August 4, 2008 by Mara Strom
With the first day of college right around the corner, it’s time to
start thinking about all those beginning of semester start-up costs. Are
you trying to stretch your scholarship
dollars? Or make your work-study
money go as far as possible?
Over the next few Mondays at the Financial Aid Finder, I’m going to
focus on some frugal(ish) ways to save money and reduce your overall
This week, we’re talking about textbooks. Books are
often one of those unplanned — or under-planned — for expenses that can
really bust your budget. The cost of books has gone up more than 180
percent in the last decade and it’s not unusual for students to blow
$1,000 or more on buying them.
Given that textbooks are unavoidable (assuming you’re not planning on
intuiting all that info, that is), why not look for some more
affordable ways to purchase them? Here are a few places to look:
Your Campus Bookstore
Believe it or not, there are some bargains to be found at your on-campus
bookstore. And with the cost of gas these days, those bargains — in the
form of used books — probably seem even sweeter than driving all over
town. Here are two important warnings, though, before you buy:
- DO NOT BUY NEW. Sorry for shouting, but this is important! New
textbooks are anywhere from 20% to 80% more expensive than second-hand
books. Plus, as you may have already discovered, most second hand
textbooks are in pristine condition (as in, the previous owner never
even cracked the cover.)
- Don’t buy anything without comparison shopping first. The biggest
book-buying mistake students make is not shopping around. You might get
some great deals at your on-campus store. Or you might find that same
used book for pennies on the dollar from one of the websites below.
This is a great site to search for bargains on nearly 500,000 college
textbook titles, conveniently divided into subjects. The list is also
searchable by title, author or key words. Plus you can resell your
gently used textbooks at the end of each semester and earn some cash to
pay for the next round.
If you’re not up for full-on comparison shopping, this site is for
you. Affordabook is paired up with 17 discount retailers and it searches
through each of them to find the lowest price on new and used textbooks
(and other books, too). Search by ISBN, title or keywords.
Like Affordabook, BigWords does your research for you. The site
searches through several other online retailers to pinpoint where the
best deals are.
If you like eBay, you’ll love buying your books from Textbookz, an
e-Bay based site for student book exchanges. The site is super fast and
easy to use, and like BookByte you can buy and sell your books back.
Where do you buy your textbooks? Have you found a great way to save
money on books? Please share in the comments section! And, tune in again
next week when I look at how food (and drink) figure into your costs of
living. And I’ll try to answer the question: Should you buy a meal