How to Save Money as a College Student: Books

Once you look back on your college expenditures, one of the greatest costs you will find will be books. Books are expensive. Nearly every course you take will require you to buy books in some sort of capacity, and left unchecked, you will find these expenses eating into your savings/food/beer money real quick. Here’s a look at several ways on how to cut back on the cost of books.

Use Your Library

Your campus library is an amazing resource. Make the most of it. Although it might be tough to find a required course reading at the library, you might have some luck. There are a number of times where a professor has recommended extra reading and I’ve been able to find just that book in the library. Depending on the library, you might find that there’s a special collections in-house catalog of books that never leave the library premises. Speaking to other students, it seems this often gets overlooked. School-related reading set aside, there are a number of cool books that you can find in your library. I’ve been able to find comprehensive reviews of Chelsea FC and picture-laden chronicles of swimming in the Olympics–books that would cost me $20 or more to purchase.

Check-in with Classmates and Friends

Ben Franklin on the $100 bill

Ben Franklin knows a thing or two about the merits of book-borrowing.

Before looking elsewhere, it’s worth asking your friends or classmates if they have a book you need. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to borrow it for free. Worst case scenario, you come up with a purchase price that’s cheaper than anything you find online. The bonus here is that it adds an extra social element to otherwise mundane task of buying a book. Ever here of the Ben Franklin Effect? Our Founding Father noticed that when he asked people for certain favors, they ended up liking him more. So feel free to borrow books from people. Far from being a burden, chances are you’ll make someone’s day.

Research Your Shopping Options

If you do end up buying a book, make sure you put in the research to figure out what the best deal for your book will be. Fortunately, you’ll have some options:

  • AbeBooks
    • Although best for less technical books, you can still find a variety of new and used texts on Abebooks. From my experience, I’ve often found AbeBooks to be the cheapest option for a number of items, But that isn’t always the case. Try searching for the lowest overall price to see what the best deal is for shipping price + the actual price of the book.
  • Half.com
    • Representing probably the largest catalog of new and used books is the eBay owned Half.com. Regardless of what book you’re looking for, you should be able to find it here. Just make sure to thoroughly read the condition notes. Some books will come out looking pristine (usually fetching a larger price), while other books will come earmarked and highlighted (for a much lower fee). But this logic doesn’t always hold true. Sometimes you’ll be able to find brand new books for really cheap prices and old books priced ridiculously high. Be vigilant! Half.com also offers a book rental service (see below).
  • Amazon.com
    • It’s no secret, Amazon is a big name in the eCommerce world. Although they host a variety of new and used books, I’ve found used book prices to be cheaper on Half.com and AbeBooks. Still, when doing your research, feel free to give Amazon a try. One place where Amazon excels for purchasing books is in it’s prime features. Need a book in a pinch? Buy it through Amazon Prime for quick two-day turnaround. Double-check the shipping date, to make sure it will arrive when you need it. Don’t have Prime? Students get a free limited Amazon prime account. All you need is your school email address and you’re pretty much set.Oh, and one more thing, you can also rent books via Amazon’s Textbook Rentals (see below).
  • School Store
    • Chances are your school has its own bookstore. Both new and used books here are often pricey (unless your professor has thankfully subsidized the purchase of your books), but one thing that you can count on your student book store for is book rentals. Let’s face it: you’re probably never going to open that Introduction to the Fundamentals of Geology textbook again once you get your required science credits out of the way. So, there’s no reason why you need to fork over the $100+ to buy it. More than anything else, your school bookstore is probably your best bet for picking up a new book last minute.
  • Online Rental Options
  • Local Bookstores
    • Probably the least efficient of all of the above options, you shouldn’t rule your local bookstore out. If they have a used section, you might be able to find that book you’re looking for for a steal. Plus, you’re supporting a local business. If stress from exams is keeping you up all night, that thought should give you some sleep.

Got your student finances locked down? What’s your plan for making the big bucks with your big idea?

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