Back to school season has sent pupils – and their parents – on the hunt for the best hardware, peripherals and tools to help them in their studies.
While buying a lot of new items for going back to school can make this an expensive time of the year, there are a number of shopping tips you should know to make sure you get the best possible deals on the hardware and gadgets that you – or any student you know – need to make studying at school, college or university, as easy and as fun as possible.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of eight back to school shopping tips that every parent needs to know while searching for Back to School sales.
Quick links to Back to School deals
1. Know what you’re looking for
Before hopping between online stores and frantically buying all sorts of gadgets and gizmos for students before they head off back to school, you can save yourself a lot of time, money and energy by making a list of the essentials they need to buy.
A student’s needs will vary depending on their age, the academic institution they are attending and the courses they are taking, so it is worth making sure you know what they need before you buy. Talking to teachers or lecturers about the requirements, and studying any information you or the student have been sent about their course, will help you draw up a list of essentials.
2. Make use of our guides
We don’t like to toot our own horn (well, OK, we do), but we have some excellent back to school guides that can help you find and buy the perfect back to school devices.
If you’re looking for a bargain, then check out our 5 best back to school laptop deals page for a constantly-updated list of the very best offers.
If you have more specific needs, then we also have a number of guides that can help you find the exact laptop for your needs.
So, we have the 5 best laptops for engineering students which takes into account the particular requirements for those courses.
After buying a laptop, make sure it’s well looked after by checking out our list of the 10 best back to school backpacks.
3. Don’t just get flashy devices
We’re all guilty of going for devices with stylish designs and bags of features that we’re not realistically going to use, but when buying a laptop – or any other device – for students going back to school, restraint in this area is essential.
As much as we all love to have gorgeously-designed devices we can pull out and wow people with, it can add costs to the overall price of the gadget, and it’s not a priority for students. With laptops being slung in bags, carried around campus and left under piles of clothes, those beautifully-designed bits of hardware won’t look very good for long, so you’d be better off going for something that’s built more robustly.
Having glitzy and glamorous-looking hardware can also make them more appealing for thieves as well.
4. Take advantage of student offers
One of the best things about being a student (apart from all the parties) is that you’re eligible for many money-saving offers, so when back to school season rolls around, make sure you make the most out of these.
5. Don’t be scared of second hand or refurbished kit
You can bag yourself a serious bargain by looking at second hand kit – especially refurbished hardware. This is hardware that has been professionally repaired and often comes with a warranty, so you can buy with confidence that although it is second hand, it is still as good as new.
6. Refresh old hardware
Speaking of old hardware, if you have an ageing laptop that’s not being used much anymore, then it could find a new lease of life as a back to school laptop. If it’s running Windows and feels a bit slow, follow our guide on . This is a great way to give an older machine a new lease of life.
Finally, you can help prolong the life of an old laptop by replacing Windows with a lightweight Linux distribution. These are operating systems that have been specially designed to run on older hardware, which means you’ll still get a fast and responsive experience no matter the age or power of your machine. Many Windows programs have Linux versions – or there will be (free) alternatives to use. Check out our list of the to help you choose.
7. Wait for Black Friday
If you can hold off a few months then you can save yourself some serious bargains for going back to school when and roll around at the end of November, as shops – both online and traditional stores – cut prices for a huge range of products.
While by the time Black Friday and Cyber Monday hit students will have been back at school for a good while, it may be worth holding out for some of the expensive – though not totally essential – items, as you could end up saving decent amounts of cash.
8. Use free software alternatives
Buying software, such as office suites and photo editors can be expensive. While specialist programs needed for certain courses may not have free alternatives, many common programs do.
So, if you or the student you know needs a word processor, or has to create spreadsheets or presentations, instead of splashing out on Microsoft Office, you should look at install the excellent free alternative , which has many of the same features. For more choices, check out our guide.
You’ll also want to make sure that any important coursework is properly backed up – as losing months of hard work and studying can be catastrophic, so make sure you visit our roundup to help recover any missing files, and our list.