Category Archives: Back to School

Best Tablet Deals – Back to School or Black Friday?

b2s tablet deals

While American parents ranked this year’s Back to School sales best for finding tablet deals (and laptop deals), ahead of both Black Friday and Cyber Monday (see Back to School Shopping Survey), comparing pricing on tablets is all about timing. Sales for many computing devices fluctuate by the week, and often that unbelievable deal sells out so fast-gone in less than 24 hours. Add that both Back to School and Black Friday shopping seasons now last for weeks and the moniker of “best”, or “better” gets fuzzy.

That said, the key to cashing in on August’s tablet sales comes from stacking discounts, taking a sale-priced item and factoring in any eligible to save more from student discountstax free holidaysFatWallet cash back, rebates (both instant and mail-in), coupon codes, and free shipping offers. As well, pre-owned and refurbished tablets really help families on tight budgets and often stack with these same eligible discounts. When this shopping tactic is part of your back to school strategy, the prices on tablets, and most other items, can often dip under that crazy Black Friday deal from last November (see FatWallet’s back to school sales promo for the best current savings).

Top 5 Back to School Tablet Deals vs. Black Friday:

Dare to compare the best tablet deals? While a few of the top tablets from Matt Swider’s Best Tablets of 2015 list on TechRadar made our comparison, we focused on 5 popular tablet brands to see if current low prices hold up to their Black Friday tablet deals.

Apple: iPad Mini – iPad Air

apple ipad air 2• Current iPad Deals: One of the best Apple iPad Air 2 deals (16GB) we found yesterday was on Amazon for $435. Amazon also lists an iPad Air for $350. Staples comes in with the lowest iPad Mini 2 (w/retina display) at $279, while Walmart is offering the original iPad Mini for $199. Of course, you can find numerous sites offering iPads pre-owned and refurbished for at least $100 off the prices above, including one of your best bets for a low price at eBay.

• Black Friday iPad deals: Just about every store (and their brother) had an iPad deal last November, many with in-store gift cards and as doorbusters and Best Buy just marked down all iPads by $100 (see all the loot). If we exclude these perks and focus on 16GB wifi only models sale prices (add $100 for each memory upgrade), you could get an iPad Air 2 for $499 from everybody, iPad Air $299 from HHGregg, iPad Mini 2 for $239 from Staples, and the iPad Mini for $199 from Walmart. Many major retailers offered additional in-store gift cards as an incentive to buy from them, however some of these were limited quantity doorbusters.

Amazon Fire HD 7

Kindle-Fire-HD-7-back-to-school• Current Amazon Fire HD 7 deals: The going price for Fire HD 7 is $139, $99 for an HD 6, $179 for a HDX 7″ and  $379 for a HDX 8.9″. This pricing is pretty consistent from Amazon, to Best Buy to other retailers offering Kindles. Note: Most Amazon Fire HD models are on back-order for early fall delivery and includes special offers for Prime members (see features for all Fire HD models in this longest scrolling page ever).

• Black Friday Amazon Fire HD 7 deals: Last November you could get a Fire HD 7 8GB for $118 at Frys while Amazon offered it form Black Friday thru Cyber Monday for $109, Fire HD 6 8GB for $79 at Best Buy matching Amazon’s price, and current prices of $179 for a HDX 7″ and  $379 for a HDX 8.9″ were status quo 9 months ago.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7″

galaxy-tab-4-back-to-school• Current Galaxy Tab 4 deals: Gamestop leads the way with a $149 price tag on the 8GB model, while the GeekSquad at Best Buy has refurbs for $129. Kmart has the 16GB model for $199 and is offering a back to school promo of 6% increased cash back.

• Black Friday Galaxy Tab 4 Deals: Last November you could get a Galaxy Tab 4 8GB for $149 from several retailers including Adorama and Toys R Us. Office Depot had the 16GB model for $199, while Best Buy delivered a flat 25% off all Galaxy Tab 4 tablets.

