On average, college students spend around $655 per year on textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores. And with the cost of tuition and other school expenses, no college student wants to be spending — or should be spending — that much for their books.
“Textbooks are the top hidden expense of college,” said Nicole Allen, Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs), a leading advocacy group on the issue of textbook costs. “It’s common to find price tags over $200 each for introductory subjects like Calculus and Biology, and to add insult to injury, many of the books end up worth mere pennies by the end of the semester.”
No matter what subjects you’re studying, there are many ways to save on your books. Avoid blowing a hole in your budget with these cost-cutting tips:
- Don’t buy at the bookstore. Your college bookstore is the last place you should be purchasing your textbooks. School bookstores are known to jack up the prices since it may be the most convenient way to get your books — but it’s certainly not cost effective.“It’s crazy how much students can save,” said Ashmore Bodiford, national street team manager for BIGWORDS.com. “Students wait in these super long lines forever at bookstores. They feel like they’re getting ripped off — they’re wasting gas and time shopping in bookstores and not online.”
- Buy used. Think about it: does a folded page or a highlighted paragraph really make all that difference in the content you’re studying? Because textbooks are used, the prices are much lower, but will still give you the same experience. Plus, many “used” textbooks tend to be in pretty good condition. Find pre-owned textbooks online at websites like Amazon and eBay. Tip: using the ISBN number, which defines the exact textbook you need (edition, volume, etc.), can help you find the correct textbook quickly. You may also find useful promo codes at sites such as RetailMeNot.com or Ebates.com to increase your savings even more.
- Share with a classmate. If you feel comfortable going halves with another student for your textbook, then who says you can’t? That way, you can split the price and both of you will be able to save on your textbooks. Just be sure to first see what your professor’s teaching style is before you decide to share.
- Rent. A rented textbook will typically be around 40% of the list price. Check out websites such as Chegg.com or BookRenter.com, or even see if your campus bookstore allows you to rent your books.“As long as it’s not a textbook that they want to hang on to for a reference in the future, renting is definitely a good option for [students],” says Rhonda Nesheim-Kauffman, manager of NIACC Book Zone in Mason City, IA. “They can see the savings when they first purchase the book.”
- Check out ebooks. If you own an e-reader, ebooks may be an option for you. They’re cheaper than buying and offer the convenience of always having them on you whenever you carry your e-reader. It’s especially useful if you’re taking classes that require historical texts, fiction, biographies, poetry and essays, as these are the texts you’ll likely find easily on an e-reader.
“Overall, the biggest tip is to shop around and be a smart consumer,” says Allen. “There are more ways to save than ever before, so make sure to know your options and figure out which one offers the best benefits.”
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