The Guide to Buying College Textbooks

Brittany Shaffer is a junior at Milligan College, studying business and communications. She started College Junction as a resource to help other students save time and money, while making the most out of college and preparing to get a job after they graduate.

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It’s that time of year again … time to start buying textbooks! For most of us, we’ve spent the entire summer working just to save money for our college bill and planned to use any money we thought we had leftover to buy some new clothes or dorm supplies. Unfortunately, we’ll have to be using that to buy college textbooks instead.

Here are some ideas on how to buy college textbooks without going broke — or at the very least, doing it in the cheapest way possible.

Make An Excel Document

I do this every time I buy books. I create an Excel document, then label columns for name of the book, the ISBN, the class it’s for, the price my bookstore is selling it for, the lowest price I found online and a link to that place. Then I put another two columns called “purchased” and “received.” When I purchase a book, I mark that row with an “X” so I don’t accidentally order the same book twice (I did that once … then I started making this list.) When I receive a book in the mail, I put another “X” in that column, that way I can easily see if I’m missing any books.

Start With Slugbooks

Once you have your ISBNs for the books you need, your first stop should be Slugbooks. Once you get there, you can type in the ISBN and it will search the Internet to tell you where is the cheapest place you can find it. Typically, it’s pretty accurate, but for good measure, it never hurts to double check using a similar search engine called Fetchbook.Info. If you aren’t picky, you can buy the book for the cheapest price you find used. If you’d prefer it new or in great condition, make sure to check the condition before buying anything.

Think About Renting

If the price of college books is looking too expensive, even at used prices, you might want to consider renting. Campus Book Rentals is a great company that lets you write and highlight in the books you rent from them, and they even pay for shipping both ways. Chegg is another textbook rental company you can investigate. Wherever you decide to rent from, make sure to check out their shipping and book condition policies. Some will charge you a fortune if the book is not returned in the exact condition in which you received. It can be difficult to prove that you weren’t the one who put that scratch on the book cover or dog-eared that one page. Plus, if you rent a textbook, you can’t resell it when you’re done with it.

Don’t Just Buy With the Plan To Resell

Speaking of reselling textbooks, this can be a great reason to buy your own textbooks. However, textbooks are updated frequently, so if you are planning to buy a book simply to resell it, you might not be able to get back what you paid for it. Sometimes, you will and then it will be as if you got all those textbooks for free! Other times, you’ll be stuck with a textbook that was worth the price of gold when you bought it, but now is being listed for $2 on Amazon.

So with these tips in mind, hopefully buying books for school this fall will be a little easier than before. If it’s your first time buying books, you’ll start saving time and money right off the bat if you follow these tips!

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