Back-to-school shopping in the COVID-19 era: what you need to know

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NEW YORK – Everything looks different in the coronavirus era, including back to school.

For home-learning students, their school supply lists can include new technology – and the price tags can add up.

Items like cleaning supplies, laptops, and printers top the list. According to the National Retail Federation, 76% of shoppers expect to spend as much or more than they initially expected.

Blogger and mother Lindsay Stump said she is getting creative with her children’s “home classroom”.

“Before you go to the stores or go online, buy from you. I like to see what I can rework or reuse in creative ways,” said Stump, who runs the OrganizedToSave YouTube channel.

With so many students doing at least some of their distance learning, more and more families are buying one more screen.

Stephanie Humphrey, technology and lifestyle contributor at ABC News, recommends buying a tablet for young children because their schoolwork won’t require a lot of processing power from a computer.

“Students from middle school to high school, I would say to watch a [Google’s] Chromebook… They’ll get the job done in terms of video conferencing and uploading content to online classroom platforms, ”she said.

Buying a lightly used Chromebook also saves money.

“I would highly recommend using a factory refurbished device… if you’re using another website to get a refurbished device, make sure you get at least a one year warranty,” Humphrey said.

She also recommends swapping out current devices to get credit for new ones.

“Then only buy as needed. You might be able to get by by improving what you already have,” she said.

Another tip for “smart buyers”: Experts say point-of-sale loans are worth considering.

This type of loan is similar to the layaway, said Hitha Herzog, head of research at H Squared Research.

“Maybe you don’t have enough funds to pay it off in full, but you can pay it in increments,” she said. “Different types of companies like Affirm, Afterpay and Klarna provide these types of loans.”

For those who qualify, 0% funding is available; but, as with all agreements, read the fine print.

“Make sure you compare your interest rates on your credit cards against these point-of-sale loans, and then make a decision based on that,” Herzog said.

Experts encourage buyers to know and stick to their budgets.

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