When you go to your university bookstore, your eyes bulge out when you see the whopping $120 price tag on your textbook – and that's for a used book. With these prices, how do you keep your textbook expenses from approaching the cost of tuition? Read on to find out. (Read Invest In Yourself With A College Education for reassurance that the financial hardship will pay off.)

Compare Prices
Your school bookstore isn't the only place to buy textbooks. Look online and on student-posted fliers. Often, fliers line the halls in the building where your class is going to be held, and there are dozens of online venues across the internet where individuals can sell their textbooks person-to-person. Compare prices to those offered at the campus bookstore.

Buy E-Books
Many textbooks are available in a downloadable format for less money. Search for your book's edition online, and check the syllabus for your courses for online options. (For reading that could actually make you richer, check out Investing Books It Pays To Read.)

Use Older Editions
While the current edition may sell for $100, last semester's edition now sells for $65. Ask your professor if older editions can still be used. Often, only a few changes were made from one edition to another, and if the professor doesn't assign homework involving questions that are only available in the newer edition, you are home free - and a little richer.

Sell Your Old Textbooks
You may recoup much of your textbook money by selling your old textbooks online or directly to another student taking the course in a subsequent semester. This is because you cut out the middleman - the bookstore. For instance, if the bookstore is selling a used book for $75 and you sell it for $55, the buyer saves $20, which, incidentally, may be what the bookstore would have paid you for your used textbook. (You can now cut out the middleman even when borrowing money; read Peer-To-Peer Lending Breaks Down Financial Borders to learn more.)

Below are several tips for selling your used textbooks painlessly:

  • Put all details in your flier or online ad. Just like you would want to know the edition, author and title are correct on the textbooks you buy, so does the buyer. Also, remember to add the ISBN, the identification number used to catalog books.
  • Be realistic about the condition of your book. Don't say your book is in like-new condition unless there are no dents on covers, no highlights, etc. You will lose money if an item gets returned due to an inaccurate description.
  • Compare online selling costs. Commission on online auctions is taken at sale only and is normally only a few dollars. Read the exact commission rates on the websites you are considering before choosing where you want to list your book. The lower the commission rate, the more you will make on your sale. (For more tips for evaluating online retailers, read Choosing The Winner In The Click-And-Mortar Game.)
  • Check shipping rates ahead of time. The last mistake you'd want to make is under- or overcharging for shipping. Go to the USPS website and input the approximate weight of your book in the Postal Price Calculator. Use any zip code in the U.S. in the box for where you are sending your item because the Postal Service's rates for sending packages via media mail - the cheapest way to send textbooks - is calculated based on weight of packages and not distance within the United States.
  • Keep your ratings positive. When you sell regularly on one website, feedback is often posted. You want yours to be as positive as possible. Send an email when you ship your book, and ship your book within a week of when it is sold.
  • Sell as soon as possible. Professors may use books for one semester or several years. You want to sell your textbook as fast as possible, in case your book will soon be out of use. But don't panic if your campus bookstore tells you there's a new edition of your old textbook the semester after you finish the course. Every campus is different, and someone from a different university may still buy your used textbook online.

When you are not ordering from your campus bookstore, you may experience delayed shipping, missing textbook accessories, such as CD-ROMS, or even receive the wrong book. Here's how to defeat all these online textbook traps to get a great deal and the right textbook - before your semester starts. (For more tips on avoiding getting taken for a ride by an online dealer, read Shopping Online: Convenience, Bargains And A Few Scams.)

  • Order your textbooks two to three weeks before your class starts, if possible. Look in the book-description area for signals that the person will ship your textbook quickly, like "ships fast," "ships within 48 hours" or "ships within three business days."
  • Check online ratings before ordering. If the site you're looking at has ratings and feedback for the seller, read feedback carefully before choosing your textbook.
  • Don't assume anything. There may be two books with the same title, so verify the authors and the editions with the department offices for all of your classes. If an online ad is unclear, email the seller questions to verify it is the book you want.

You have choices when it comes to buying and selling your textbooks. As is said about the stock market, buy low and sell high. If you follow this advice through four years of college, you may graduate having paid for the equivalent of only one or two semesters' worth of textbooks for your entire four-year college career.

(For other ways to reduce your higher education costs read Tuition Reimbursement - An Employment Perk and Pay For College Without Selling A Kidney.)

Related Articles
  1. Taxes

    Internet Sales Tax Vs. Brick & Mortar Sales Tax

    Learn about the differences between sales taxes and Internet sales taxes, and the goods and services that typically incur each type of tax.
  2. Entrepreneurship

    How an Internet Sales Tax Will Affect Your Small Business

    Learn about how the Marketplace Fairness Act may impact small business owners should it pass in the House and what the act requires from business owners.
  3. FA

    Paying for College: Utilize These Top Hacks

    Saving money for college is difficult for many families, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some overlooked hacks to save money on college costs.
  4. Investing

    4 Billionaires Who Dropped Out of Harvard

    People who became successful despite dropping out of Harvard University.
  5. Investing Basics

    Internet Sales Tax's Effect on Interstate Commerce

    Find out how a national Internet sales tax could affect interstate commerce, and why some bigger online retailers are lobbying for such a tax.
  6. Savings

    These 10 Habits Will Help You Reach Financial Freedom

    Learn 10 key habits for achieving financial freedom, including smart budgeting, staying abreast of new tax deductions and the importance of proper maintenance.
  7. Credit & Loans

    Student Financial Aid Changes: FAFSA 2015-2016

    Here is a look at some of the major changes to FAFSA in 2015 - 2016 and how they will affect student financial aid.
  8. Stock Analysis

    Does TripAdvisor Offer Upside Potential? (TRIP)

    Will TripAdvisor's downside risk outweigh upside potential in 2016? It's most recent SEC filing offers some strong clues.
  9. Credit & Loans

    What to Do When You Can't Repay Your Student Loans

    Student loans should be kept in good standing no matter what. Here are some tips on managing your loans.
  10. Budgeting

    How Much Will it Cost to Become President In 2016?

    The 2016 race to the White House will largely be determined by who can spend the most money. Here is a look at how much it will cost to win the presidency.
  1. Does QVC charge sales tax?

    QVC, an American TV network, is registered with states to collect sales or use tax on taxable items. QVC is also required ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Does Walmart take international credit cards?

    Foreign visitors to Walmart locations in the United States can use their credit cards issued by banks outside of the U.S. ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Is QVC publicly traded?

    QVC, Inc., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty Interactive Corporation. It is attributed to the QVC Group tracking stock, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. Can my IRA be used for college tuition?

    You can use your IRA to pay for college tuition even before you reach retirement age. In fact, your retirement savings can ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center