Microsoft Surface 2

Microsoft-Surface-2-back-to-school• Current Microsoft Surface 2 deals: The Surface 2 16 GB model is difficult to find, but the Surface 2 32 GB is readily available with Newegg bringing a Throwback deal of $284, while for a few more dollars you can nab the 64GB model from Sears for $319 +3% cash back.

• Black Friday Microsoft Surface 2 deals: Last November you could get a Surface 2 16 GB for $299 from several retailers, and MicroCenter offered the 64GB model for $449. Tiger Direct came down to $799 for the Surface Pro 3.

Dell Venue 8

dell-venue-8-back-to-school• Current Dell Venue 8 deals: The Dell Venue 8 Pro 32GB is currently available for $189 – add this 40% off  offer in FatWallet Hot Deals forum and you can pick one up for $133.50 w/code, +2% cash back for FatWallet members who shop through the Dell page.

• Black Friday Dell Venue 8 deals: Last November, both Dell and Adorama offered the Venue 7 for $99 (one of the best Black Friday tablet deals of the year), while Dell and TigerDirect had the Venue 8 32GB for $149, and MicroCenter had the Venue 8 64GB for $249.


Apples to apples? It takes some savvy home work to compare Back to School tablet deals with Black Friday tablet deals. The nice thing is that retailers really want to move current tablet inventory before new models hit in November, so monitoring prices during August will usually pay off for finding similar tablet deals we found last holiday.

Can Back to School laptop deals beat Black Friday?

back to school deals

According to parents, back to school laptop deals are better than Black Friday deals. Parents ranked Back to School sales for laptops and tablets ahead of both Black Friday and Cyber Monday in our Back to School Shopping Survey. There could be several reason for this ranking, including the sheer selection this time of year, as Black Friday tends to offer a very select group of older, slower laptops. The 2014 crop of Black Friday laptop deals was impressive for super low prices, with perhaps the lowest prices we’ve ever seen. Feel free to check out the Top 10 Black Friday Laptop Deals from 2014. It included an Asus 11.6″ Laptop w/ Intel Processor, 2GB RAM, 32GB HDD for $99!

It seems no two laptop deals are exactly apples to apples when it comes to price, speed, memory, etc. In fact, any given week, the prices can fluctuate. The key to cashing in on August’s big computer sales period is by stacking reduced prices with other savings incentives. This includes student discounts, tax free holidays, rewards like FatWallet cash back, rebates (instant and mail-in), coupons, and free shipping. Even refurbished laptops can solve budget issues, and save students up to half. It all adds up to saving families $100s, and savvy parents will stack to the ceiling to find the best deal on this big ticket expense (see FatWallet’s back to school sales promo for the best current savings).

Top 5 Back to School Laptop Deals vs. Black Friday:

How exactly do Back to School laptop deals stack up against comparable Black Friday deals? We take a look at 5 popular brands to see if we can get a frame of reference to either confirm this, or if it is just perception.

Acer Laptop Aspire E 15.6″ Touch Laptop

On sale for $260 at TigerDirect (+2% cash back) Acer Laptop Aspire E5-573G-59C3Featuring: Intel Core i3-5005U Dual-core 2 GHz, 4GB Memory 500 HDD 8GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 5500 1366 x 768 Windows 8.1 (includes free Windows 10 upgrade, McAfee 2015 Multi-Access and $70 mail-in rebate + Acer $30 mail-in rebate)

Black Friday Deal: Although half a slower processor speed, this deal for $349 from Newegg featured included Intel Core i5 4210U (1.70GHz) 4GB DDR3L Memory 500GB HDD Intel HD Graphics 4400 1366 x 768 Windows 8.1 (TigerDirect offered a slightly faster Aspire model for $750)

HP Pavilion 15.6″ Laptop  (15-p100dx)

HP Pavilion 15-p100dxOn sale for $399 at Best Buy (+1% cash back)
Featuring: 15.6″ Touch-Screen Laptop,  Intel Core i3, 6GB Memory,  750GB Hard Drive, Black Licorice, Windows 8.1

Black Friday Deal:  $549 from Best Buy last November, Office Depot offered a non-touch screen HP Pavilion model with only 4GB Ram at $299 ($350 off). Also, RadioShack had a Special Edition HP Pavilion 8GB RAM 1TB HDD w/ Beats Audio + $50.00 Gift Card for $599.

