This week I’ve been seeing posts by MANY of my facebook friends that their children, husbands, wives, and selves have gone back to college or started college this week. Not only is college expensive for tuition and fees, but books are INSANELY expensive. When I was a college student 25+ years ago I bought as many books as I could in USED condition and was able to save some money, but in that day and age, the only option for purchasing most of your text books were the college bookstore. If you had prof’s that were using novels or non-fiction biographies, you could sometimes borrow those from the city/county or school library for free, or get them for less money at used book stores, or even stores like Walden’s Books or other bookstores (Sadly, I don’t even remember the name of the bookstore that I frequented the most in high school, college, and in my early married years). Today though, college students can save SO MUCH MONEY on books, there are so many great options out there. Here is what I do now for my kids’ college books….
Step #1–get list of books from school website (generally you have to do a search by class and prof through the college bookstore’s website)
Step #2–talk to students that have taken the class from the same instructor, OR email the instructor, OR wait until the first day of school to make sure that that particular instructor uses the books, or if you can get away with only purchasing the online code, or maybe you can share a book with another student?
Step #3–If you find that you DO need the book(s) listed for each class look up the book on the following sites noting how much the book is new, used, as a rental and as an e-book (a spreadsheet comes in VERY HANDY for this process). The fastest and easiest way to do this is by searching by using the ISBN number.
You will want to check
We have found that with many of the text books we can do rentals, or e-books for MUCH cheaper than even buying used. However there have been classes that we’ve been able to get a used book for just a couple of bucks.
I do have friends and family that have gotten textbooks from craigslist, and freecycle, but I just struggle with dealing with some of these individuals sometimes….I prefer doing a little more legwork and having them delivered to my home.
OH! Another great way to get books is by talking to your friends or people that you know that have taken the classes and buying or borrowing from them. We have been able to get free or just about free books this way.
We have found also that some instructors will give the college book store a “bundle”….which usually means a text book and the online code for homework/labwork, etc. So far, our experience has been that EVERYONE of these online codes has included an online version of the book, and by only purchasing the online code and not the bundle has saved us an average of $50 per class. ALSO, some of these codes will work for multiple semesters….for instance, if you are taking 3 semesters of spanish, the code may work for all 3 semesters. Same with math, and possibly some lab sciences that are in the same science family.
Another “trap” with the bundle deals is that oftentimes a prof will have the bookstore bundle a text with supplementary books that you can either borrow from the library, get for free as e-books (ie kindle/nook….neither of which you have to have a special device for, you can use your mobile device or computer or tablet), or very inexpensively in used bookstores/thriftstores or from amazon.
Don’t feel like you HAVE to have the textbook for taking notes in, etc…..the kindle/nook/electronic versions almost always have the capability of highlighting and note taking and will save you a BUNDLE!
And last but not least, if you are renting textbooks, MAKE SURE YOU RETURN THEM ONTIME! You will waste the money you saved if you have to pay for a 2nd rental period or if you end up getting charged for the book because you waited WAY too long to return them. If you find during the semester that it is a book that you actually wish you had purchased instead of rented, all online stores do offer this option to you at anytime during your rental (and they deduct the amount that you have already paid for the rental).
WOuld love to have you add your college money saving tips in the comments! 🙂