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It doesn't seem so long ago that in our family, back-to-school shopping involved endless wandering through stores while gathering folders, erasers and notebooks by the dozens. Now our son and daughter (ages 16 and 13) are all about technology, preferably the portable kind. Chances are the same holds true for your kids—or soon will.
Admittedly, investing in tech can seem to drain a bank account. But on the plus side, well-thought-out buying strategies can actually save money in the long run. For instance, your high school–age son is probably too busy playing Angry Birds to let you know, but he's aware he doesn't need a scientific calculator. Downloading a $5 app can provide the same capabilities. Your young teen daughter might insist a trip to the bookstore is life-or-death, claiming, "I need Wuthering Heights—tonight!" Yet truth be told, it's just a cover for meeting up with friends. She could be engrossed in Brontë in seconds—for free, no less—on her e-book reader. In other words, by learning your way around the gadgets already in your household, or adding well-chosen new ones to your students' ever-growing cache, you can cut costs over time. In our book, that's a smart move.