Lenovo Y50-70 15.6″ Touch Laptop

Lenovo Y50-70on sale for $948 at Lenovo (+3% cash back) +free shipping
Featuring: Intel Core i7-4720HQ Processor (2.60GHz 1600MHz 6MB), 15.6″ FHD LED AntiGlare Backlit Multitouch (1920 x 1080), 16.0GB PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRA, 512GB SSD, Windows 8.1

Black Friday Deal: Lenovo Y50 4K Gaming Laptop w/ Core i7, 16GB, 256GB SSD for $1,089.99 (currently listed at $1,143 at Newegg).


Microsoft Surface Pro 3 12″

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 12On sale for $780 at eBay (+up to 3% cash back) and free shipping
Featuring: Intel 4th Generation Core i5 Processor (1.9GHz), 12″ (2160 x 1440) Touchscreen Display, 128 GB Storage Capacity, Windows 8.1 Pro (does not include keyboard accessory, so technically it’s a tablet that runs Windows). NOTE: Student and Faculty get a 10% discount shopping through Microsoft Store, +4 % cash back from FatWallet.

Black Friday Deal: TigerDirect offered the same Surface Pro 3 spec model last November for $800.

Apple MacBook Air 113.3″ Laptop

Apple MacBook Air 11On sale for $900 at Best Buy (+1% cash back)
Featuring: Intel Core i5, 4GB Memory, 128 Flash Storage, students and educators can take an additional $100 off by registering a valid .edu email account here and following the emailed instructions to receive a one-time use coupon code.

Black Friday Deal: Basically the same model was available at Microcenter for $950 last November.



As you can see, it is pretty hard to compare exactly Back to School laptop deals to Black Friday deals. What we can say is that Back to School laptop deals tend to be very similar to the previous years Black Friday prices. If you are in the market for a new laptop, Back to School sales are worth a look. If you don’t seen anything, you can always wait for Black Friday.

August Buying Guide – Back to School Sales Events

Buying Guides

1 in 5 parents expect to buy student laptops during Back to School sales

AUG-trends-2015-blogExperienced consumers know there are big savings opportunities from the hundreds of back to school sales in August, whether for students or basically everyone. In fact, back to school discounts far transcend deals on school needs, catering to savings on needs and/or upgrades for the home, home office, and even work. Think of it as a precursor to all those early Black Friday deals throughout November, with different retail events happening bi-weekly, but without the build up to one big holiday shopping weekend. It’s a good time to buy clothing, shoes, laptops, office supplies and nab travel deals.

The key to cashing in on August sale items, as well as any big seasonal sale, is by stacking sale prices with discounts, rewards, rebates and coupons. Some key resources for this August buying guide on finding additional savings:

  • Tax Holiday Weekend Guide:  16 states will participate in a sales tax holiday, offering the opportunity to purchase certain school supplies, computers, books and clothing free of state sales or use tax.
  • Laptop Deals:  A one-stop resource to compare all of the best laptop deals, or review all of the best computer deals and accessories.
  • Student Discounts Guide: Have a student ID?–use it to save as much as $100 on an Apple or other PC, software, and other school related supplies.
  • Teacher Discount Guide: Have a teacher ID?–use it to save as much as $100 on an Apple or other PC, software, and other school related supplies.
  • Textbook Buying Guide: A comprehensive list of online stores offering heavily discounted textbooks (15+ stores that include coupons and cash back from FatWallet on new, used, rentals, digital and buy back).
  • Back to School Cash Back Sale: Dozens of of stores increase cash back throughout August for savings on just about everything, including needs for students.
  • Paper Vs Tech: Find out if switching to digital textbooks will save students money in the long run.

