Shopping around for a good deal is textbook money management. But when it comes to actual textbooks, too many students (especially freshmen!!) pay for overpriced books at university bookstores. As I finished college and my wife and I both began perusing graduate degrees, saving money each semester on textbooks became extremely helpful with offsetting the cost of tuition and other fees.
After collaborating with friends and family who have also tried various avenues in getting textbooks, I’ve come up with a list of ideas and resources that could save you or your child some money at college.
1. Explore your options in buying
The university bookstore will provide the exact author, title, and edition of your necessary textbook for the semester. It is very safe and convenient to purchase the books at the university, but I’ve found that shopping around pays! Bookstores often times buy books back at the end of the semester, but I have been consistently frustrated by the decrease in price or refusing to buy the book back because of a new edition (where the cover and about 4 pages were changed) that is coming out. Here are some options that I explore before making a decision:
University or public library – sometimes a copy of the textbooks is available (Calculus III isn’t usually in as high as demand as Divergent) to check out for free! Libraries also may use inner-library loan to borrow the book from a different school for you to check out.
Online marketplaces – the second option I look at is buying the textbook online. This is an option that’s growing in popularity. The marketplace for new and used textbooks is very competitive. The sites I like to use are half.com (eBay’s book marketplace), and amazon.com. A friend of mine claims he saved 65% on textbooks his last semester by mainly buying from Abebooks.com. Campus Book Rental is a great place to start if you want to look at a wide variety of options because it creates an extensive list of online sites selling the book with prices.
Other editions – for people who don’t mind taking a little risk and are comfortable with buying and selling textbooks, older editions of the same book are available at a library or online for a very discounted price. It’s important to do research in finding out the difference in editions if you want to explore this option.
Buddy system – as you work towards a degree (hopefully!), considering sharing a textbook with a friend or classmate that you know will be in the class with you. A little collaboration on sharing the book and study times can split the cost.
2. Don’t forget to sell!!!
The advantage of buying books online is the fact that the ball is in your court to sell the book after the semester. The marketplaces listed above also provide user-friendly platforms to sell your used book. Here is a recent blog explaining the pros and cons of using Amazon, ebay, or Half.com to sell your books.
You’ll want to be timely in selling your books to beat the rush and the new editions coming out!
3. Do the math on renting
Because students rarely use textbooks beyond the designated semester (except me and that Calculus III book!), universities and online bookstores are commonly listing renting a book as an option. For a cheaper price, students can rent the book and turn it in at the end of the semester. This is a safe and easy option if you don’t want to go through the process of buying and selling.
The simple math to consider (not from the Calculus III book), is deciding which will be a smaller cost: renting price or the difference in buy and sell price.
Exploring different options in buying textbooks has made extremely fruitful for me and others that I know.
What have you done to save money in buying textbooks?