-to-school season.

Tip #1: Buy refurbished. This is a great way to save a lot of money by buying previously owned equipment. Now I know when you hear the word “refurbished” you might immediately think old or used, maybe even beat-up. That is truly not the case. First of all — and most importantly — always buy your refurbished devices directly from the manufacturer, and if you are a worry wart, you can increase your warranty protection.

For example, consider the way Apple backs its refurb program:

“Before we put a refurbished Mac, iPod, iPad, or Apple TV up for sale in Special Deals, it undergoes a rigorous refurbishment process to make sure it’s up to Apple’s tough quality standards. We back it with our standard one-year limited warranty. And you have the option of purchasing an AppleCare Protection Plan for it to extend your warranty.

That’s one reason why you should buy from the manufacturer. Another is that refurbished doesn’t necessarily mean that the item is bad or old. Sometimes people will receive a laptop or a computer, use it for two or three weeks and then turn it in because they didn’t like it. These items also are considered refurbished, so you basically can get a new computer for a large discount.

Tip #2: Never pay full price for textbooks. According to the College Board 2012-2013, the average annual cost of textbooks is $1,200. That is crazy! Always look into other options before just forking over your money for brand new textbooks. Try out a site like Chegg.com, which allows you to rent your textbooks instead of buy them for a lot less money. You also can buy used or new textbooks and then sell them back when you are finished with a course. If the book is still current, you can get a good chunk of your money back.

Tip #3:Arrange for a group purchase. Here’s a new idea in back-to-school savings! Microsoft has a smart back-to-school program called “Chip In” that makes it easy for others to help you pay for what you need. Basically, a student creates a profile on the site and chooses a new Windows 8 PC as a goal. The student can share his or her giving page via social media or email links directly to friends and family, who can then contribute money toward the purchase. Microsoft will then “chip in” by discounting the PC by 10 percent and providing the student with Office 365 University for free for four years.

Tip #4:Sell your old device for cash so you can buy new. Do you have a drawer that is full of old cell phones, iPods and tablets — all of your old electronics that you are never going to use again because you’ve replaced them with something new? Why not make some money off of that equipment and use the cash to get a new device for school?  

Gazelle.com is a site that will give you top dollar for your old devices. It works in a few easy steps: Go online and choose the model you have, then describe its condition and answer two other questions. You are then immediately given the amount that it is worth. If you choose to sell your device, they will send you a box with prepaid postage. You simply drop in your device, mail it back and in a couple of days you receive your check.

Tip #5: Check to see whether stores or manufacturers are offering special student/teacher discounts, rewards or gift cards. Don’t just walk into a store and buy something at full price! Many retailers and manufacturers are offering special deals just for students and teachers. Best Buy has all sorts of special discounts and coupon codes when students go to the Best Buy site and enter their .edu email addresses. For example, you can get $200 off one of my favorite laptops, the Lenovo Yoga, or $100 off the ever-popular Mac.

Microsoft has a similar deal that gives students and teachers 10 percent off a Surface, as well as discounts on software and accessories at its online store. Again, just enter your .edu email address on its site

Apple is rewarding students, teachers and school staffers with gift cards. If they buy a Mac, they get a $100 gift card to the Apple Store. An iPad or iPhone purchase yields a $50 iTunes gift card.

Get more from Mario Armstrong, the Digital Lifestyle Expert®, at his website, www.MarioArmstrong.com, and follow him on Twitter @MarioArmstrong.

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