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Save on College Textbooks

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Scholarships and loans are a great way to put money toward your tuition and expenses, but you may not have enough financial aid to cover all of your books and supplies. There are plenty of easy money-saving tricks to take into consideration as you earn your degree. “A penny saved is a penny earned”, right?

One of the biggest complaints among college students today is the price of textbooks. College textbooks can be very expensive – it’s not unusual to need a book that costs between one and two hundred dollars. Some professors even require more than one book for a class or charge students for photocopied handouts that they distribute.

I found information online that states a General Accounting Office report in 2005 noted that textbook prices rose 186 percent in the U.S. from 1986 to 2004, compared to only a 3 percent rise in other prices over the same period and a 7 percent rise in average college tuition and fees!

You’ll probably spend a few thousand dollars on books alone during your college years. Even if you’re a part-time student taking two classes per semester, your wallet will feel the pinch.

If at all possible, purchase used books. Keep in mind that this isn’t doable when a new edition of a book has been released, the old one is considered out of date, and your professor insists upon the latest version.

When I first started college, I had the crazy assumption that new textbooks were somehow better. After a couple semesters of going broke each time I had to buy books, I realized that used books were just as good. Just be sure to take a few minutes to flip through the book to ensure that pages aren’t torn out or a required CD isn’t attached.

College bookstores usually offer “book buybacks” at the end of each semester where they will give you a portion of the original purchase price in order to resell the books. Even though you won’t get a fortune for your books, you might as well sell them back if you’re unlikely to need them for future reference. I currently have a huge plastic bin full of old textbooks sitting in my garage that I’ll most likely wind up throwing away. If you want to try getting more money for your books than the store will give you, hang up flyers (if your college allows this) advertising which books you’re selling. You can also try placing them for sale online.

Speaking of books online … if you aren’t able to find used copies of your book at the school bookstore, look online!

Websites like Amazon or Ebay are good places to start, but there are plenty of websites that specialize in used college texts. You might be able to find used copies of your necessary texts for half the price of buying new.

A good idea is to visit the campus bookstore to write down the ISBN number from the back of your required texts. You may even want to snap a quick photo of the cover with your phone. This will help ensure that you are purchasing the correct book online. You also won’t be able to thumb through the books to look for damages, but most websites have “book conditions” listed and I’ve found that most people really are honest.

In fact, look for all of your books, new or used, on the internet. The prices at online booksellers are typically considerably lower than the campus store’s prices, and thanks to UPS and FedEx shipping you’ll receive your books within in a few days. Some online merchants even offer book rentals, where you can pay a rental fee, use the book for a semester, and ship it back.

Another good alternative to purchasing textbooks is sharing them. If you have a friend taking the same course at a different time of day, you may be able to share one book between you. I did this several times during college. One of my friends and I had the same major, so we would each buy one required book and then share the two between us. You may have to work out some sort of book-sharing schedule, but if you’re friends to begin with you may study together anyway. I don’t recommend sharing a book with someone you barely know – they could make you purchase it, borrow it for class, and never give it back.

College textbooks are a necessary evil, so don’t be afraid to consider your options. Some or all of these ideas may wind up saving you quite a bit of money.

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Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.


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