Some of the best laptop and tablet deals of the year happen in August, as is evident from the parents we surveyed, ranking back to school sales as the #1 time to find good deals, ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This is not only true for price, but for selection as well, especially on higher quality models that will serve students a better and longer learning experience. And while 20% of parents noted they’ll be buying a student laptop, 65% agree laptops are “the” best tool for their students to learn. Here’s a closer look at what to buy in August this year:


A month long seasonal shopping event that can be very prosperous for a variety of home, school and work needs.

  • Tech: (laptops, tablets and iPadscell phones and iPhones, PC’s)
  • Supplies: (writing supplies, backpacks, lunch bags, art supplies)
  • Clothing: (uniforms, shirts, blouses, jeans, shoes, jackets, hoodies, shorts, hats, socks)
  • Textbooks/Books: (buy and sell online: new, used, rentals, digital)
  • Musical Instruments: (woodwinds, brass winds, drums, percussion, guitars, etc.)
  • College: (luggage, furniture, lighting, rugs, small appliances, storage)

Tip: Check to see if you’re eligible for student and teacher discounts, often adding and additional 10-20% off computers, software and other supplies with your school ID. Here is some great information for those who are partial Apple products


The final week of August kicks off another round of seasonal clearance as back to school sales wrap up and summer clearance takes the stage, right through Labor Day discounts.

  • Sports/Outdoors: (golf, cycling, running, baseball, camping, fishing, pools)
  • Clothing: (shirts, dresses, shorts, sandals and accessories)
  • Swimwear: (suits, shorts and swim accessories)
  • Grills/Grilling: (gas and charcoal grills and accessories)
  • Patio Furniture: (outdoor furniture, umbrellas, seat cushions, lawn chairs)
  • Travel: (Hotels weekend discounts/packages, Vegas deals, luggage)
  • MISC: (some yard/lawn tools, paint, fans, wine)

Tip: Willing to settle for what’s left in inventory? Waiting to buy school needs the last week in August and into September can lead to even better savings.

Sales Tax Holiday Brings Back to School Savings

Tax Free Holiday blog

August brings Tax Free Weekends in 16 states.

16 states will participate in a sales tax holiday, offering the opportunity to purchase certain school supplies, computers, books and clothing free of state sales or use tax.  Local sales and use tax may apply. Retailers are required to participate and may not charge tax on items that are legally tax-exempt during the Sales Tax Holiday, both in store and online (see links to details for each state in the schedule list below).

The really good news for folks in these states looking to get their kids a new laptop is that parents now rank back to school sales ahead of Black Friday, or any other sales event, as the best time to find laptop deals. (see FatWallet’s annual Back to School Shopping survey). Since the majority of retailers in states offering the sales tax holidays will honor tax free purchases online, FatWallet shoppers have the advantage of to quickly compare hundreds of back to school deals, and add cash back from more than 1600 stores to sweeten the savings!

2015 Sales Tax Holiday Schedule

Alabama clothing – $100
computers – $750
school supplies – $50
books – $30
August 7-9
Arkansas clothing – $100
school supplies
August 1-2
Connecticut clothing and footwear – $100 August 16-22
Florida school suppies
clothing – $100
supplies – $15
computers – $750
August 7-16
Georgia school supplies
clothing – $100
supplies – $20
computers – $1,000
July 31 – August 1
Iowa clothing – $100 August 7-8
Maryland clothing & footwear-$100 August 9-15
Mississippi clothing & footwear – $100 July 31-Aug. 1
Missouri clothing – $100
computers – $3,500
school supplies – $50
August 7-9
New Mexico clothing – $100
computers – $1,000
computer equip. – $500
school supplies – $30
August 7-9
Ohio clothing – $75
school supplies – $20
instructional material – $20
August 7-9
Oklahoma clothing – $100 August 7-9
S. Carolina clothing
school supplies
August 7-9
Tennessee clothing – $100
school supplies – $100
computers – $1,500
August 7-9
Texas clothing, backpacks and school supplies- $100 August 7-9
Virginia clothing – $100
school supplies – $20
August 7-9

