SOUTH BEND According to several surveys, families are spending anywhere between $600-1,000 on back to school needs. The National Retail Federation (NRF) says part of that increasing cost is technology. NRF says parents of high school students will shell out the most on back to school gadgets, around $230.
Retailers are capitalizing on increasing demand by offering up-to-date devices for all ages. A sales manager for AT&T says there are affordable gadgets for kids as young as elementary. The provider introduced a smart watch called "Filip," designed with safety in mind. The bright green or pink watch allows parents to program up to five numbers children can call in an emergency on speakerphone from the watch. Plus, it has a new "border" capability.
"It will tell you when your kid leaves school and when they re-enter the border around your house, and it will text message you if they're not in a certain time frame of doing that," said Jason Jenkins, area retail sales manager for AT&T.
For middle and high school students, Jenkins suggests tablets. Devices range in size and price depending on the user. For college, Jenkins says it's all about communication. He suggested an Amazon phone that gives buyers a free year subscription to "Prime," the online retailer's 2-day, free shipping service.
"A couple taps on your phone and you can have that stuff shipped to your house in a couple days," said Jenkins. "It's much more interactive and much more personalized."
As more families dive into technology, some are looking for ways to save. Andrea Woroch, a consumer money saving expert with online management company Kinoli Inc., says these tips will help.
1. Trade up.
Technology changes rapidly, so take advantage of trade-in programs at stores like Walmart, Target and Amazon to exchange old gadgets for gift cards.
2. Wait for new releases.
Older versions of phones and tablets go on sale when new items are released.
3. Grab a bundle.
Look for back-to-school promotions that offer discounts when you buy phones, tablets and accessories at once.
4. Study the Price Policy.
Ask a store if they will price match or price guarantee with other deals you've found, chances are they will.
Click here for more back to school spending numbers.