While college tuition is expensive enough, coming up with the cash to pay for textbooks can be difficult. The cost of books has skyrocketed in recent years. Since 1978, the price of textbooks has risen 812 percent.
The average undergraduate student will spend approximately $1,300 a year on books. That high cost can add thousands to your college education, or can prohibit you from buying necessary books.
One study found that 65 percent of students did not buy a required textbook because of cost. While forgoing a book can save you money, it can seriously hurt your performance in class. And if you fail, you’ll have to pay even more to retake the course.
However, you’re not stuck forking out thousands for books. Here are five ways to cut down on the cost of textbooks.
1. Skip the School Bookstore
The school bookstore is usually where students buy all of their books. It’s convenient and the shop workers can help you find the necessary books quickly. But because they have a guaranteed market, school stores can charge you more than other retailers, so you’ll pay a premium for the convenience and service.
Before heading to the register, check out other booksellers to see if you can get a better deal. Services like BigWords help you compare multiple online retailers at once, so you can buy your books at a discount quickly and easily.
2. Consider Buying Used
Brand new textbooks can easily cost hundreds for a single book, but it’s not always necessary to have a new book. Used texts have all of the same information for a fraction of the price; they just might not look as nice. If you don’t mind having a book that has some scribbling or highlighted sections, buying used can save you a significant amount of money.
For example, Chemistry: The Central Science costs $195 if you buy it new, but a used copy is just $40 on Half.com.
It’s a good idea to check online for used books; your school bookstore likely has just a handful of used texts and may sell out quickly.
3. Share With Someone
If you know someone who is taking the same class in a different time slot, you can save money by splitting the cost and sharing the book. You can hand off the book in between classes, or photocopy the necessary pages when needed. This arrangement requires some work and scheduling to make it work, but it can cut your book expenses in half.
4. Rent Instead of Buy
Most students use their book for one semester, and never look at them again. If you don’t plan on keeping your textbooks to reference later on in your academic career, renting your books instead of buying them can make financial sense.
Sites like Amazon, Chegg and Textbooks.com all offer online or hardcopy rentals. When you rent the book, you pay a fee to use the book for the length of your semester. Once it’s over, you return the book.
Renting can save you hundreds, and shopping around with different rental companies can help you save even more. For example, you can rent that same chemistry book mentioned above for $60 on Textbooks.com, but it’s just $21.99 on Chegg.
5. Search For Open Source Texts
Many professors realize how much of a burden buying textbooks is to students. The high cost has caused some to use open source textbooks for their classes.
Open source books are texts that are posted online for anyone to read, for free. You can download them, save them, or read them on your phone whenever you want. Colleges that offer courses with open source books help students save thousands. In fact, the New York Times reported that college students could save an average of $128 a course if texts were replaced with open source books.
One of the biggest resources for open source books is College Open Textbooks. All of the texts on the site are peer-reviewed books written by experts.
You can find out if any of your school’s instructors offer open source texts by asking your instructor or the school librarian.
Managing Your College Expenses
The high cost of textbooks can add up to thousands over the course of your education. While you may feel like you have no option but to fork over hundreds for every book, it’s important to know that there are alternatives. Buying used, comparing different booksellers, or renting your book can help you save hundreds each semester.
For more information on managing your finances while in school, check out this article on the best credit cards for college students.
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