Friday, August 3, 2012

How to Save up to 97% on Textbooks

“How I bought a semester’s worth of books for the cost of a single book at the bookstore.”

August is upon us and that means many students have less than a month before classes start.  Most students are blowing some of their hard earned summer cash and trying to push the fall semester into the deep recesses of their minds.  While everyone else is trying to forget about school, spend a bit of time to purchase your books early and save yourself money and stress.  I’ll provide you with several tips I have come across purchasing textbooks for 10 semesters.

  1. Buy used instead of new whenever possible.  While extremely obvious to most, I feel as if it must be included in the list.  It requires less effort and time than the following four pointers, but can help you save just as much if not more.  This should be something you always do with textbooks unless you have a personal preference for new books.
  2. Search your favorite book seller now for your course materials.  By doing this you will have the first pick which gives you access to better quality books at lower prices.  Used versions can sell out forcing you to purchase new or you may have to buy from a more expensive source to get the books on time if you procrastinate too long.  Also, you can purchase items using cheaper shipping options such as media mail and save money on that if you are not in a hurry to receive your books.
  3. Don’t forget to check and read used listings even if your course requires a 1 times use activation code or key.  People will enroll in a class, purchase a book, and drop the class before ever being able to use the key.  Read descriptions carefully and contact sellers to double check to make sure codes are unused.
  4. Compare prices!  Later in the article I will show you how I spent less on a semester’s worth of textbooks than I would have on a single book at my school bookstore.  Amazon and are notable for buying books and has good prices on rentals.  Many schools have their own online classifieds where students can list items such as old textbooks.
  5. Many courses have materials listed that are not required.  Before purchasing these contact your professor and decide if you actually need them to supplement the course.  Many items are posted by the department and not required or even useful with some professors.

This semester I only registered for 4 courses (12 credit hours) and purchased my books on July 28 and 29 and saved on average 64% and as much as 97% ($212.18) on a single textbook!  At the time of purchase Amazon happened to have the cheapest prices on all of my books except one which was customized for my school and only offered at their bookstores.  Some book names have been abbreviated and I did not calculate for optional materials.  All prices include shipping if eligible, but not tax.

Bookstore Price
My Price
Access Code
Savings Amount
Savings Percent
HTML Illustrator
$87.75 (used)
$14.99 (used)
Web Dev., Design.
$117.25 (new), $88.00 (used)
$28.99 (used)
VB Programming
$132.00 (new), $99.00 (used), $84.75 (Access Code)
$83.75 (used)
College Alg/Trig
$219.00 (new), $106.50 (Access Code)
$6.82 (used)
Financial Management
$170.50 (new), $128.00 (used), $85.00 (rent)
$128.00 (used)

A few things I would like to note are that I managed to get all necessary access codes along with a physical copy of the textbook for cheaper than I could have bought only the access code.   Almost all of these prices were obtained because I followed all 5 of the tips whenever they applied.  There were rentals available for some books and in the case of the financial management book I could have rented it for cheaper.  That would have resulted in ~50%  savings on that book and an average of 68% overall.  Had I chosen the option to rent my textbooks for the semester would have cost $219.55 which would be cheaper than the cost of all the textbooks once you include tax.

So enjoy those last days of summer, but don’t forget to buy your books now to save you lots of time and stress later.   You can even rid your mind of it once you’ve bought them and come back to a nice surprise in a few weeks when you can relax while all your friends are out paying more and trying to get their books on time.

Come back in the future for an article on how to get the most money for your used textbooks!

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