Going back to school can be stressful, not only because it’s school but also because students often find themselves having to spend money they don’t really have. After tuition and books, there’s often very little to no money left to buy a replacement laptop or a new phone.
Stretching your dollar comes down to a combination of buying the right equipment and using the right coupons, as Kannon illustrated in his article about saving money on a new computer. Many companies extend special offers to students that can slash the price of your back-to-school shopping list, which in turn means you might be able to afford what you actually want rather than resort to whatever is affordable.
Buying A Laptop For Less
Finding a good laptop for a low price is a real challenge. Many models are available, and the hardware can be confusing. Manufacturers often sell older components in cut-rate systems, confusing buyers with the sheer volume of choice.
As a student, you should be looking for a dual-core Intel or quad-core AMD laptop. Avoid systems with an Intel Atom or AMD C-Series/E-Series processor, as these are older and meant for netbooks. Grab a system with 4 GB of RAM. Don’t worry about discrete graphics, because you probably can’t afford anything worthwhile, but do worry about price. Google Shopping is still the best tool for comparing the price of a given system from multiple online retailers.
You’re going to see a lot of back-to-school deals from retailers, and they can be a boon. But you should be careful, too. These sales are sometimes used to clear out slow, unwanted laptops that don’t meet the recommended minimum specifications I outlined in the paragraph above. You’re going to be using the laptop you purchase for some time, so it’s worth an extra $50 to make sure you grab an adequate processor.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Free Phones
Another crucial piece of technology for students is the phone. Sure, it might not for studying, but don’t fool yourself; the social aspect of schooling is important. A decent phone makes staying in touch easier.
The bad news is that top-tier phones are more expensive than ever before, but the good news is that free phones are actually pretty decent, too. Options like the Nokia Lumia 928, HTC First and LG Optimus G have proven a cheap phone isn’t a one-way ticket to seclusion. Heck, even the iPhone 4 is free at many carriers. And while you’re looking at phones, ask about student pricing. Many carriers offer reduced rates.
You will have to sign a contract, however, which may be a problem; can you afford it, month-to-month? If not, you should check out a pre-paid phone plan. You may be on the hook for a bit more up-front, but you’re also not at risk of destroying your credit because you couldn’t pay the bill. Poor credit can make renting an apartment or buying a car more difficult, so be careful. And you can still get a decent phone on a pre-paid plan.
Tablet Deals Are Everywhere
Tablets are not crucial back-to-school technology, but buying one is a justifiable decision. A tablet can be used to watch movies, play games, browse the web and even read books. Not every night is party night; sometimes you’ll just want to relax in your dorm, and the tablet can help.
There are plenty of affordable tablets on the market today, including the Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7 and Windows Surface RT. Your choice will come down to personal preference, and deals of the hardware can be found with ease. The only tablets you won’t easily find offers for are Apple’s iPad Mini and iPad, which are probably out of the average student’s price range.
Use Student Pricing
Many companies offer deals to students that they don’t extend to regular consumers. In most cases, these deals are available either with student ID or by logging in to an online store with a student email address. Here’s a list of what you can receive.
Academic Superstore: This stand-alone online store collects a wide variety of software and hardware, some of which is available at student pricing. But not all – so be sure to check prices with competitors before buying.
Apple: Use the Apple Store for Education to receive up to $200 of Mac products as well as a gift card with the purchase of any iPad, iPhone or Mac.
Best Buy: Log in to Best Buy’s website with a student email address to receive instant-off coupons like $100 of a MacBook, $200 of a Lenovo Yoga ultrabook and $40 off an Epson printer. You can even grab a compact refrigerator/microwave combo for $110.
Dell: The Dell University store offers a variety of small discounts, as well as $200 promo credit valid to the purchase of a Microsoft Xbox 360 if you buy a PC priced at $699 or above.
HP: Log in to HP Academy to save up to $200 instantly on laptops, desktops and tablets.
Lenovo: The Lenovo Academic Purchase Program offers a wide variety of limited-time discounts which usually range from 20% to 40% off ThinkPad and IdeaPad laptops as well as, on occasion, desktops and accessories.
Microsoft: The Microsoft Student Store can be used to grab four years of Office 365 for just $79.99, but there’s more than just Microsoft products for sell. A wide variety of laptops from ASUS, Acer, Samsung and others are sold at reduce prices.
Newegg: While it does not offer any discounts on hardware, Newegg does run an Academic Software section that provides discounts on products from Adobe, Corel, Microsoft and others.
Sony: Theoffers up to 10% off a variety of tablet, laptops, cameras, headphones, and just about everything else the company makes. Limited-time offers appear frequently, too.
Qualifying as a student can save you a lot of money, so much so that people who aren’t students often try to cheat their way into the discounts! Remember, however, that a discount is no good if the product isn’t what you need. Resist the urge to impulse buy and do a little research to make sure you get the right technology at a great price.
Image credit: Flickr/CollegeDegrees360