Back to school supplies.Picture this: It’s 9 p.m. the night before school starts, and you’re braving the tides of harassed parents in the same predicament, shuffling through the rejected notepads and pencils littering the aisles of your local office supply store. You look further down your kid’s list—not only does she need three-ring binders, pencils and a ream of copy paper, but they want her to have a laptop and flash drive. What the—?

In our digital age, student supply needs have surpassed simple items such as notebook paper and dividers to laptops, quick and reliable Internet access and flash drives. How is a parent to cope with these demands?

First and foremost, you can let out a sigh of relief, because there are myriad options to choose from. We’ll help you pare down the cost of educational technology.

The Dreaded Laptop Search

Let’s tackle the laptop issue first. Your student is not going to need all the bells and whistles, and you can confidently spend under $500 to get a quality deal. For example, the Samsung Chromebook Series 3 can be purchased online for $238 from Walmart. PCMag.com gives this laptop a 4 out of 5 star rating: it is sleek and ultraportable, and the ARM processor allows for excellent performance while maintaining battery life.

Another viable option is the Acer C7 Chromebook, which is currently available on Amazon for less than $300. The editors at PCMag.com have made this their choice for being the best inexpensive Chromebook on the market.

If you’re willing to spend a little bit more, PCMag.com’s editor’s choice for best budget laptop is the Lenovo G580, which prices at $479 and offers Windows 8 capability, as well as a fair battery life when compared with similar laptops.

Of course, you can always buy secondhand. Check out your local pawn shop and Goodwill, and don’t forget Craigslist.

Get Connected

So, you’re all set with a laptop. How do you get online cheaply? A common misconception consumers have is that cable is faster than DSL, and therefore better. Contrary to this popular belief, DSL offers an always-on connection that allows for quicker downloads of larger files. Additionally, with cable you might find yourself sharing the line with your television, which will then make your connection less zippy.

DSL plans begin from less than $20 per month and work with existing phone lines in your area. You can also bundle your cable television with DSL Internet, and reduce the price per month by paying for both services in conjunction. Offers usually range from $35 to $75 per month, depending on the speed you require.

Document Storage Options

Finally, you’re going to need a way to store assignments so they can be worked on at school, and to back up your original documents. Walmart.com offers stellar deals for online purchases of USB flash drives, starting at $6 for 8GB of storage. Compare this with Amazon, which offers the same amount of storage for $8.

Better still is a free alternative: Google Drive. This feature is accessible with either a Gmail or Google account, and allows for 15GB of storage immediately available anywhere.

So have no fear parents, there are wallet-friendly, tech-savvy options out there. Have tips for other budget-minded moms? Share them in the comments.

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