Why You Should Never Buy Another Textbook

by Broke Grad on March 7, 2008

I previously mentioned that buying new textbooks is a waste of money when I evaluated whether I could have avoided student debt. While textbooks are a staple of the college life, that doesn’t mean students should go broke buying the equivalent of school supplies. I made the mistake of buying new textbooks my first year of college, and it probably cost me over a hundred extra dollars. Add that up over four years, and that’s huge chunk of change.

Fortunately, I learned quickly from my freshman mistake and never made the same mistake again. Why should you pay full price for a book that you’ll probably never read again? If you plan on reselling the book, there’s always the chance that a new edition will come out or the professor will switch to a different book. However, you can save money on your textbooks and still have the opportunity to resell them after you’re done by following a few simple tips.

  • Buy used textbooks if they’re available. Unless the book is a brand new edition, you should be able to find a used copy of almost every textbook in reasonable condition. While campus bookstores are usually the most convenient place to find these, you can usually save some more money by buying used textbooks online at a site like Amazon.
  • Share a textbook with someone else in the same class. While this won’t work for every class, it should work out fine for some classes. By splitting the cost of the book with someone else, you get a 50% discount on the book.
  • Borrow a textbook from a friend who has already taken the class. Some people like to hang on to certain textbooks for posterity’s sake. A lot of times they’ll be willing to lend a textbook to you for a semester. Just remember to return it back in a similar condition if you still want to be their friend.
  • Go to the library and use their copies of textbooks. As a child of the Digital Age, I must admit that I’ve only made a handful of trips to the library throughout college. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are literally hundreds of thousands of books that you have access to for free. As an added bonus, it’ll force you to go the library and study.
  • Talk to people who have taken the class and find out if all of the textbooks are used in the class. Sometimes professors will list a bunch of textbooks, but only some of them are mandatory. By talking to people who have already taken the class, you can avoid wasting money on the ones that aren’t going to be used.
  • Sell the textbook after you’re done with it. Assuming you bought a used textbook and didn’t completely annihilate it, you should be able to resell it to someone else for around the same price you originally paid for it. I’ve gotten the most money back by selling textbooks to friends/acquaintances or selling them online. In general, you get horrible deals when you sell textbooks back to campus bookstores, so avoid doing that if possible.

That’s it! By following these simple tips, you can literally save hundreds of dollars over the course of your college career.

If you enjoyed this post, subscribe to my RSS feed or via email for free updates.