I’m a college student, and like many other students, I’m not rolling in dough. So when I start a new semester, take a look at the syllabus, and see that I have to purchase at least 3 books per class at an average price of $150 a book, I start to sweat a little. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have money just lying around or burning a hole in my pocket waiting to be spent on a textbook that I’ll only look at a few times. So I do what I do best, dig out the loose change between the couch cushions, pinch those pennies, and find the lowest price out there on those required books. So if you are a college student, will soon become a college student, or know someone who is a college student, this article is for you.
If you fall into any of the above categories, you will most likely have some idea that college textbooks can be quite expensive. Like, “I’m going to have to start the Ramen noodle diet so I can afford my textbooks” expensive. So to prevent your sodium from skyrocketing or your bank account from completely being depleted, check out these tips on saving on textbooks.
Buy Online – New or Used
The first tip is to scope out the best deal on your required textbooks. The campus bookstore is convenient, but that convenience comes at a steep price. There are tons of online retailers selling new and used textbooks, but it’s a hassle to see who is selling what you need for the lowest price. Use a website like bigwords.com that lets you type in the title, author, or ISBN of your required textbooks and shows you what online retailers are selling it and at what price. This way you can get the best deal by only going to one site. There are a few possible drawbacks. First, make sure you are ordering the right book. If you bought it at the college bookstore, it’s most likely what the professors told them to order. If you buy it online, it might be an older version or special edition, so just pay careful attention to what you buy. Second, find out first that it is all there. Some used lab manuals or books with special access codes can often have pages ripped out or the code used and now invalid, so some things you just can’t buy used.
Rent Your Books
If you don’t mind returning the book at the end of the semester, you can rent the books you need, usually at a lower price than buying it new. Just like the fact that a hoard of retailers are selling textbooks, it seems just as many renting them. Bigwords.com also shows you which online retailers are renting the books you need, so check them out for this as well (or check out other book rental sites). Some books are impossible to rent because you have to write in them or rip pages out, like lab manuals. Generally, though, you will probably not need those textbooks ten years from now, so you can rent them. Just be sure to remember to return them on time or you’ll be charged extra.
You may have noticed from earlier posts of mine that I love the library, and here is another reason. Whether it is at your local public library or more likely your college library, sometimes you can find the books you need there. Sometimes a college library will put books on reserve for students to come and read in the library (not check out and take with you). This way you might be able to get away with not actually buying the book, but still being able to use it. The draw back on this, though, is that you can’t write/highlight/underline in a library book or possibly even take it with you if it is on reserve. But if you are ok with not doing any of those things, then this is the cheapest way to go, free!
Share a Book
If you know a person in the same class as you, or someone who has already taken the class, see if they will share their book with you. (Or at least split the cost). You give up a little freedom by not being sole owner, but you’ll save a little money if you’re lucky enough for this method to work out for you. (Note, though, that if you are getting a book from someone who already took the class that you are getting the right version and that there isn’t anything missing like lab pages or access codes.)
Sell Your Books
After the semester is over, you can possibly recoup some of your expense by selling back your textbooks. Head over to bigwords.com again, because they also offer the service to show you who is buying your books and for how much. Usually, the sites buying your books will pay for shipping. Then, sites like Amazon.com will give you credit on their site, while other sites like textbooks.com will pay you by check or PayPal. Sometimes a textbook loses some value when a new edition comes out, so try to sell them as soon as you can.
(I noticed I mentioned bigwords.com numerous times in this article, so I better mention that this isn’t an ad for them nor am I getting paid for this. There are many other worthy sites out there for buying, renting, and selling textbooks. I just have used this site in the past and their service was useful in getting a lower price on textbooks then at the college bookstore. So I thought I’d share them with you!)
What are some ways you save on textbooks? If you finished school, do you ever occasionally still use any of your old textbooks?