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Tips for Buying University Textbooks on a Budget

Written by Hazel Pankratz

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Whether you're going to university or college, living away from home or not, textbooks are a universal expense. Here are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for different types of class materials.

Buying New

Buying new textbooks can be fantastic. It can also be very expensive. Before heading to the campus store with a shopping list, try looking online for better prices or student deals. You may only save a little, but a little can go a long way.

Buying Used

Many campus bookstores also offer used textbooks as a buying option. That said, they're not always cheap. For example, a $100 new textbook might be marked down to $60 used. Instead, try reaching out to students looking to sell their books—they typically resell at a much lower price, and what's more, you can negotiate.

Renting

If you just need the textbook for a semester or two, and if the option is available, it might make fiscal sense to rent books from the campus store instead of buying them. However, make sure the return date the bookstore gives you lines up with the end of your classes—you'd hate to have to return the book while you're in the middle of studying for exams.

Custom Textbooks

Sometimes professors will compile a series of journal articles. Sometimes they'll rearrange and substitute chapters from existing texts. Either way, these can be frustrating because they vary so greatly from year to year and can be difficult to resell.

If your prof has put a course pack together, check out the table of contents before buying it. Chances are, a lot of printed articles are also available online through your school's library portal—which you can access with nothing more than your student ID. No payment needed.

If they've made changes to an existing textbook, still have a look at the table of contents. Usually, it'll indicate which chapters came from where. If it's a complete mosaic of sources, you might need to bite the bullet and buy the book new. But if your prof has only substituted a chapter or two from an existing textbook, it may be possible for you to track down a used copy of the original.

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