(updated July 16, 2015)

States not participating in Sales Tax Holidays include: Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

What to Buy in August: Shopping Trends 2014

Laptops/Smartphones Rule Back to School Tech Deals

The majority of August shoppers will take advantage of Back to School sales for items our kids will need for the start of school (those in the south and southeast can benefit from even more savings from tax free weekends: (see Sales Tax Holiday guide). But back to school discounts can also be applied to needs and/or upgrades for the home and home office, as well. It’s sort of Black Friday in summer for clothing, laptops, office supplies and travel deals (especially luggage and hotel deals).
August Shopping Trends 2014
Some of the best tech deals all year are found in August on laptops and computers (with a much bigger selection of student models than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday) during Back to School sales – NEW SURVEY reveals “parents overwhelmingly say laptops more suited to help kids learn vs. tablets”. Shoppers will find dozens of full featured laptops starting around $250, more than adequate for most students, and many professional needs as well. FatWallet members get additional savings in our annualBack-to-School Cash Back Sale, from stores like HP, Lenovo, Dell, Apple and Newegg, who’ve offer cash back through FatWallet, often increased during back to school promotions. Use the Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide and this smart Student Laptop Buying Tips to help you choose the right model for your needs.

The end of the month brings other money-saving opportunities, like increased cash back when buying online textbooks (w/15+ stores that include cash back on new, used and textbook rentals), end-of-summer clearance sales (clothing, shoes, swimwear, hotel discounts, grills and outdoor products) and Labor Day sales offering store-wide discounts from most major retailers–look for these sales to kick in during the last week of August through the holiday weekend.

Back To School Deals

Not just for kids…this seasonal shopping event is long and can be very prosperous for a variety of family needs, including the bonus of cash back increases and exclusive coupons and giveaways all month long.

  • Tech: (laptops, tablets and iPads, cell phones and iPhones, PC’s)
  • Supplies: (writing supplies, backpacks, lunch bags, art supplies)
  • Clothing: (uniforms, shirts, blouses, jeans, shoes, jackets, hoodies, shorts, hats, socks)
  • Textbooks/Books: (buy and sell online: new, used, rentals, digital)
  • Musical Instruments: (woodwinds, brasswinds, drums, percussion, guitars, etc.)
  • College: (luggage, furniture, lighting, rugs, small appliances, storage)

Tip: Get up to $100 back from many brands via student and teacher discounts (10-20% off) on computers, software and other supplies with a school ID.

End of Summer Clearance Deals and Labor Day Sales

End of August burns up with big price drops on “most things summer” and these sales really get a boost from Labor Day discounts-look for sales a full week before the actual holiday.

  • Sports/Outdoors: (golf, cycling, running, baseball, camping, fishing, pools)
  • Clothing: (shirts, dresses, shorts, sandals and accessories)
  • Swimwear: (suits, shorts and swim accessories)
  • Grills/Grilling: (gas and charcoal grills and accessories)
  • Patio Furniture: (outdoor furniture, umbrellas, seat cushions, lawn chairs)
  • Travel: (Hotels weekend discounts/packages, Vegas deals, luggage)
  • MISC: (some yard/lawn tools, paint, fans, wine)

Tip: Waiting to shop for back to school items can be very good for family budgets, saving hundreds, if you’re willing to settle for what’s left in inventory the last week in August and into September.

Parents say teens need laptops and smartphones for school

teen girl smiling with mobile phone

Back to School Spending Up This Year: FatWallet surveyed American parents and asked them about their spending plans for this year’s Back to School season, what’s #1 on their shopping lists and how much they’ll spend this year. Parents also shared their views on when they thought students should have their own tech products (laptops, tablets or smartphones) and when to find the best deals.

