With student loan debt soaring and the high cost of tuition, it’s safe to say that finances is on every college student’s mind. As every semester rolls around, it’s that time again for planning your schedule, paying tuition, and of course, buying your textbooks.
The average college student will spend $1,200 every year on textbooks, according to the College Board. But before you go spend that amount, consider these ways to not paying a penny, getting them for cheap, and selling them back for cash when you’re done:
Confirm the book is essential. I can’t tell you how many times I bought an expensive textbook throughout college and never used it. Clarify with the professor if it is suggested reading or mandatory.
Download it for free. The website Gutenberg.com has more than 45,000 free e-books available for download.
Borrow from you school’s library. Chances are if the book is required, it may be in the college library. As soon as you find out you need the book, call the library. If it is there, you can reserve it, and go pick it up for no cost.
Get it from the local library. With only a few copies in your college library, it could be likely to go fast or not even be there at all. Some college libraries also require the copy of the books stay in the library and can not be checked out. In that case, check with your local city library. Before you go in, call the library to see if it’s there. Depending on where you live, your library may be able to order it from another nearby library or look up in the system which other libraries carry the book you’re looking for.
Make a copy if you only need a small portion. If your professor has detailed specific pages that you will be reading throughout the semester and there’s only a few, you can make a copy of those. Ask a class mate or your professor if you could borrow the book for an evening or over the weekend. If you have a scanner, you can scan the assigned readings onto your computer.
Rent your book instead. Websites including Bookrenter.com and Chegg.com allow you to rent your books instead for much less than it would be buying them new. These rentals need to be kept in excellent condition and returned on time.
Only buy what you need. Another option is only buying the chapters you need. CengageBrain.com lets you purchase a single chapter of a book for as low as a few dollars.
Opt for an e-book. Check if the e-book version is cheaper. The website CourseSmart is a great place to start with a savings of up to 60 percent what you’d pay for the print material.
Share with a friend. If you know someone in your class, consider splitting the cost with them and sharing the book. You’d need to understand how often the book will need to be used and have a clear outline of who gets it when.
Ask if older editions are okay. Compare the difference between versions of the book. If your teacher feels the difference won’t affect your education or grade, going with the older version may save money.
Act fast. Regardless if you are trying to borrow a book from you school’s library or purchasing a book, act fast to save. If you delay, the chances that the book will be available in the library are going to go down drastically since there are many other people in your class wanting to do the same thing. And if you’ve decided to purchase the book because you want it or the library doesn’t carry it, visiting your book store early can give you the option of getting it used.
Know what you’re buying. Whether you’re buying it used online or from a book store or ordering it new, be sure of what you are getting. Textbooks have a tendency to change versions or editions often so be sure you are getting the right one. Some come with a CD or a password to have supplemental course material so be sure that that is included, especially with any used books. If you’re purchasing a used book, make sure it’s still in usable condition. It’s one thing to have some highlights throughout the book, but if you have missing pages or are unable to read part of it, that could be a problem.
Sell it back when you’re done. I would always try to offset any costs of my textbooks by selling my used books from last semester. So keep selling them back in mind as soon as you buy them. Try to keep the book in the best possible condition so you can sell it either at your book store or online. I always sold my books on Amazon instead of selling back to my college because they offered more money. When you list the books, be sure to write a detailed description including any damage. Also include if you still have any CD or supplemental material that went along with the book.
Think before you sell though. Before you list your used textbook of Amazon, take a few minutes to think if the book would be beneficial to you down the road. If it is a class that is part of your major, you may want to keep it as a reference to classes down the road. As a journalism major, I kept all of my books about basic writing style to go back to whenever I needed it and to review it every so often. If it is any type of book that would help you with other classes, it might be worth more for you to hang on to it.