Back-to-school shopping in age of COVID-19: What to know

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Saturday, September 5, 2020
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ABC News' Deirdre Bolton discusses how back-to-school lists may be longer and pricier than ever due to remote learning.

NEW YORK -- Everything looks different in the age of coronavirus, including back-to-school season.

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

Items such as cleaning supplies, laptops and printers are topping the list. According to the National Retail Federation, 76% of shoppers expect to spend the same or more than originally budgeted.

Blogger and mother Lindsay Stump said she's getting creative for her kids' "at-home classroom."

"Before you hit up the stores or head online, shop your house. I love to see what I can rework or reuse in a creative way," said Stump, who runs the YouTube channel OrganizedToSave.

With so many students doing at least part of their learning remotely, more families are buying one more screen.

Stephanie Humphrey, a technology and lifestyle contributor at ABC News, recommends buying a tablet for younger children since their schoolwork won't require much of a computer's processing power.

"Students from middle school into high school, I'd say look at a [Google's] Chromebook ... They will get the job done in terms of video conferencing and uploading things to online classroom platforms," she said.

Buying a gently used Chromebook also saves money.

"I would highly recommend going with a factory refurbished device ... if you do use a different website to get a refurbished device, make sure you get at least a one-year warranty," Humphrey said.

She also recommends trading in current devices to get credit for new ones.

"Then only buy as you need. You may be able to just get away with upgrading what you already have," she said.

Another tip for "smart shoppers": Experts say point-of-sale loans are worth considering.

This type of loan is similar to layaway, said Hitha Herzog, the chief research officer with H Squared Research.

"Maybe you don't have enough funds to pay for it in its entirety, but you can pay it in increments," she said. "Different types of companies like Affirm, Afterpay and Klarna are giving these type of loans."

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

"Make sure you're looking at what your interest rates are like for your credit cards vs. these point-of-sale loans, and then make a decision based on that," Herzog said.

Experts encourage buyers to know and stick with their budgets.