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If you’ve never purchased a college textbook it’s likely your jaw will drop when you first see the price. It’s not uncommon for math and science textbooks to run well over $150 per book! When you have to buy 4-5 of these books a year (plus other books and materials as well), it can seriously hurt your budget.
A 2013 study from The College Board showed that textbooks average more than $1,000 per year. Over and over again we hear that this is one of the largest unexpected expenses students face. And understandably so.
Fortunately, there are ways to get the costs down if you’re willing to put a little time in. Here are the five best ways to save money on textbooks this fall.
Most new college students start their textbook search at the campus bookstore. This can be a huge mistake if you’re looking for ways to save money on college textbooks. The campus bookstore is generally one of the highest priced places for textbooks. Browse the store to get an idea of prices but don’t buy yet.
With school about to be back in session, you’ll find more savings available than any other time of the year. For instance, Barnes and Noble offer up to 30% off the ticketed price of new books plus free shipping on new textbook orders over $25.
If you want to purchase new books, set aside a half an hour and price compare. You’ll find that prices on new books vary and a little time will help you find the best option. This can help you save hundreds per year in textbook costs.
Significantly Save with Used Books
When it comes to college textbooks, one of the best ways to save money is to buy used. You can snag used books in good condition for up to 90% off. If you don’t mind a little wear on the book, this can be a great way to save a lot of money.
Before you pull the trigger on a used book, be sure to see if older versions of the textbook are suitable. (Refer to your syllabus or ask your professor.) You’re likely to get used, older versions of a textbook for a fraction of the price of the new version.
It makes a lot of sense to buy a used book, especially if you’re not using it long term. Since the savings are significant when buying used versus new, it almost always works out better financially.
Just remember, you have to be okay with a little wear, some folded pages, and highlighting.
Rent Your Books
When you rent a book, you’ll pay much less than buying it new and you’ll be able to send the book back at the end of the semester. You can rent textbooks from Barnes and Noble for various lengths of time and can extend your rental when needed.
When you’re done with the book, you simply log in to your Barnes and Noble account, print the free return shipping label and send the book back. Pretty simple, and much less of a hassle than trying to sell your book after the semester is over.
It is important to note that you should take great care of the books you rent or you could be charged for the replacement.
Try Electronic Versions
E-books are becoming commonplace in the classroom.
If you feel comfortable using an e-book, you can add this to your savings arsenal in the event you don’t find any other options that meet your needs.
I find that e-books have pros and cons. If you like being able to pull out your phone or tablet to read your textbook, and don’t mind not being able to highlight a page, then an e-book can be a great choice. However, if you really need to have that physical book in your hand to take notes, it might not be the right choice for you.
Sell Your Books Back When Possible
At the end of the semester, evaluate which books you no longer need and sell them. While you won’t get all of your money back, you will get some further bringing down the price of your books.
The easiest way to sell your books back is to go to your campus bookstore. However, you can also sell your books online if you’re willing to do the work of listing the book, and packing and shipping it. If you’re going to sell your books yourself, I suggest waiting until right before the next semester starts – if you sell too soon, you might not get the best price.
There are a lot of different ways to save money on college textbooks. The bottom line is that you don’t need to buy a book at full price just because that’s what the campus bookstore offers. Shop online, look at major bookstores like Barnes and Noble, and see if buying used or renting a textbook makes sense for you. It can save you hundreds, or even thousands, by the time you graduate.
What are your favorite ways to save on college textbooks?
Photo Credit: wavebreakmediamicro
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him here and here.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.