College students spend an average of $655 per year on textbooks, according to the National Association of College Stores. Depending on your major, your average book expense may be much more or much less than $655. Hefty textbooks used in math and science classes, for instance, tend to be more expensive than novels needed for literature classes. Still, no matter your course of study, you can apply some of these on college textbooks.
- Steer clear of the bookstore. This is the No. 1 one way to spend less money on textbooks. Shopping at the college bookstore for textbooks is akin to picking up all your groceries at the corner gas station. Convenience, in both cases, means higher prices. You may need to pick up some specialized materials in your bookstore, like packets printed out by a professor for a specific class, but most of the time you can – and should – shop elsewhere for your books.
- Buy used. The easiest way to shop for used books online is to use ISBN numbers. These numbers are specific, so you'll get the exact book and edition your class is using. Websites such as Amazon, eBay and book.ly are great places to shop around. MyNextCollege.com also offers a free search tool that compares prices from dozens of online stores.
- Go electronic. Amazon offers several options beyond simply buying the book new. For example, Amazon offers an engineering textbook for $69.95 and an ebook rental version for $19.55.
- Check the library. While your school library may not have a copy of every single textbook, it's likely to have copies of some of them – especially fiction and non-fiction books for liberal arts classes. The key to using the library is to ensure you can get the books when you need them. Ordering books ahead of time or using the interlibrary loan system can help. But you might want to keep some backup cash in case you can't get the book at the library and need to buy a copy.
- Decide which you'll use long-term. Once in a blue moon, it's a good idea to buy a brand new textbook, even if you have to pay full price. This isn't normally the case for introductory classes, as you'll likely never use those books again. But once you get into the upper-level courses for your major, those textbooks could come in handy during your future career. Think carefully about which books you might use over the long term, and consider purchasing just those books new. That way, you'll get a book without several students' worth of wear and tear.
For more back-to-school money-saving tips, check out this article in USA Today College.
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