When I was an academic advisor, I used to just cringe when I saw the lines of students that wound through the campus bookstore and around the corner.
The college bookstore is THE most expensive place to buy your college textbooks.
Now, let me say that I understand why many students choose to buy their books at the college bookstore. It’s incredibly convenient, and if you’re planning to use financial aid to pay for books, it can make financial sense, too.
But when I was in college, I was caught in the middle class…. my family made too much money for me to get much financial aid, but not enough for me to afford college comfortably. My budget was extremely tight.
So, if you’re stuck in the middle like I was, here are some ways to save money on college textbooks.
How to get free college textbooks
Trade books with a friend. One semester I took Environmental Science, the next semester, Psychology. A good friend of mine did just the opposite and we were able to trade books. You may also be able to borrow books from a friend. Borrow the books from the library. One of my former students told me she would borrow her literature books for English from the public library. Sure, you can’t write in it and you may have to renew it, but it’s free.
Check to see what resources your academic learning center has. At some campuses, students can read many college textbooks at the library. They have to stay in the library, but that just means you will have to study! Some academic learning centers will also allow you to borrow recorders or calculators, too!
Try Freecycle. Put a request out on Freecycle. You may find that someone has the books you need just collecting dust on a shelf and would be willing to let you have them for free.
How to get cheap college textbooks
Buy used. Whenever possible, buy used textbooks. A brand-spanking new textbook is nice, but it’s like buying a new car – it loses value the second you buy it. Look for used textbooks in good condition and you’ll save.
Check out the college bulletin boards. Many times you can find used textbooks for less than what the college bookstore sells them for. Plus you’re helping out a fellow college student.
Check out what’s available online. When my husband was in grad school, he saved a ton of money on his books by buying them online. A lot of great retailers have gotten into selling used textbooks. Check out BarnesandNoble.com, Textbooks.com and Amazon to see how prices compare. You should also investigate whether it’s better to buy or rent textbooks from a place like Chegg.com
And don’t forget to put the word out on Facebook and Craigslist. You may be able to score a great deal using social media, too.
A final piece of advice on saving on college textbooks
Remember, great deals on used college textbooks will take some time. You can’t wait until the last minute to save some money. You’ll also need to know the name of the book, author, edition, and ISBN number, in order to make sure you’re getting the exact books you need.
Fortunately, the savings is well worth the time invested.
Your turn: What ways have you saved on college textbooks?
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About Christina Brown
Christina is a wife and mother dedicated to figuring out how to live a simpler, happier life on a budget.