The back-to-school items to order on Amazon — & the ones to skip

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The back-to-school items to order on Amazon — & the ones to skip

Nothing marks the end of summer like back-to-school shopping, but you can keep the illusion (somewhat) intact by searching for supplies online. Many shoppers’ first destination of choice: Amazon, the online retail giant known for its low prices, daily deals and, if you’re a Prime member, two-day free shipping.

But online shopping can pose difficulties. It’s easier to justify frivolous, even reckless, purchases when you can pile items into your “cart” with the tap of your mousepad. — and Amazon’s one-click ordering makes it even easier to spend, spend, spend.

Fortunately, sales are going to be “hot across all categories” on Amazon, says smart shopping expert Trae Bodge. “If you have your list from school and you know what you need, now’s the time to start looking,” she says.

Use this handy guide to figure out what to buy — and what to avoid one-clicking — as you try to squeeze out a few more precious hours of summer sunshine.

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1. Chromebook

Kids need laptops for school papers, projects and research, but they might not be ready for an expensive and breakable investment. Enter the Chromebook: a laptop that only runs Google's Chrome OS.

Chromebooks have built-in virus protection and are generally more portable than laptops. Not to mention they are hundreds of dollars cheaper. Amazon has back-to-school deals on a few Chromebooks in the $150-to-$250 range, so if your student spills soda on the keyboard, a replacement won’t break the bank. These small laptop-alternatives also support fewer apps than a traditional laptop, which will make it easier to tempt your child away from the screen once their homework is finished.

One big tip to keep in mind: The best deals on tech items generally come just after the school year starts, so if you’re able to hold off a bit you might find even better deals once September rolls around, Bodge says.

2. Colorful organizational supplies

If your kid has trouble staying organized, color-coding could make it easier — and more fun. Vibrant colors are even more on-trend than usual in children’s items of late, Bodge says.

You don’t have to spend a ton to get in on the fad. For instance, a 24-pack of “Cosmic Color” Sharpie markers is on sale on Amazon for just under $15. But pricier items are sometimes worth the cost.Motivational statements and items “connected to self-love, self-confidence, friendship and acceptance” are extremely popular in children’s accessories and clothing, Bodge says.

For instance, Clever Fox’s popular 12-month planner — it’s currently out-of-stock on Amazon, but normally lists for $25 — includes fun stickers, space for journaling and sections for your student to list goals, accomplishments and areas for improvement. It also skips inked-on dates, making it flexible for a child’s schedule.

3. Basic calculator

Even budding math whizzes need to have a calculator handy. Four-function calculators (those capable of performing addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems) are allowed even in standardized testing such as Advanced Placement and college entrance exams. Fortunately, you can get big brand names calculators on Amazon for under $10.

4. Durable backpacks

Of course, your student will need a cool backpack to tote around their new supplies in style. But you also want to make sure you’re shopping for form and function. A backpack with extra padding along the back panel and shoulder straps will reduce the strain on your child’s shoulders as they lug textbooks and other supplies through the halls. Amazon’s got plenty of backpacks that fit the bill on sale for $25 to $50.

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1. Gaming laptop

Don’t be tempted by the back-to-school sale on this item. Gaming laptops run around $1,000 and facilitate more hours of your child playing Fortnite than reading Faulkner. Though it may be a fitting gift for a graduate to celebrate the end of their academic career, this sale is not so practical for a student who needs to bear down and earn that diploma.

2. Clothing

While Amazon has a wide array of clothing items, Bodge says it’s better to head to a store for apparel. That way your kid can try on items and you can gauge the quality in person.

“I love Amazon for a lot of things, but buying clothing on Amazon is not the best idea for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Obviously if your child needs socks or underwear, that’s fine.”

These tips can help your kid dress "extra" for less.

3. Items that aren’t on your back-to-school list

Before you log onto Amazon.com, it’s important for parents to make a list — and hold off on purchasing items you’re not sure about right away. Get the essentials, but maybe wait to add that fancy lunchbox to your cart until after a few days of school have passed.

“I don’t advise that you spend all of your back-to-school budget before school starts,” Bodge said. “Let your child go to school and get a sense of what is interesting to them.”

Also, check the reviews on every item before you buy, especially when it comes to expensive purchases, Bodge says.

Curious about how to win on Amazon in general? Here are 15 hacks designed to make up for the cost of its Prime membership.

Image: Jorge Villalba