Saving for students and keeping within their college budget


The latest laptops and smartphones aren’t just a luxury to help kill time between classes. Technology’s place on campus has grown over the years, making these devices necessary classroom tools if you expect to graduate with honors. Unfortunately, these gadgets’ price tag put the average student’s finances to the test. Here are some ways you can take the pressure off your budget when you’re shopping for tech.

It doesn’t matter if you’re buying your very first laptop or a replacement one for the buggy hunk of junk you’ve lugged around for years. Brand new, this equipment can take a significant chunk out of your budget — costing multiple thousands of dollars depending on the make and model.

Second-hand, these devices put less strain on your finances, but they come with a certain stigma. Many consumers believe they risk buying a dud when they shop from refurbished items, and for a long time, they were right. In the past, refurbs were often a ticking time bomb.

Now, things have changed in the refurb world. For one thing, the second-hand market has flourished into a lush ecosystem of physical stores, websites, and apps that facilitate these transactions. For another, some of the biggest manufacturers are getting in on it. Apple, Dell, and even Amazon are throwing their weight behind refurbished devices.

Their presence has changed the meaning of “used” when applied to tech. It’s not a decade old computer on its last leg being resold after a quick wipe. When you purchase a used laptop, tablet, or phone from one of these companies (as opposed to a stranger on Craigslist), it goes through rigorous testing to ensure it meets factory specifications.

If brand-new tech still shiny in its plastic packaging is too much of a temptation to ignore, there are alternative ways to leverage your tech budget. You can increase the purchasing power of your dollar by shopping strategically according to sales. The back-to-school season sees a lot of retailers applying student discounts to their inventory. Best Buy, Staples, and even Walmart offer back-to-school deals and sales at the beginning of the fall semester.

Some of the biggest manufacturers join in as well, including:

  • Apple: Apple’s Education Pricing is available to educators and students alike. It takes up to $200 off the total price of qualifying Mac and iPad products, and it offers AppleCare protection at a 20 percent discount. Apple also throws in a pair of Beats headphones for free.
  • Microsoft: The Microsoft Education Store applies deep discounts to a variety of Microsoft products. Student PCs start as low as $100, while all Surface Pro tablets receive a 10 percent discount.
  • Lenovo: With discounts ranging from 10–15 percent, Lenovo offers competitive pricing for students on a budget. These discounts apply to Alienware, ThinkPads, Lenovo bundles, and even Microsoft Office Suite.

Many of their academic discounts are available year-round for anyone who has a valid student ID, which can be helpful when you need to replace something later in the year.

Even with these discounts applied, the total cost of your equipment can be too much to pay up front. Many of the top manufacturers (including the ones listed above) offer lease-to-own programs that help offset the initial cost of your tech.

Each program is different. They often end up being customized to your financial situation, reflecting both your need and your credit history. Typically, you can expect to pay a small portion of your bill when you first purchase a device. You’ll pay the rest of what you owe over a deferred payment schedule that cycles monthly, quarterly, or even annually.

Now that you’ve dropped a ton of money on your tech for the school year, the last thing you want to do is spend more money on repairs or replacements. You simply can’t afford it.

It may seem like a cliché but treating your tech with the respect it deserves is an easy way to extend the lifespan of your phones, laptops, tablets, and any number of other devices. Simple care can go a long way to making sure your tech doesn’t get damaged.

While regular maintenance can keep its internal workings performing well, your own behavior can prevent hardware issues. For example, you should think twice about setting a latte next to your iPhone or balancing your MacBook on a precarious pile of books.

Beyond behaviour adjustments, you can protect your tech by investing in defensive accessories. An iPhone skin works as a great backup if you forget your handset and your pumpkin spice latte don’t mix. These skins join a greater catalogue of decals that protect your devices. They prevent a spill from causing damage because companies like dbrand have teamed up with 3M vinyl to create an impervious, scratch-free, and grime resistant layer that covers your tech. You can find quality skins for your phone, laptop, and tablet with the option to customize their look. Pair these skins with a screen protector and a commuter backpack to hold your tech in place — preventing unnecessary damages as you transport it across campus.

Gone are the days when you could rely on just analogue supplies like pens and paper throughout your career on campus. Those were the dark ages. Now, it’s 2018, and you’re expected to arrive to class with an IoT device, submit essays typed in Times New Roman, and do group work online. While this tech makes it easier to be a student, they also make it harder for those on a small budget. Luckily, there are ways to fill your backpack with the tech you need without paying full price. You just have to be a little creative.

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