December 20th, 2010 Jamie
Did you know that the average student spends $800 every year on textbooks alone (and many students spend way more!)? If you ask me, there are much better things to spend that kind of money on, which is why I threw together this list of five ways to save on your textbook costs for next semester, with some help from our sister site the Pay for College Blog which has several posts about saving on textbooks (among other things!). Check it out if you’re looking to learn more about paying for your college education without breaking the bank.
And now, onward to textbook savings…
5. Think Resale
I know what you’re thinking–I haven’t even bought the books yet, why am I thinking of selling them?
Most students think of textbooks as a “sunk cost”–money you spend and never get back. But one of the best ways to save your cash is to sell your books at the end of each quarter or semester, and put the funds back towards buying your next round of books.
I recommend selling your books online, where you can usually get more than the campus store will offer you for your used text. That said, if you don’t see yourself making the effort to list and ship, take advantage of buy-backs at your school bookstore. Any return is better than none.
4. Talk to Other Students
First, if you can, talk to students who took the class before you and find out whether the class focuses more on the text, on lectures, or equally on both. Some profs suggest buying the textbook for use as a supplement to their lectures, but rarely test on it–you may not need to buy the book at all.
Second, talk to your classmates and see if anyone is up for book-sharing. You could split the cost and have joint custody–just make sure you have a backup plan for those high-study weeks before tests.
3. Rent or Borrow
Renting textbooks has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years, and now you have more options than ever. While (in most cases) you won’t be able to highlight or write notes in the margin, you will most likely spend less to rent a book than to buy one. Try sites like Rent-a-Text.com, BookRenter.com, CampusBookRentals.com, and Chegg.com which all claim to save 50 to 90% of the cost of buying the text brand new.
Also, many school libraries keep copies of required texts on hand. You might be able to check out the book for the whole semester, or you may be required to stay in the library to use it.
2. Buy (Not-From-the-Bookstore) Used
The on-campus bookstore may be convenient, but it is definitely not the way to save money. Their used book selection may be cheaper than their new copies, but chances are you can find a better deal if you look around a little more. Try Half.com or Amazon.com for great deals on used books online, check out used bookstores near campus, or talk to students who took the class last year.
1. Buy an Earlier Edition
If you ask me, the the best ways to save BIG on textbooks is to buy a previous edition of your textbook. While the new editions are selling at full price, you can sometimes get a previous edition for half that–or maybe even less. You may have to borrow a friend’s updated copy on occasion or deal with slightly differing page numbers, but in most cases the cash-saving benefit makes that little extra work way worthwhile!
Note: Always check with your professor before buying a previous edition. Most profs are understanding about the need to save money, but for some classes–particularly advanced science courses–you may NEED the most recent version.
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