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Paying for college textbooks on a ramen-noodle budget

Updated on June 12, 2016
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Erin Shelby is passionate about living a lifestyle that aims for financial freedom. She writes about personal finance and other topics.

Are you struggling with how to pay for college textbooks? Books can be surprisingly expensive, but with a plan in place, you can defeat the high prices. Save money on college textbooks with these tips.

Take Action ASAP

The sooner you create your college class schedule, the sooner you can strategize a savings plan for books and other supplies. Do not wait to the last minute to start buying books.

The College Bookstore Is Not Your Friend

If you’re hearing other students complain about the on-campus bookstore, it’s for good reason. The prices there are often much higher than what you will pay off-campus. Before you spend anything at the on-campus bookstore, find out where the off-campus one is. There may be more than one off-campus bookstore within walking distance of your school.

Comparison Shop

If you're choosing between buying college textbooks from the on-campus store and the off-campus store, compare prices between the two. Sometimes this can be done online because on-campus bookstores tell you what books you need for every class. To compare prices, it helps to know a textbook’s ISBN number, title, author and edition or year published.

Try Online Shopping

Compare the prices of the brick-and-mortar stores with online stores but take into account any shipping prices for college textbooks.

Use Discount Bookstores

Most major cities have at least one discount bookstore where shoppers can sell back gently used books. These stores typically don’t keep records of their inventories, so it's a matter of luck whether or not you'll find what you need. While you probably won't find the latest anatomy lab textbook, you may get a great deal on a classic college textbook for a Greek ethics class or a course in Shakespeare.The same principle applies to yard sales and thrift stores - they may be worth a shot if you're anxious to save.

A Library Card Is a Must

If you’re truly strapped for cash, check the school library for required college textbooks. Some universities are part of a library consortium that will allow you to request books that another universities have in their collections. While the waiting time may be longer, it can save money, especially if you're taking literature classes that requires lots of novels that you may only need for part of the course. If you decide to check out books from the school library, you should be aware that borrowing privileges are limited and probably won’t last the entire semester, even if you renew the book the maximum number of times.

A public library card can also help. While public library collections are less academic than university libraries, they may have books you can borrow to help you spend less on your textbooks.

Have you received any scholarships to pay for college?

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      studentintraining 2 years ago

      Nice article. Agree using the library is often underlooked.

      I found the best place to buy college textbooks is

      They had the best price comparison and show merchant coupons all in one place. Last semester saved a lot of money using this site. You can even find the best place to sell your textbooks here.