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Money / 7 Ways to Save Money on Textbooks

Wednesday, January 30

As much as I love school and learning, I hate buying textbooks. As a writing and publishing major with a marketing minor, these means I have to buy a range of books - from ten novels for one lit class to three expensive textbooks for intro to marketing, this spring 2013 semester threatened to overdraw my bank account.

But never fear! Even though I've only been in college three semesters thus far, I have learned quite a few handy tricks.

1. Wait. By waiting for the first day of class, a professor will usually tell you some tricks for saving money - none of my teachers have wanted to put me in the red, either. Some books you may only need to read a few chapters from, or some books you may not use at all. I learned that lesson the hard way this semester: after buying all my books, I learned we would not be using one $15 book at all.

2. Go to the Library. This is always free, and a wonderful trick to use for books that you will only be reading a few chapters from. It is equally useful for novels or magazine subscriptions you may need. Just remember not to incur any late fees and you're golden!

3. Buy used. Either online or from a friend, this works. I recommend Barnes & Noble Marketplace because Amazon is doing horrible things to the publishing industry, but there are other websites around as well. Try networking on a school's Facebook page and don't be afraid to ask around.

4. Rent. I used this trick on my very expensive poetry anthology this semester - brought it down from a retail of $73.35 to $39.37. While I rented from Barnes & Noble, other websites such as Chegg offer similar services.

5. Buy a few editions back. Unless you're taking a class that requires up-to-the-minute information, buy an older edition. Especially when bought used, these can drastically reduce prices. You may be missing a chapter or two, but that can be remedied by borrowing from a friend or the library.

6. Split costs with a friend. A personal favorite. If you have class with a friend, talk it out and literally split the cost in half. The only trouble here is making sure you both have time to do the reading, but good communication should help you avoid that problem.

7. Use sell-back programs. I love the one that Barnes & Noble offers through their website - even the shipping is free! Most school bookstores also buy back old textbooks, but online ones like Barnes & Noble usually accept a wider range of titles - and at a higher price. After comparing what I could get from my school bookstore with online, I found the difference to be incredible (on some books, up to $15).

There are also ways to spend literally no money on textbooks; however these methods can be questionable. They mostly involve borrowing books from friends constantly, which I don't recommend from personal experience - I have a friend who still uses this method, and I know it bothers me. I'm fine being helpful, but why should I pay for the entire book and then lend it to you at absolutely no charge? If you really are in a tight place and need to do this, try to make up for it by offering to help edit this friend's essays, bake them cookies, or run their errands.

For my own success this spring, I used a combination of the above plus an Amazon gift card I had ($5), a prepaid card ($20), and the check I got from the fall 2012 textbooks that I had sold back ($40.75). At retail, my eleven books and Wall Street Journal subscription added up to $599 dollars. Between buying used, a student discount for the WSJ, buying older editions of my anthologies, renting my poetry book, and the above listed money, I spent $196.21. Savings of 67% are perfectly fine by me, especially when I plan on selling most of them back at the end of this semester as well.

What are your tricks for cutting down on textbook costs? Have any of my methods worked for you?

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