How to Save Money on College Textbooks

by Julie on June 29, 2012

in Finances,Reviews

The more I think about it, I have come a long way. Since high school graduation, I have obtained three degrees and am now working in my dream profession in an awesome school district as a psychologist.

{Val and I at my graduation in 2010}

Would I change anything?

Well, kinda. Looking back at my graduate school experience, finances always comes to mind. There are a ton of things I would have done differently and some things I wish I would have done earlier. Today, I want to discuss textbooks and how you can save money on them.

From my perspective, textbooks are way too expensive and undergraduate and graduate students need to be creative in how they obtain their books. You need to be smart. You need to look at each textbook and think, “Will I need this after graduation?” If you are in a very specific bachelor program in which everything you learn will be used in your future profession, I say go for it and buy what you need. They key word here is “need” because you still need to be selective. Think realistically and applicably. In my graduate program, everything was specific and I knew I would need some of these books as references later on. As I am entering my fourth year as a professional (including my one-year internship), there are still times when I go back to my textbooks to find a researched-based answer to a question that comes up. When in doubt, don’t buy the textbook. You can always purchase it down the road, and by then, they probably have a newer edition!

I know what you’re thinking: “Um, I have to buy these for my class!” You are absolutely right. You don’t want to find yourself in an awkward situation in which Professor A finds out you did not buy a book and he picks on you throughout class because he knows you did not read.

NOR, do you want to be that girl or guy who mooches off of everyone in your cohort saying they don’t have the book “yet” and need to borrow someones. This is unacceptable because everyone is in the same boat! However, if you want to discuss sharing books ahead of time, that may be a good option for some classes.

{my lovely classmates… we were (are?) a pretty strange group}

Here are some options for obtaining your textbooks:

  1. Rent them. Campus Book Rentals is an excellent place to start. It’s like the Netflix of textbooks. You search for the book you need, figure out how long you need it for, they send the books to you (free shipping!), and then you return them in an envelop they provide. By doing this, you save tons of money on textbooks, you can highlight the book (that is a huge one for me!), and they donate to Operation Smile (a charity for cleft lip and palate surgeries).
  2. Borrow them. I did not discover think of this until my graduate school second year, but the library has many of your books especially if they belong to a consortium that includes other colleges.

I’m not going to mention anything about finding them cheaply, because you are pretty smart and know that by now. If you do one of the options above though, ask to receive your syllabi ahead of time or ask your teacher for the required books (many of them won’t have their syllabus done until the beginning of the semester).

I really, really wish I knew about Campus Book Rentals when I was in graduate school. I just looked up one of the required textbooks for my program, and it would have been significantly cheaper to rent an ethics book than to purchase it (40% cheaper).

Definitely check out this video… it made me giggle :-)

Disclosure: Campus Book Rentals contacted me about their website. In exchange for writing a post based on my own opinions, they are giving me $50 to give to a friend or family member going to college toward their textbooks. I am giving the $50 to Lindsay since she is starting a graduate program this summer!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Holly June 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

My freshman year I paid full price and bought new. I had NO IDEA.

After that I made a point to buy early and buy used. I also only bought what books were required and then after each semester I would sell them on eBay. I found I got a higher return there than selling them back to the same bookstore I got them from.

I was the first to go to college in my family. No one told me! Wish I had known that from the start!
Holly´s last [type] ..Fresh Fork Summer CSA Share: Week 3 & 4


kelly June 30, 2012 at 7:42 am

LOVE seeing pictures of you and G together – we miss you!!!



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