In the 2017-18 school year, the average tuition at public universities reached $9,970 for in-state students and $25,620 for out-of-state. If you’re planning to attend a private four-year university, you can expect an average tuition of $34,740 per year. With tuition numbers so high, many college students are scrambling to find ways to save money. One way you can cut costs in college is by finding cheap textbooks. Between 2002 and 2012 textbooks rose an average of 82% according to a study done by the Government Accountability Office.
Buy Used Textbooks
Before you resort to buying brand-new textbooks for any course, always check to see if you can find used textbooks.
Where to Buy Used Textbooks
Used textbooks are the perfect, money-saving alternative to new textbooks, as long as you get your money’s worth. (Saving $20 on a textbook doesn’t mean much if the book you receive is completely unusable.)
One of the best ways to find cheap textbooks is in person, where you can handle and see the used books for yourself. Many college towns have student bookstores that buy and sell textbooks, and there’s likely one on campus if you attend a major university.
Although buying in person has its benefits, you might be able to find the book you’re looking for at a lower price, or even in better condition, online. You won’t be able to handle or inspect the book yourself, though, so be careful which websites and sellers you use.
Best online resources for used textbooks:
Avoid Unnecessary Textbook Purchases
A little-known college secret is that you might not need every piece of material on your syllabus. You’ll likely receive a list of required materials before the term starts, along with the recommendation to stock up right away–but that isn’t always a good idea.
Identify Unnecessary Materials
Many professors pad their syllabuses with extra books or “recommended” textbooks that you won’t use, or only use once. If you’re trying to save money, there’s no reason to spend $80 on a book you won’t need to succeed in your course. If a book is listed as “recommended” or “suggested” rather than “required”, your best bet might be to avoid that purchase.
Wait to Buy Your Books
Another strategy used by college students to save money is waiting to buy their books. While going through the syllabus ahead of time can be helpful, many of the textbooks marked “required” there may still be unnecessary or redundant. By waiting until the semester has gotten under way, you can feel out which resources you really need.
Ask Past Students
Facebook got its start on college campuses for a reason. Universities act as great, in-person and online social networks, which you can use to save money and gain valuable intel. Join groups and ask around to find people who have taken the courses on your schedule. Ask them which textbooks they used, and which ones you won’t need. You may even be able to score cheap textbooks by buying theirs used.
While buying used books can save you money compared to buying new, renting or borrowing books can potentially save you even more. If you won’t need to take notes in a textbook required for class, renting is a great option.
Check Your Campus Library
Cheap textbooks are great, but free textbooks are even better. One way to rent the books you need, for free, is through your on-campus library. Search your campus library for your required books as early as possible, as they’ll likely go fast. If you’re lucky enough to find a book on your list, make sure to take good care of it and not damage it in any way, as you’ll need to return it in the same condition as you took it out.
Many of the same sites that sell used textbooks also allow students to rent the books they need for class. This works much the same as buying a book and then reselling it, but with a guarantee built in that the site will take the book back when you’re done with it. Just make sure to return the book in the same condition as you received it, and investigate late fees and shipping charges.
Top textbook rental resources:
Sell Your Used Textbooks
Another way you can save money on textbooks is by selling them when you’re done. Like with renting your books, this only applies to books which you won’t be marking up with notes. Selling your used textbooks requires you to keep the books in good condition throughout the term, which isn’t always possible.
If your campus bookstore deals in used books, this is a perfect first stop. The bookstore might not always offer the highest price for your textbooks, but the convenience of selling in person and avoiding the hassle and cost of shipping may even things out.
If you bought your books online, you can likely sell your used textbooks back to the site from which they were purchased. If you bought your textbooks new, and you’re interested in selling them when you’re done, you can likely get a great rate online. The same sites which sell used textbooks usually offer textbook buying services, as well.
A combination of selling your used books in person and online, using social networking to recoup some of your textbook money can be convenient and effective. When the term is coming to an end, post in your Facebook Group or Twitter that you’re selling your used textbooks for an affordable rate. You may even be able to trade for the books you’ll need next term.
In some cases, a physical textbook is your only option. However, if you won’t need to mark pages or take notes in your textbook, an online textbook might just do the trick.
Find Free and Cheap Textbooks Online
It might sound too good to be true, but in certain instances, you may be able to view and even print a textbook online, for free. If not, you should still be able to find affordable and printable versions of your textbook. Search for the textbooks you need on FlatWorld Knowledge.
Your books might not always be available for free or in a printable format, but you could still save by buying the eBook versions of your textbooks. Remember that eBooks aren’t always the cheaper alternative, however, and that they don’t always offer the opportunity to recoup your money when you’re done with your book. Most sites offer e-textbooks on a rental basis.
Resources for eBook textbooks:
Be Smart, Save Money
Many students reach college only to find out too late that they didn’t put away enough money for books. If you’re in college now and struggling to afford the textbooks required, or you’re applying to college and want to plan ahead, learning to save money with cheap textbooks can go a long way.