Everyone who goes to college knows college textbooks make a huge hole in your wallet. I have executed a strategy that has saved me hundreds of dollars while buying my college textbooks and I wanted to share it with you today. This strategy will not only save you money by getting you cheap new books, but will guarantee that you can make more money when is time to resell them.
Find the Professor Teaching the Class You Are Taking
Most colleges let you develop a “wish list” of the classes you desire to take the upcoming semester. If your college doesn’t let you develop a wish list, search for the classes and get the professors' information, such as their email or phone number.
Contact Your Future Professors
Send your future professors an email saying how excited you are to take their class and that you are looking forward to have an amazing semester learning from them.
This is where the magic comes in . . . .
Tell them how interested you are in knowing what book he or she will require for the next semester. You can say how excited you are to get your materials done quickly or that simply you want to “get it over with already.” You can also let them know that you may have a couple of friends who already took the class and that you have the option of borrowing the book from them before they sell them (if they do own the book, that just means great news for you).
Make a List
After the professors respond to you, make sure you thank them for their time and end by saying you look forward to learning from them next semester. This will not only help you get the information you need for saving money on textbooks, but it will also earn you major points with them while taking their class next semester.
Do Your Research
It’s simple economics 101: the law of supply and demand. Demand is how much a product is desired by buyers and supply is how much the market can offer to fulfill those needs.
Supply and demand are correlated to each other. If supply decreases but demand increases or stays the same that makes the price of the product to go up. Equally if supply increases but demand decreases that makes the prices stay low or at a competitive level.
What we are doing is simply taking advantage of supply and demand. We are already ahead of thousand of students who are going to be looking for the same book in a couple of months. As such, we are looking to buy when the demand is low, but the supply remains high.
Now that you know how this is going to work, let us put this strategy into action.
The Time to Buy Your Cheap College Textbooks
Research the best prices and get your books at that moment. Every minute counts in this game. I personally have experienced books going up $10 in value within 20 minutes, while I was making up my mind.
In this picture, I have researched an economics textbook required for one my classes in the economics department at my college — using Amazon. The school offers this same textbook (used) for a price of $110. Luckily I did the research seven weeks before school started and I have the option of getting it for the lowest price out there.
As you can see, the lowest price of the textbook is $53.17 and it goes all the way to $115 on the next pages. We can see that the prices increase after the first book, telling us that if somebody buys the first couple of textbooks we are obligated to pay a higher price.
This is how supply and demand works. After all the cheaper textbooks are bought students are left with the more expensive option when they decide to buy their textbooks.
We can see how the prices increase each day that goes by, especially when the first day of school is approaching.
In this picture I show the confirmation email of my order at Amazon done less than a week ago compared to the prices for the same textbooks done at Chegg.com. Last time I checked Chegg.com, they carried the same textbooks at the same price as Amazon.
The only reason why I decided to buy at Amazon is because you can take advantage of their free “Super Saver Shipping” option (this option gives you free shipping when buying two or more items at the same time). I encourage you to take advantage of this deal every time it is available; it really does make a difference.
When to Sell to Get the Highest Price
After the semester is done, most students out there opt to sell their books immediately to their local bookstore — they call it “textbook buy-backs,” and I call it a scam! Have you ever wondered how bookstores that offer buy-backs make their money?
Bookstores buy the books from students who are enthusiastic to get some money to spend during summer. These companies take advantage of this behavior and offer you the lowest price possible to acquire your used textbooks.
What we can learn from these companies is that timing is our best friend. Just like I mentioned before, we can take advantage of the supply and demand economic theory and sell our books when the supply is short and demand is high, forcing the prices to rise. Usually this behavior starts a couple of weeks before school starts.
To ensure the books you own are going to be used by the class next semester, communicate with your professor and let them know your strategy or simply tell them that you are looking to hold the book for one of your friends, who is taking his or her class next semester. This will ensure you that a new edition will not be used next semester and that the strategy we will use will provide the highest returns.
I have personally performed this strategy each semester of college. There have been some semesters where I break even and in some occasions I have made a substantial profit. But as Ben Franklin would say:
“A penny saved is a penny earned.” — Benjamin Franklin
Frank Alvarez is the Founder & Editor in Chief of Wall Street College (www.wallstcollege.com), a blog with the sole purpose of educating people on how to put their money to work, teach them how to invest in stocks, and how to always strive for financial freedom. You can follow Frank on Facebook or Twitter.