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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 March 4, 2019

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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Using Credit Cards with Rewards

Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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