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Five Tips for Back-to-School Tech Shopping

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As the first day of school rapidly approaches, parents are scrambling to get the kids in gear -- and that includes sending the kids off tech-ready. Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind when shopping for back-to-school tech gadgets.

1. Make a list, and prioritize.

A brand new computer can make a sizeable dent in your credit card. So, as with grocery shopping, when going back-to-school shopping ensure that you make a list and prioritize what you need and what you merely want. Chances are you only need the bare necessities and the all of the other gadgets are simple wants. Bear in mind that you can go a long way with a small budget -- even when it comes to technology.

2. Do your research.

Before hitting up the big box electronic stores, remember to do your research! Keep in mind that stores often mark up prices come back-to-school time, and sales associates sometimes try to sell you electronics that you really don't need. Instead, go online -- there are many great parenting resources like Today's Parent -- where parents share past experiences and shopping advice, and find out what your child really needs for their age group. Needs shift as they move through elementary school, to high school, to post-secondary education.

3. Hunt for the sales in flyers, and online.

Keep an eye on the weekly flyers and online on store websites. Parents often make the mistake of leaving back-to-school shopping to the last minute and they -- literally -- pay for the procrastination. Flyerland.ca is a great all-in-one destination for local flyers, and big box stores have sales early on in the season with limited quality items. Laptops also go on sale late-July/early-August, and that is the ideal time for families to head to the store and save some money simultaneously!

4. Cash-strapped? Take a look at feature phones.

The reality is, we live in a smartphone-dominated world. They aren't cheap to start with, so if you are a little cash-strapped, be sure to take a look at feature phones. Cell phone carriers, like Rogers Wireless, offer an inexpensive alternative to having a smartphone that maintains access to social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and email; without the added cost of an actual data plan. They can range from $7/month and up; versus the $25+/month with a traditional data plan.

5. Find the free alternatives to expensive programs.

Companies like OpenOffice offer free or inexpensive alternatives to productivity software tools like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop. There are no strings attached -- they are simply open-source software choices (maintained by free developers) that offer significant savings to a family, giving the same amount of functionality as the traditional paid software, without the high price tag.

What tips do you have when it comes to back-to-school tech shopping? Share them with us in the comments below, or Tweet me @WinstonSih!

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