Save money on textbooks

Everything about college is expensive. In the end, the sacrifices will most likely be worth it, but that’s no comfort to a poor college student staring at a few-hundred-dollars-worth of textbooks every semester. On average, college students spend $1,200 a year on textbooks alone. Luckily, there are a few places you can go to help you save a few dollars.

1. The first day of class

Many classes are taught from a single syllabus that governs multiple sections with many different professors. That means the book list may not be 100 percent accurate for the course you’re in. Hold off on buying books until the first day of class and ask your professor candidly how much of the text is necessary for the course. Some classes are taught by adjuncts and graduate students who share the pain of expensive, rarely-used textbooks. You’d be surprised how many of them are willing to provide tips on the relevance of older editions or suggestions for sharing textbooks.

The first day of class can be helpful for another reason – you might find a friend who is willing to share the textbook with you. This may not be an ideal solution, but splitting the cost of a new book in half can be tough to beat, even with rentals and online shopping.

2. Check campus (and local) libraries

Most libraries work on donations. In college towns, people can move in and out frequently and may want to leave textbooks behind. These two factors mean that a lot of libraries are going to get textbooks. Checking one out for the whole semester may not be feasible, but it might help to grab it for a few weeks to study, or to help make sharing with a friend a little easier.

3. Comparison shop

Search engines have made it easier than ever to find the lowest price on everything, and textbooks are no exception. They do have one qualification, though: changing editions. Particularly for math and science courses, problem numbers and answers are frequently among the only changes made from year-to-year. The best way to counteract this is to shop using the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for your textbooks. You can find this number on the book above the barcode. This number is tied to the specific edition and title, so there’s no chance of getting the wrong book by accident.

4. Rent

A variety of online stores will offer rental textbooks. These work just like the textbooks in high school did. You pay a fee at the start of the semester, and the company ships you the book. You ship it back at the end of the semester. Some sites will rent for around 60 percent of the price of a new book.

5. Consider ebooks

In recent years, publishers have been increasingly moving toward ebook publication as a way to get their textbooks out. Printing and distribution costs can be much lower, so the prices for the books themselves tend to be lower as well.

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