To be perfectly honest, I didn't save $400 on textbooks; I saved $442.45 off my textbooks! It is a fact I'm very happy about. I had to pay the full cost of my textbooks and part of my tuition out of pocket this semester, which isn't easy. I don't take out loans for college, and I'm not independently wealthy.
The retail price of all of the books I needed for this semester, if bought from our bookstore, was $614.94. Anyone else suffering from sticker shock? I know seeing a book with a $209.25 price made me cringe. That book alone would have costed more than I paid for ALL 5 books that were "required" this semester.
Now, your all wondering how I saved so much money. Many of you are already jumping to conclusions, and they are probably correct. I did say the retail price was $614.94, meaning I saved $442.45 off of retail.
Buying used or renting is the first step to saving money.
If I went into my bookstore and simply went for the cheapest options then my total would have been: $321.18. A far cry from the $614.94 retail price but still over $100 more than I paid. Plus by renting then I don't get to keep the books which means no resale value on the rented books.
Buying new and used (as my bookstore didn't have any option but new for 2 of my textbooks), would be $458.54. Again, cheaper than retail but MUCH more than I paid.
I always start out at my bookstore. The college bookstore is where we get our "back to school list" if you will; where we find out what materials are "needed" for our specific courses. I said I always start out at the bookstore because this is also where I get my max price that I will have to pay for the textbooks. I would say our bookstore is priced fairly well, having heard what other college student are paying for their textbooks... however as the commercial goes "why pay more?"
Email or ask you teachers what textbooks you will need for the class
I know I just said we get the list from the bookstore, however not all teachers actually use textbooks. I have a "required" book for my MacroEconomics class and the first day the teacher told us he has no clue why the bookstore tells us its required when he told them its optional. He gives lectures and his tests are based on those lectures. The book can be used as a supplement or not.
Fortunately I didn't buy ALL my books early this year so I hadn't bought this one yet. I picked up an earlier edition on amazon really cheap paying only $6.48 for the textbook including shipping! Being an Economics major I want to get my hands on this book and read and learn as much about it as possible!
I bought all but one of my books online this semester. It's easy to compare prices online and grab the best deals. I personally bought 5 of my books from two online sites: Amazon, and Textbooks.com. I bought them all from the marketplace, all were used but in good condition.
Buy from other students
Some of the best deals you can find is through other students. I picked up a book that retailed for $209.25 for $50. It was really only $40 but I gave my mom an extra $10 as a thank you for picking it up so I count it as a $50 textbook. I have also seen students resell NEW textbooks below retail because they chose to drop the class.
Buy the last edition
There are very few subjects where the latest edition will truly be very different from the last one. Yes, you will have to deal with page differences but it was worth it to me to save $50 on a textbook. Some professors don't like you to do this, they are probably the author of the book or getting some kind of kickback from the sale however. I am lucky to have a professor who told our class that using the last edition is okay and is willing to help us with differences in the books! Most books only have subtle differences!
So far I have recouped $70 by reselling books that I had last semester. I still have two of the textbooks from last semester as well. I didn't count this $70 in my savings however, but this is the reason I advocate buying used over renting if the price difference isn't much of a difference. If I had included the $70 I got back from selling last semesters books my total cost for this semester would be only $102.49!
You work hard for your money, so shop smarter!