By Andrea Woroch, Kinoli Inc
Textbooks are the bane of college budgets, with the average student shelling out $1,200 per year according to a survey published by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in 2014. That represents 14% of tuition costs for four-year public college students and 39% of tuition costs for community college students.
While buying second-hand textbooks is a go-to money-saving tip, even used titles can be pricey. Plus, they receive a marginal return at the end of the semester, leaving many college students feeling cheated. To dodge the exorbitant costs of college texts, follow these seven savvy tips.
1. Hold off until class. It may be tempting to get all your textbooks purchased before the first day, however many professors will advise you not to purchase the book once they learn how much it costs. Many instructors are just as annoyed by the cost of textbooks as students. If you’re concerned about a textbook running out of stock or missing out on the last used version, reserve the book and wait until you know it’s required.
2. Avoid the campus store. The on-campus bookstore should be your last resort when shopping for textbooks. Often overpriced, these stores charge a premium for convenience, especially now that Amazon and specialty websites offer new and used textbooks for much less.
3. Go the rental route. Considering the less than impressive buyback value of most textbooks, consider renting then instead for a fraction of the cost through websites like BookRenter, Knetbooks, eCampus and Neebo. The cost difference is significant: a used copy of Calculations in Chemistry is priced between $23 and $44, while Knetbooks offers the same title for rent for $14.77. Also look for coupon codes to increase your savings further — at Coupon Sherpa, you can find eCampus promo codesfor $5 off $75, plus 15% off sitewide from Neebo.
4. Compare prices quickly. You wouldn’t buy a new TV without shopping around, so do the same when buying textbooks. Websites such as CampusBooks.com, BigWords.com and AllBookstores.com make the process of comparing much easier to help you pinpoint the cheapest price.
5. Join Facebook groups. Erin Ems, a business finance major at Colorado State University, suggests joining university Facebook groups to buy and sell textbooks for better prices than what can be fetched from the university bookstore. She’s a member of several pages where she connects with students who may be looking to purchase her books or have books she needs.
6. Download content. Few classes require students actually read every page of a textbook, so opt to download the necessary portion instead from such websites as CourseSmart.com or Open Courseware from MIT. At OpenStax College, a nonprofit organization committed to improving student access to quality learning materials, you can find free digital textbooks developed and peer-reviewed by educators.
7. Share with a study buddy. If you carpool, you know the advantage of splitting the cost of high-ticket expenses. Sharing textbooks is a great way to save money on the expense, but the strategy needs to be considered thoughtfully. It’s easier when you’re in the same study group or see each other frequently.
Andrea Woroch is a consumer and money-saving expert for Kinoli Inc. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine, Huffington Post, Forbes and many more. For more information, visit AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.