Don’t Waste Your Back to School Money On Dumb Gadgets

Spend It on These Actually Useful Things Instead

Graphic Morag Rahn-Campbell

Around back to school time, lots of companies will make a splashy push to entice students into spending their hard-earned summer dollars in their places of business.

Whether it’s a sale on school supplies at a bookstore or a special price on pints and shots, everyone wants a slice of that sweet millennial-market pie.

Gadget-focused stores are no exception, and they’re perhaps the most brazen in trying to sweet-talk students out of their money. A recent email from Best Buy alerted me to their back to school sale (two days only!), which included a shiny new $4,000 television and a $600 home theater speaker.

Of course, these items are completely useless for students—not to mention unreasonably expensive. But what technology purchases actually make sense for Concordia students this fall? Here’s a quick guide to a few useful gadgets that will actually help you out this school year, while leaving enough dough in your wallet for that next round of adult beverages.

Portable Battery Charger

There’s been a recent uptick in interest surrounding battery packs, thanks to an entire generation of mobile phone users embarking on power-hungry excursions to find demonic Japanese pocket monsters in our funeral parlors and ditches. But if you’ve yet to research battery packs, here’s the pitch: these little phone-sized bricks store enough juice to recharge your mobile devices—phones, tablets, iPods—on days where heavy usage is inevitable (translation: every day). The more you pay, the more you get in terms of charging capacity, but you can easily get a battery pack for under $30 that will completely juice your phone several times on a single charge.

Recommendation: Anker Astro E1 (around $25)

Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

Graphic Morag Rahn-Campbell

Given how much we use Twitter, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat on our phones, many of us have become experts on-screen keyboard users. But no matter how OMG #EPIC you are with your thumbs, nothing beats writing on an actual keyboard—so why not do it with your phone or tablet?
Last year saw the release of several new models of portable, wireless keyboards that can connect to multiple devices via Bluetooth. Finish typing out a longer email on your phone, and a quick button press will automatically sync the keyboard to your tablet, where you can start working on that English assignment. The best part? These keyboards are now large enough to be comfortable yet slim enough to carry in your backpack. No need to lug that laptop everywhere! Or buy a laptop. Or have a laptop at all, really.

Recommendation: Logitech K380 (around $50)

A Good Pair of Headphones

Graphic Morag Rahn-Campbell

Productivity is great, but sometimes you just need to clear your mind with some sweet tunes, and a decent pair of headphones can make a huge difference. While the sound quality in earbuds has gotten better through the years, nothing beats well-engineered over-ear headphones for true immersion and sound isolation.
Don’t get scared off by the high-priced offerings by brands like Beats and Bose, which can easily pass the $300 mark. There are alternatives from well-regarded brands that will deliver the same quality for less—usually around $100.
Another money-saving tip: steer clear of noise-cancelling technology and bluetooth headphones. Sure, these are neat features if you want to splurge, but they aren’t necessary if all you want is great sound and money for food.

Recommendation: Audio-Technica ATH-M30x (around $100)