I remember when I was an upcoming college freshman buying textbooks for the first time. I was so excited to finally be taking classes I was interested in instead of the boring core classes they make you take in high school. Brimming with enthusiasm, I went on my school’s website, signed into my account, and went to the page that told me what books were required for my classes. I saw books about modern philosophy, abnormal psychology, and ancient history. For the first time in my life, I actually wanted to read my textbooks! I was already liking college so much more than high school.
Until I saw the prices.
I was shocked to realize that if I purchased all of the required books through my school’s bookstore, I would spend around $700. Outrageous! I called my friend who had just completed her freshman year of college and asked how in the world she was able to afford books. Her explanation saved my wallet over the next four years.
- Buy Used: My friend explained that under each required book that was listed, there was an ISBN number that identified that book. Copy the ISBN number, paste it into the Amazon.com search bar, and Amazon will show you every copy of that book that is being sold, starting at the lowest price. The lower priced books are used and tend to show some wear. However, it does not matter how badly beat up a book is so long as you can still read it. Some college textbooks are being sold for less than $5!
- Compare Prices: After you find your books on Amazon, open two more windows and search for the books at Chegg.com and UsedTextbooks.com. Have all three windows open at once and compare prices side by side. Be sure to factor in discounts as well as shipping and handling to find the best price.
- Rent: These sites will also give you options to rent the books. The upside to this is that you will pay less to rent a book than you would if you bought it. The downside is that you won’t have the option of re-selling the book after your class is over.
- Re-sell: Keep in mind that books usually re-sell for less than what you bought them for, plus there is a hassle to listing and shipping them. However, there have been one or two books that I was able to sell for the same price I paid for them, meaning I got to use them the entire semester for free! I usually buy my textbooks used because I’ll be able to sell them back later. My first semester, this worked out really well for me. I was able to sell back all of my books for a decent price so that I ended up saving a lot more money than I would have if I had rented. However, now that I procrastinate more on buying and re-selling books each semester, I’m lucky if I even make back $30 for all my books.
- Start Early: A word of warning: Do not wait until the last minute to buy textbooks. The longer you wait, the more you will pay when you buy them because the cheapest options go first. Another tip is that if you are planning to sell back your books, list them as soon as possible. Their value will decrease as newer editions of the book are published.
- Social Media: Another thing you can try to save money on books is to check Facebook. Request to be added to your college’s facebook page. Tons of people will be selling their used textbooks right before classes start and after they end. You can find some great deals and you can meet up on campus to avoid shipping fees.
- Discounts: The last thing you can do is search the internet for discount codes for the site that you are buying books from. My school sells students their books through eFollet so I just googled eFollet discount codes to see what came up. A lot of these codes will be invalid or expired but I have found some that actually worked and saved me money.
- Free Gift Cards! Did you know there is an easy way to get free gift cards to Amazon.com and other stores? It’s a website called Swagbucks. I started using the site a few years ago and I always use my rewards points to buy Amazon gift cards and put them toward textbooks. It easily adds up to $30 off my bill every semester!
By using each of these methods, I went from looking at spending $700 on textbooks in my first semester to only spending $300! That’s $400 in savings. Multiply $400 in savings over eight semesters, that’s approximately $3,200 you can save on books in your undergraduate career! It takes a little extra time to find the best prices, roughly 30 minutes total, depending on how many books you need. However, looking at the numbers, it is definitely worth it to take some time to save all that money on books.
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