Tuition, room and board add up fast, but they’re not the only big purchases that college students face at the beginning of the semester. Add on top of those expenses the cost of textbooks, which can run students upward of $100 apiece.
College students spent an average of about $1,200 on textbooks and school supplies in 2013, according to the College Board.
The good news is that paying full price for textbooks at the campus bookstore is not the only option for cash-strapped students. There are plenty of ways to get all the books you need and not break the bank.
1) Whenever possible, rent rather than buy.
Sites like Amazon, BookRenter, Chegg –– among others –– allow students to purchase books at a reduced price, as long as they return the books intact by the end of the semester.
Many school bookstores also offer students the option to rent textbooks rather than the purchases. But keep in mind that the campus bookstore is usually the most expensive option for book purchases, even if you’re renting. The best deals –– for renting or buying outright –– are usually found online.
2) eBooks are a more cost effective alternative.
If you have a Kindle or other e-reader device, take advantage of it not only to read your favorite novels and the daily news, but also for required reading for class. Not only are eBooks a lot more
3) Buy used books whenever possible.
Used books are another cost effective alternative to buying new books. And they are often in comparable shape to new books.
The campus bookstore usually offers used books at a knockdown price, but as usual, they aren’t the best place to buy a book. Plenty of websites offer used books, and you can even read descriptions of their condition before you purchase.
Insiders tip: You may be able to buy a book used and then sell it back for less than you could rent a book for.
4) If you are going to buy new, look into selling the book back.
A lot of sites and the campus bookstore will allow you to sell back your used books at the end of the semester as long as they’re not too worn down. Traditional sites like Amazon and Half.com will accept used books as well as new ones. There are also websites such as TextbookRush that specialize in textbook sales. Though the campus bookstore might take back used books, it typically won’t offer you as much money back as many websites will.
5) Look into the international editions.
International editions of textbooks are just slightly different than their U.S. counterparts, with variations in their covers and ISBNs. But they have the same page numbers and content as U.S. editions, and can cost as much as half the price. They’re available on larger sites like Amazon, as well as specialty sites such as TextbookRush.
6) Always compare costs across different sites.
There are websites –– like SlugBooks, BookFinder and Big Words –– that allow you to compare prices from sites such as Amazon, Half.com and BookRenter, and make the most cost-effective choice. Be sure to look at all your options before you make a purchase.