Textbooks are a painful purchase for any student. Year after year, prices continue to rise, often resulting in textbook fees being added to the pile of crippling student loan debt facing the nation. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can reduce the cost of your books. There is almost never a need to buy a brand new textbook at full price, so explore your options before you commit to anything. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t plan on buying all of your books in one transaction because purchasing them individually will net the most savings.
Forget the Campus Bookstore
Unless you are bound by a tuition stipend or other financial means to purchase your books at the campus bookstore, stay away. This is the guaranteed way to pay the highest prices for textbooks, even when buying used. The bookstore used to be the source for students, but thanks to technology, there are plenty of other ways to get the books that you need for a lot less.
The exception here is for research purposes; in most cases, the campus store is going to have the highest prices. However, there may be a rare occasion where they don’t. Feel free to call or visit and get a list of prices for the books that you need, just for the sake of comparison when you go online to shop around.
Always Buy Used
Unless there is a specific text you will keep forever or absolutely need the brand new edition of for some reason, buy your books used. These are at least ⅓ less than the cost of brand new books, and offer the same information on the pages. Some are in better condition than others, but most used resellers will provide condition information and pictures of the book you are purchasing so that you can see what you are actually getting. You can find thousands of used copies online at prices that you can afford.
When you are buying used books, check out their resale value and the return policy of the seller you purchase from. Reselling your books after the semester is over is a great way to recoup some money that can go towards next semester’s books. Or, you can take the money and treat yourself for saving hundreds on your textbooks by buying used in the first place. The return policy is important because if a book arrives in unusable condition, you need to be able to send it back. Your class won’t be nearly as informative with a partial textbook, after all.
Rent or Borrow Books
The school or public library might have books that you need for classes. Before you spend a dime, look into these sources for common texts, literature books, and other texts available for you to borrow. Libraries are a great resource that often get overlooked. The downside here is that you may only be able to borrow a book for a part of the semester. Ask about their renewal policies when considering this option.
There is an increasing market in the campus bookstore realm for textbook rentals. This is another exception to the “avoid the bookstore” rule, of course. The most expensive texts are usually available for rental from your campus store, which might be the best financial option. Before you rent, though, make sure that you know what you are signing up for. Take extra good care of the books so that you aren’t charged for damage upon their return, or forced to purchase them outright (which is what you were trying to avoid in the first place).
You can also rent textbooks online, or download ebook versions of the texts that you need for your college classes.
Sell Your Old Books
You can reduce the cost of your next semester’s textbook bill by selling your old books. Don’t sell them back to the campus bookstore, because they usually don’t offer much. Plus, you might only get credit to use in the store. Instead, consider selling them online or through community marketplaces. Advertise them around campus for other students, too. When you sell textbooks online, you can often choose the price and compare what others are selling. That gives you a better idea of how much you can actually earn.
Feel free to look around and get a few different quotes before you commit. Most re-seller websites that buy college texts will allow you to enter the ISBN and get an estimate of how much you will get for the books you are selling. See where you can get the most money for your books, even if you have to sell them in a few different places.
A Little Research Goes a Long Way
Your college book purchases don’t have to break the bank. Whether you need to reduce the cost on the front end or just make up the difference and sell textbooks to help cut the costs, there are plenty of options available. Just give yourself a little time to explore your options. An extra hour of your time could save you hundreds, no matter what degree you are studying.
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