We’re 3 days in to the Freshman’s Guide to College and today we’re talking about buying textbooks!
Buying textbooks is the bane of the college student’s budget. It’s crazy that a book that you’re only going to use for 3 months and then never open again costs over $130.00! When you calculate how much the books for 5 courses all cost, including lab kits and workbooks, you can easily be looking at $600 a semester.
That being said, you know how much I spent on buying textbooks this entire year? A whopping $175. And I sold two of my books back for $60 each, so I am sitting at a $55 all year on textbooks.
Now, I’m crazy when it comes to books. I think I probably could have had a bit less stress and chaos if I had actually bought all of my books the normal way, but for me, saving money is worth the extra hassle! So whether this is your last year or your first, here are some of my tips for saving money on textbooks!
NEVER rent your textbooks
My first semester, I rented two of my textbooks since it was less than the price of buying. But let’s do some math here, shall we?
If I had bought the textbook, it would have been $150.00, and renting was only $80.00. I couldn’t re-sell the rented textbook, so I was guaranteed an $80 loss. If I had bought the textbook, I would have spent $70 more originally, but I could have sold it next semester for $90 (I checked–that’s how much they were going for). That means that it would have only cost me $60 if I had bought it full price! So don’t listen to your bookstore if they tell you renting is good. Do the math, and if it is better, than good! Do that. But if you could save money some other way, do that.
Not sure how to save money on textbooks? Keep reading for my saving tips.
When buying textbooks, only buy the ones you need
Many courses will have “recommended reading materials” which are important and you should read, but you may not absolutely have to read.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you really need the book:
1. How much of the book do I need to read?
Figure this out first by looking at the syllabus! In my cognitive development class this year, for instance, there was a book that we had two chapters of reading from and that was all. One of them wasn’t even on the exam! So just go to the library for that book instead of spending the $60 on 40 pages total.
If the book really does have quite a bit of information listed in the syllabus, and if the midterms and exams have information from the recommended readings on them, it may be worth the purchase. It’s really a judgment call
2. What does ratemyprofessors.com say?
If you go onto Rate my Professors and look up the professor that you have for the course you can go and see what other students have said about the course. There were a few courses that I thought I would have to get the book for, but after reading the reviews I thought I’d hold off until I knew for sure whether or not I’d need them. It turned out I didn’t, and I saved a total of about $150!
3. Do I need this book right now?
On the same branch of thought, are the readings from the recommended readings coming up imminently, or can you wait for a month before purchasing the book? Often the recommended readings are used only if the professor is running ahead of schedule, but often they get a little behind and cut out the extra readings. So wait a few weeks to make sure that you truly need them. (Not too long, of course! Don’t let yourself fall behind!)
Textbooks are by far the most expensive thing that we have to buy when going to school, and we only use them for 3 months! It’s crazy! No matter what you think now, you’re very unlikely to use your textbooks in a year from now or even 5 years from now. There are tons of journal databases and websites that have hoards of information, so when you’re out of school you’re not going to pull out those textbooks, you’re going to google it.
For that reason, you really don’t need a snazzy new textbook. I have made it a rule to not buy new textbooks unless there is no other option. It is my last case scenario, since I prefer to buy second-hand!
Where to buy second-hand textbooks:
Look for a textbook trading group with your university! Students are desperate to make some money back on their books, so help a classmate out! I’ve had a lot of success just posting a list of what I need in the group and then buying from the best offer.
Look at online second-hand stores! Kijiji often has lots of textbooks, and although I don’t personally have much experience with the other two, I’ve had friends who have had great experience
Did you know that Amazon actually sells second-hand textbooks? I got one for my family psychology course and it came to only $32.00 including shipping! I couldn’t find it anywhere else for less than $85.00! My roommates have had a lot of success with Amazon, too, and we’re all in different majors, so it’s not just psych books on there!
Head to the Library instead of buying textbooks
Did you know that most courses have their books held on reserve at the library? What this means is that there is a copy of the textbook that is only available for rent for a few hours at a time. Generally, at my school, the time limit for checking out a reserve book is 4 hours but generally the professor of the class decides how long.
Now, there are pros and cons of using this method.
- Saving money. This costs you $0.00, assuming you get the books back in time, of course!
- You are forced to work in the library. For me, this is a pro–I get more done when I’m in the library than when I’m at home.
- Don’t have to carry textbooks around school, so fewer back problems!
- Less freedom. My friends who buy their books secondhand prefer it because then they can study whenever they want wherever they want. You can’t go to a coffee shop with a reserve book, and you can’t take it home with you at night.
- It’s dependent on others in the class. Most classes only have one book available, so if someone else has it checked out then you have to wait until they’re finished with it.
- You have limited time with it, so if you’re doing a binge-study-session it’s not ideal for that.
That all being said, for me, it’s worth it! I love working at school, and it helps make sure I do small bites that keep me on track rather than not studying at all and then cramming before the midterm.
So those are my textbook saving tips and tricks! These have saved me over $1500 over two years, believe it or not, which is $1500 that I can spend on rent or tuition now!
Saving money in college doesn’t have to be difficult. Some companies, such as the Wealth Within Institute, even offer accredited courses in trading shares to help you stay on top of your finances! There are resources available to you as students, whether it’s as small as just learning how to buy books second hand or as big as figuring out how to tackle your student financial goals through the shares market. It’s all about doing the research and finding what works for you.
What would you add? Are you going to try any of these? Let me know!
Enjoy this post? Check out the rest of The Freshman’s Guide to College:
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 1: Back-to-School Shopping
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 2: Choosing your Course Schedule
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 3: Saving on Textbooks
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 4: Making Friends
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 5: Roommates
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 6: Exams
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 7: Packing for College
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 8: Staying Healthy in School
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 9: Time Management
- Freshman’s Guide to College Day 10: Staying in Touch with Family and Friends