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Get Your College Textbooks Cheap This Semester

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 September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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