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Dollars and Devices: How to Make Tech Work on Your Student Budget

Good technology can feel out of reach for many college students. But with smart planning, you can stay on budget and get the best tech for your education.

For college students to succeed in today's world, technology must be part of the equation—including for success in school. While a pen and notebook still have their uses, implementing new technology can make life easier and more efficient. We’re sure you understand the importance of technology, but as a student likely on a tight budget, affording the newest tech isn’t always plausible. While software and computers can be expensive, there are ways to afford what you need without going into debt. Let’s explore some tech that can help you succeed in college, how you can afford it, and how to make the best use of free resources. 

Ensure you have the tech essentials

Many tech solutions are available to help students navigate and succeed during college. A solid internet connection in your dorm or apartment is key to connecting to online lectures, reading e-textbooks, completing assignments, and more. Whether you're home, at the library, or in class, a good laptop can help you stay on top of your studies.

Typing notes as your professor speaks in class allows you to document all that valuable information quickly without hand cramps. Tablets and smartphones can also be helpful for recording lectures, taking quick notes, and reading online textbooks. Various other gadgets can give you an edge too, including a portable hard drive so you can save larger files without bogging down your laptop, or a rechargeable battery pack for your smartphone to ensure you don't run out of juice during an important lecture.

Related: How to Utilize Technology to Get Ahead of the Class

How to save money on devices and services

While all that tech sounds nice, affording it can seem impossible. The good news is that you have many options for saving money on these essential tech solutions. Start by determining how much you can spend in the first place using budgeting templates that you can download online; you can also make your own templates using tools like Google Sheets. Use it to budget your tech costs plus room, board, supplies, and more so you can see how much you can spend on updated devices after your other school costs. From here, start finding ways to cut higher costs.

Hunting for sales and discounts

Keep an eye out for sales, especially on big days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can also sign up for newsletters from electronics companies like Best Buy to learn when something you need is available for less. When buying items from a store, look through the refurbished equipment, which is often much more affordable. Read reviews to find devices that are often as good as new.

Another option is to take advantage of student discounts. When you're shopping online, check if the site mentions discount opportunities, and if it doesn't, you can often chat with a representative and ask. You can also do a web search for “student discounts on [insert tech here],” and you'll get various results. Finally, there are companies that are known for providing student discounts; often, it's for things you will need in college like Microsoft Office.

Reassessing your internet subscription

If you’re living off campus and are responsible for your own internet provider, you may find that high costs could offset the money you’re saving with your student discounts. The good news is you can save money on your internet bill in many ways, including shopping around at different companies. Many often have deals for new customers. It would be best if you also opted for a lower internet speed. When you have the fastest speed with all the perks, it will cost more. Choosing a reduced package may be a good option if you can also study at the library or a friend’s place for better internet when you need it.

Utilizing your campus library

It may not always be as comfortable as staying at home or in your dorm, but visiting your college’s library may be one of the easiest ways to have all the tech and internet you need without the extra costs. Many college libraries have countless computer workstations you can use, and they may even rent out additional equipment. Of course, your library is also packed with textbooks and research materials that can supplement your online work. Plus, working outside your comfort zone may also help your creative juices flow, especially if your dorm is distracting.

Related: Colleges and Universities With the Best On-Campus Libraries

Using free tech to increase productivity

There are countless free apps and websites that can help students with a variety of tasks while keeping a lock on their wallets. A helpful time management tip is to use a digital calendar to schedule your days so you're always on task. Many apps allow you to set reminders to inform you when an event is coming up so you're never late. Fill your calendar with important test dates, study sessions, work shifts at your college job, and more. You can use something like Outlook or Google Calendar for free or find another app that fits your needs. And that's just the tip of the iceberg; there are many other helpful and free tools available online. Examples include:

  • Grammarly: Use it to check your prose and make sure your wording sounds just right.
  • Quizlet: Tell it the subject you're studying and the app will provide study tools.
  • Evernote: Keep all your school notes in one online place.
  • StudyStack: Make your own flashcards for more efficient studying.

If you need anything to supplement your studies, just search for it online and you'll likely find an affordable tech tool that can help.

Related: Tips for Better Organization and Study Habits in High School

It's easier than ever to find the digital tools you need to succeed in your college classes without breaking the bank. Create a budget, invest in the right resources with what you have, take advantage of free apps, and spend some much-needed time at the library, and you'll have everything you need to thrive as a 21st-century student.

Did you know some organizations offer scholarship money to help students afford technology for school? Find awards you’re eligible for using our Scholarship Search tool!

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