Almost 9 in every 10 parents said they plan to spend the same or more than they did last year for school related products and more than 3 in 4 surveyed said that they will buy new clothes, shoes and school supplies. There’s a few logical reasons for increased back to school spending, including a trend for significantly lower pricing on bigger ticket items this year like laptops, tablets and the new “must-have”, smartphones. 1 in 4 parents are likely to purchase student laptops or tablets this year and next to Black friday, they said Back to school sales offered the best time to find good deals.

Other interesting trends revealed that the majority of parents thought laptops were better suited for helping students be successful in school over tablets and 2 in 3 think teens should have a smartphone. Parents also said next to new clothes/shoes, they thought kids want smartphones over computing devices.

Full Survey Results (*TNS Global):

School supplies and clothes top back to school shopping lists for 75% of parents, while textbooks will be purchased by 30%.

Q: Which back to school shopping items are you planning to purchase this year?

  • 15% – Laptop, tablet or computer
  • 78% – School Supplies
  • 73% – Clothes and shoes
  • 15% – Smartphone/Cell Phone
  • 30% – Textbooks

Note: While only 15% notes they’ll buy tech products, their sentiment towards these purchases rises in the survey questions that followed-see below.

88% of parents said they will spend the same or more than they did last year.

Q: How much do you plan to spend on school related supplies and products this year?

  • 31% – More than last year
  • 58% – Same as last year
  • 12% – Less than last year

[STATISTICS]: Consumers are expected to spend 12% more on school supplies this year. (National Retail Federation).

Every girls crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed … texter? when it came to which school items kids want most, next to new clothes and shoes, they want smartphones much more than tablets and laptops.

Q: Which of the following items do you think kids “want” most for starting school this year?

  • 7% – Laptop
  • 14% – Tablet
  • 19% – Smartphone
  • 19% – School Supplies (general office supplies, backpacks, organizers, etc.)
  • 29% – Clothes and Shoes

Nike and Apple are kids’ most asked for brands, with Under Armour next.

Q: Which brands do kids ask for the most for school?

  • 22% – Apple
  • 12% – Samsung
  • 30% – Nike
  • 12% – Converse
  • 12% – Adidas
  • 12% – Forever 21
  • 10% – American Eagle
  • 2% – Lululemon
  • 18% – Under Armour
  • 14% – Levi’s

Note: About 50% of responded noted that kids ask for “Other Brands” than those provided in the survey.

Parents overwhelmingly say teenagers need their own laptops and tablets.

Q: As a parent, what age group does it become more helpful for students to have their own laptop or tablet?

  • 10% Grade School (K-5)
  • 26% Middle School (6-8)
  • 42% High School (9-12)
  • 18% College
  • 2% Wait to buy their own

5 to 1, Parents say laptop are much better suited to help students learn than tablets or Desktop Computers.

Q: Which product is better suited to help most students with their school work?

  • 63% – Laptop
  • 12% – Tablet
  • 19% – Desktop Computer

1 in every 4 parents said they plan to purchase laptops or tablets for their kids this school year.

Q: How likely are you to purchase a new laptop or tablet this (school) year?

  • 11% – Very likely
  • 16% – Somewhat likely
  • 39% – Not very likely
  • 12% – Not this year, but probably next year

Back to School sales rank 2nd only to Black Friday for having the best deals on student laptops and tablets.

Q: Which sales event is most likely to have the best deals on a new Laptop or Tablet for a student?

  • 22% – Back to School Sales
  • 41% – Black Friday Sales
  • 9% – Cyber Monday Sales
  • 5% – December Holiday Sales
  • 5% – After Holiday (or New Years) Sales

Note: 18% offered that other sales have better deals than the bigger holiday sales events.

2/3 of parents say it’s practical for teens to have a smartphone

Q: As a parent, what age group does it become practical for students to have a Smartphone?

  • 3% – Elementary (9 or younger)
  • 15% – Pre Teen (10 -12)
  • 35% – Early Teen (13-15)
  • 30% – Late Teen (16-18)

Note: Some parents think (16%) students should wait to buy their own phone.

Note: *The national survey conducted online by TNS on behalf of in June 2014 was fielded among 1,000 adults ages 18 or older, 50/50 male/female.