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The Acer Chromebook Spin 11.

School supplies are front and center in stores and online this month as kids get ready for the classroom again. And parents are feeling the pressure to buy them the latest and greatest tech. A recent Bankrate survey found 43% of parent shoppers admitted they feel pushed to overspend on gadgets.

Retail services company Deloitte released its annual back-to-school survey revealing that moms and dads will fork out $3.6 billion on things like phones, wearables and data plans for their kids this fall. On average, the report says those buying electronics for their kids will spend about $305.

So let’s get the most bang for our buck when it comes to gadgets for the school year. While some of the items on my list do cost a pretty penny, some are rather affordable and super useful.a

First, take advantage of promotions going on right now to get a great deal on either a Google Home Mini or an Amazon Echo Dot. These smart assistants can play music, tell jokes, call people or help fact check a homework assignment. Both devices allow parents to filter explicit music and set time limits.

When my youngest was a preteen, we didn’t want to buy him a phone yet, but were ready to ditch our landline. Since he would be home alone on occasion, the Google Home Mini was the perfect answer since we could still keep in touch without another data plan.

Right now, both the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot are about half off for $25, and you can get an extra 10% off the Google Home Mini by registering with Student Beans, a website full of student discounts.

For students heading to college, noise-cancelling headphones can really come in handy when they’re trying to block out distractions to study. CNET recommends the Bose 700, which sound amazing and have 20 hours of battery life. These headphones can easily pair with whichever voice assistant you prefer. (But with a $400 price tag, these may not be a realistic choice for most students.)

For a less expensive option, check out the Beats Studio 3 Wireless headphones. At $350, the price is still up there, but don’t overlook the “renewed” options on Amazon for approximately half the price. Renewed products on Amazon are tested and inspected to ensure they look and work like new. They may arrive in a generic box (ours didn’t), but also come with a 90-day guarantee.

With the on-the-go lifestyle of students, they’ll need to find a way to keep all their gadgets powered up. It’s good to always keep a portable charger handy, but why not integrate it with something students are already carrying around: a backpack.

So-called smart backpacks are easy to find, but look closely to see if the bag comes with a battery, or if you’ll have to buy that separately. The Tylt Powerbag has plenty of room for all your devices and can charge three of them at once with its built-in rechargeable battery. The $129.99 bag can charge a phone four times and a tablet once, and comes with a one-year warranty.

Finally, let’s talk about what is likely the most important device for many students: the laptop.

You can go with an inexpensive product, but in options under the $400 range, you’ll find memory and speed lacking. For a decent budget option, try the Acer Chromebook Spin 11. It’s in the $200 range and is a pretty great 11.6-inch convertible for the price. It comes with a stylus, but only has 32 GB of storage and about a six-hour battery life. These price-conscious options might be okay for middle school and high school kids but would likely prove frustrating for college students.

CNET is usually my go-to for laptop recommendations, and they rated the Lenovo Yoga Chromebook C630 as the best 15.6-inch convertible. You can use it as a laptop or a huge tablet, and it is super fast with a great 4K display. It only comes in Midnight Blue, and since my college-bound son has become an Android man, we snagged one for him online for $529.99.


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If you’re going with a Mac, the best value is the MacBook Air. The newest version has USB-C ports and Touch ID with 128 GB of storage starting for $1,099. If you’re buying it for a student or to use for education purposes, special pricing kicks it down to $999. Apple also has a promotion right now that throws in Beats Wireless headphones when you buy a qualifying Mac. Don’t forget about Apple’s refurbished products, which are backed by a one-year warranty. We went that route with my daughter who is headed to college this month and found a beautiful gold MacBook Air for $849.

Even though these gadgets would be fun for any student, please don’t be like those parents who told Bankrate they felt pressured to overspend. Unless you have kids headed to college, in which case they will need a good laptop, the rest of these devices are cool, but definitely not a necessity.

Watch Amy Iverson discuss these gadgets on KSL 5’s “Studio 5.”

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