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Get Your College Textbooks Cheap This Semester

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Get Your College Textbooks Cheap This Semester

This is the time when every business in the entire USA advertises their back-to-school promotions. The Fall semester is about to start and students and their parents have started making purchases to be all set on the first day of school. If we forget about tuition for a minute (as it is something we can’t save money on), textbooks would be the most painful recurring expense. Here are the pro-tips to save a lot of money when you buy or sell your books.

Find out which books you need

If you want to get your books without any surprises, then you need to do your homework even before your real homework starts. The information on which books are needed is usually on your department’s website or professor’s course web page. You need to find the book title, author, edition and year. It’s best if you can find the ISBN, which is easy to find by typing the name into one of the many websites available, such as Bookup. You can also do some searching on Google to find exactly what you need.

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See if a friend has those books

Check with your friends to see if they have that book. If they do, just borrow it from them or even buy it. Usually online textbook sellers make about 40% buying back a book from one student and selling it to next. For instance, if a bubble wrap version of a book costs $100, you can buy a used copy of this book for about $75 online or at the university bookstore. However, if you want to sell this book back to them after the semester you will only get about $30 to $35 back at best. If you buy the same book from your friend and pay him or her $55, you will save $20 and your friend will also make $20. It is a win-win situation for both of you! If none of your friends have a copy of the book, read my last point here on peer-to-peer book trading.

Buy a used textbook

If you can’t acquire the book from a friend, see if you can find a used textbook. Be very careful when you buy a used textbook though. Read this article that debunks the myth of cheap used textbooks and proceed with caution, doing the math to figure out what is actually cheaper. Sometimes what seems to be cheap is not necessarily so. See if you are getting free shipping and check if the price includes taxes and fees.

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Don’t rent a book

You will hear some experts to advise renting a book. These experts are mostly paid by big guys such as Amazon and Chegg, either directly or through marketing. I would totally oppose it, unless of course you really don’t have enough money to buy the book and you have to rent it. If you can buy a used book for $60, or rent the same book for $35, go for the buying process. In the end you might be able to sell the used book for $45, but renting is a 100% loss.

Consider an international edition

If you can find an international edition, just buy it right then and there. It is mostly the same stuff at three to four times cheaper. If you are worried about the legality of buying international editions of the books, trust me, you are fine. There was a recent legal decision that makes it legal to buy or sell used college textbooks even though it is publicized as the other way around.

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Get an eBook and an eBook Reader

If you don’t need to touch the book you are reading, you could also go for the electronic version of that book. Electronic versions are usually cheaper and it is easier to search through them. You might also be able to get them online in pdf form. If you find a pdf file then you don’t even need an e-book reader.

Check out the previous editions

The previous editions of a book are usually much cheaper. If the difference is not significant, you could continue with the previous edition. Your professor is not going to change his notes every year just because the publisher changed stuff inside the book, meaning there is no need to buy a new edition of a book. If you are assigned reading, just compare notes with your friends and read accordingly – it’s usually only a one or two page difference.

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Look for peer-to-peer trading

This is my best advice to you. The online retailers including Amazon and Chegg have to spend a lot of money on their warehouses and people to manage those warehouses. This expense is reflected in their prices. If you want to get cheaper rates, use a company that doesn’t maintain warehouses. Bookup is one such company: they let students interact with each other and this way they save students 30-45% on used college textbooks.

The way it works is pretty impressive as well. You sign up with them and list the books you have or you need. Everything else will take place by text message. You might find a match right away and you can continue the sales process with Bookup. If there isn’t a match, then you will get a text message whenever someone has a book you need or someone needs a book you have. You can reply to that text and complete the transaction. You can even get a book you want by trading it for a book you have, which means you pay nothing. I would highly recommend this “by students for students” startup to all students looking to save some money on used textbooks.

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Mukesh Agarwal

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Last Updated on January 5, 2022

33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

Some easy ways to save money:

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  1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
  2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
  3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
  4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
  5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
  6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
  7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
  8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
  9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
  10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
  11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
  12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
  13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
      a reusable water bottle and refill it.
    • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
    • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
    • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
    • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
    • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
    • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
    • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
    • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
    • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
    • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
    • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
    • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
    • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
    • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
    • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
    • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
    • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
    • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
    • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

    Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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    Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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