Whether you’re going to school for the first time straight out of high school, or coming back as a non-traditional student for your graduate degree, you’re going to need books. The price of college has skyrocketed in recent years, and book prices are no exception. They can easily make or break your collegiate budget, and they’re an added cost on top of what your school bills you for tuition and fees.
The prices are likely going to be worst at your school bookstore, which is of course the first place you look and experience sticker shock. There are multiple ways to save money, but most of them require that you get a head start on the book-buying process. The first step, then, is to contact your professor before the semester starts to see if they truly require or use the textbook in class. Nothing is worse than paying hundreds of dollars for text you won’t use. Even if they say yes, they may be compelled to do so by the school, so try to get in touch with students who have recently taken the same course from the same professor for a better picture.
If the answer is yes, implement one of these money-saving options to get your hands on your books for less.
Shop Online Marketplaces
Online marketplaces are probably the most common place to pick up those textbooks at a discount. Generally they will be gently- to well-used, but the savings is worth the dog-eared pages. Out of a long list of online marketplaces, we recommend buying on Amazon because of their superior return policy should a seller attempt to scam you, or if they mistakenly list the wrong edition of the same book.
Etextbooks are a relatively new thing. While generally electronic books are cheaper than their paper counterparts, the price difference hasn’t spread as dramatically to etextbooks. However, if you are able to find a good sale or use promo codes when you purchase you can save a bundle. Another thing to consider when purchasing electronically is that not all professors have accepted them as a viable text option. If you have an open book test, you may run into issues as your professor may not allow you to use your iPad, Kindle, or other handheld device because it also provides you access to the internet.
Check Bulletin Boards
Bulletin boards at your school may just be your best friend. There are students there that have recently taken the same courses as you, and now that they’re done they’re looking to unload their books at a discounted price. They can usually get more back by selling to other students directly than they would by selling back to the bookstore, and their prices are usually better for you than buying used from the bookstore, as well. Make sure you have the right edition, but buying off of a physical bulletin board, or one that your school hosts online is a great way to save some cash.
When All Else Fails, Head to the Bookstore
Sometimes your school or professor can put you in a tight situation. Some schools publish their own editions of textbooks, making them impossible to find on online marketplaces. You may still be able to purchase them off of other students, but the supply and demand is going to be much higher since everyone else will be trying to go the same route. For some courses you may be able to use another edition if it varies only slightly. But for courses like math where slight differences will make a big impact on the outcome of your homework, you may have to buckle down and buy from the bookstore. Prices will be inflated, but if you buy early you should be able to get your hands on one of their used copies for a lower price.