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How To Not Spend A Million Dollars On Textbooks

Maddie Moore
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Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

One of the sneakiest expenses of going to college is the cost of textbooks. You check the syllabus, go to the university bookstore, and add each book to your cart, only to get to checkout and be bulldozed by the total. You can accidentally spend thousands of dollars on textbooks in no time at all if you aren’t careful. The College Board estimates the annual cost of textbooks and materials to be around $1,160, an unreasonable number for anybody with a budget. Luckily, there are ways to hack the system and spend way less on the books you need.

1. Buy from Upperclassmen

If you have any friends in the year above you or know any older students who have taken the classes you’re about to take, ask them if you can buy their old copy. Even making a Facebook status asking if anyone has taken Psych 101 with Professor X will get the word out. Former students won’t be needing their textbook anymore and will most likely be happy to get it off their hands, even for cheap. Find out how much they’re asking for it; you’ll definitely be saving your money.

2. Get an Online Copy

Most textbooks are available on tablets and kindles now for much cheaper than in print. If you have a device or you’re willing to read off your computer, digital copies are usually much more affordable. Also, you can try Google searching the name of your textbook and add “PDF” at the end. You just might be able to find a scanned copy of certain chapters or the entire textbook for free. It’s never guaranteed, but it’s definitely worth checking.

3. Buy an Old Edition

There’s barely any difference between the 2015 and 2016 editions of your mathematics textbook, I can guarantee it. New editions are usually “required” for your courses, but as long as all the problem sets are the same, you can get away with an old edition for a fraction of the price.

4. Buy on Amazon

A lot of university bookstores hike up the prices of textbooks on their websites and in their stores because it’s the first place students think to go. Amazon retails the exact same books, sometimes for half the cost. Just enter the name of the textbook and the edition year in the search bar and you’ll find what you need.

5. Split the Textbook with a Friend

If you have any good friends in the classes with your most expensive books, ask if any of them would be willing to split the cost of textbook with you. You can trade the book off every lecture, study together, and take pictures of the readings and homework sets and send them to each other. It’s not ideal, but totally doable, and will save you tons of cash in the end.

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