One of the horror stories that surround college life is the hole that buying textbooks puts in a student’s pockets. I’m here to tell you, that you don’t have to live that horror story. I have organized my textbook shopping strategies in an easy to follow list.
1. The Early Bird Seriously Saves Some Big Money
During mid-to-late July, I sit on my college bookstore site for books to be posted. Though, I don’t mean that literally. I just check it at least twice a day. Once in the morning and once at night. It is tedious, but in the end you will be able to spend the morning getting worms instead of worrying how much books are going to cost you when you get to school. However, once that list is posted, find a site that compares book prices and look up your books.
2. It’s Not Like You Need a Filing Cabinet
I have become equipped to use spreadsheets for any data collection. Any chance I have, I make a spreadsheet for anything possible, and it started with my book hunts. I set up a spreadsheet which lists the book’s title, author and ISBN. I have additional columns for the bookstore’s sale prices, and then a section for each online store. Another handy tip: I use the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet to separate the semesters, so my desktop isn’t cluttered with five different spreadsheets.
3. Used Doesn’t Mean Infected
Don’t think of a used book as something disgusting and unwanted. A used book is someone’s way of getting some money back form buying their books for last semester and a way to share the knowledge. What people have written in the margins or highlighted sections may be something you would not have thought of or be something you would of highlighted. Though, do be careful with those, because some professors will count that as an Honor Code violation. Also, getting a used book saves trees and who doesn’t like going green?
Another type of used is an older edition. If the current addition is a bit out of your price range, then look at the previous ones. Though, do try only to go back one or two. It won’t be the worst thing, but depending on the class it could mean just a little extra work to save some big bucks.
4. There is a Whole World Out There, Not Just The Internet
We get completely lost in “oh everything is online. I don’t have to even put on pants to order my books!” However, while you’re sitting at home without pants on ordering books, your classmate is getting their book at a used bookstore for half the price. However, there is a catch to this.
5. It is All About the Gas. . .
The catch is gas. In some places, paying shipping is less expensive than the trip to the used bookstore. For instance, the good second-hand bookstores I know, are in Woodbridge, VA. I wasn’t staying in Woodbridge, so it was easier to just order the books. Also, if you are able to easily go to a second hand bookstore, DO NOT put it off for more than a week of looking at your online prices. Those prices will change because someone else bought the cheaper one. They were the early bird that saved some big money.
6. . . . Or the Shipping
Shipping is another thing that can either save you quite a bit in the long run, or make you regret your purchase. There have been countless times that the book which is priced at $12.89 on one site, is actually the cheaper purchase than the one on another site at $11.09. The thing that most people don’t consider when ordering textbooks is shipping can really add onto a purchase. So, when you make a spreadsheet of prices for each online store, have a column for sale price, shipping and total, so you don’t have to add every time you look at the document.
7. Borrow, Rent or Permanent Residence?
There are three kinds of books: ones for that random Gen Ed; the ones that go towards your major and you might need for more than one class; and ones you want in your personal library, but it is okay if they are someplace else now and again. And for each of these books there is a solution for purchase and resale. The ones for your Gen Eds, if it is cheaper to rent, I don’t see why not. If it isn’t cheaper to rent, then sell it to another student once the semester is over. For those major books, some are a pain to buy because they just completely ruin your awesome saving skills. But, think about it. If the book is about $148 (which one of the only textbooks I have bought actually cost), but it is used for three different classes, it is worth the investment. Instead of thinking how much it is costing you that one semester, think of it as $48 per class. It doesn’t change the price, but it does change how you view its usefulness. Lastly, for that book you really like, lend it out to other people taking the course after you. Work out a fair price for the lend though. Because they are giving it back and you can lend it out again, and they are also college students trying to save money during book hunt season.