David Bakke is a writer for Money Crashers Personal Finance, where he shares tips for how students and parents can save money and reduce the costs associated with attending college.
The cost of college has skyrocketed, which makes saving anywhere you can, including on textbooks, a vital strategy in avoiding massive student loan debt. In fact, the statistics on the cost of textbooks are startling. According to the Student Public Interest Research Groups, textbook prices increased by almost 25% between 2007 and 2011, and according to the Government Accounting Office, textbooks alone cost close to one-fourth of the price of tuition at state colleges and a whopping 72% of tuition at community colleges. Fortunately, you can save a lot of money on college textbooks†- as long as you take the time to research and explore your options.
1. Avoid the Campus Bookstore
Generally speaking, you’ll want to avoid the campus bookstore entirely. This is easily where you’ll pay the most for textbooks. It †may be convenient, but unless the store resells used textbooks, the prices are simply to steep to justify – no matter how much time or effort you can save.
2. Rent Textbooks
Renting is a great option if you don’t need to make notes in the margins and will treat your books with care. You can save substantially off the cover price, and don’t have to worry about unloading your books at semester’s end. Rent textbooks online at a site like ValoreBooks. If you decide you want to keep a rental from them, purchasing is always an option.
3. Buy eBooks
There are plenty of websites offering eBooks for college courses, such as Ebook Ave and†Kno. As long as you don’t need the feel of paper against your fingers, this is a great route, especially since many reading devices offer the ability to make notes. Plus, a slew of eBooks on a reading device will be a lot easier to haul around than a slew of hefty textbooks weighing down your backpack.
4. Check Online for Free Textbooks
There are even a few websites that offer virtual textbooks for free. Your options may be limited here as this niche has yet to gain a foothold. One promising possibility for your textbook needs is the website Flat World Knowledge. Always check for a free version before you check anywhere else.
5. Use Social Media
You probably have friends that are college students, so post your textbook needs as soon as you know them. You may be able to find one or more textbooks without paying a fortune, or you may be able to trade for them. If you have textbooks available from previous years, post these as well. You could make a little money back and help someone looking for affordable textbooks like you.
Keep your textbooks in good shape throughout the year, so you can resell them once they’re no longer needed. Sell your textbooks online through ValoreBooks where you’re likely to get a better price than at your on-campus bookstore. Also, let your friends on social media know you have books available.†The less your books have been written or highlighted in, and the better the condition of the binding and pages, the more money you can resell them for. If you sell your used college textbooks online, ship fast and securely to cut down on returns.
Another way to reduce the impact of high college expenses is to earn extra cash from the things you already do. One of the best ways to do this is through SmarterBucks, which was created specifically to help students save. Create an account to earn rewards based on your everyday online purchases. Just remember that the money you save should be diverted toward student loan payments and getting out of debt.
What ways can you think of to save on college textbooks?
College is a fun place. Smash hundreds of kids, a big campus, and a little fun together and you have a recipe for what college life is all about. A reflection of that? These distinct college traditions that are both fun and weird:
- Tufts University. No one likes exams, which is why students at Tufts have tried to ease the pain. For over 30 years, Tufts students wore only their birthday suits the night before winter exams started, and then ran around the college. Called the Naked Quad Run, the practice was then shut down by the administration in 2010. Bummer.
- Occidental College. Birthdays are a special event, which is why they get a little extra attention at Occidental. In place of a party, students celebrating their special day are thrown into a huge fountain on campus—the Lucille Gilman Memorial—which means that at least the birthday boy or girl doesn’t have to worry about taking a shower.
- Barnard College. Tufts University might have had their fun during finals week, but the finals tradition at Barnard continues to live on. Understanding that the key to happiness is through a person’s (or student’s) stomach, the college provides what they call Midnight Breakfast, where themed breakfasts are dished out in heaping servings at, you guessed it, midnight. What makes the event so distinct, though, is “the big sub.” That’s to say, students make a gargantuan sandwich that’s big enough for nearly everyone on campus to get a piece of. Sounds delicious.
- Cornell University. Ever heard of Dragon Day? No? Well, now you have. Each year during the spring, students in the University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning dress up in funky costumes and then tout around a big replica of a dragon all across campus. Then what do they do? What’s only natural: set it on fire. Burn baby, burn.
- University of Wisconsin. The secret to a winning football team is the home-crowd fans. Wisconsin might know that better than anyone, as at the beginning of every fourth quarter they play the song “Jump Around,” and the fans in the stadium do exactly that.
Let’s say you live in New York. And it’s summer, so you want to go on vacation. Let’s pretend it’s to the Bahamas for a week. If that’s the case, plane tickets would cost about $465. Then, staying at a decent hotel will cost you about $145 a night, meaning a total of $1,400. Of course, you have to factor in costs for expenses such as food and beverages. It’s a vacation, so you’re probably going to live a little large. Let’s budget another $400. Put it all together? That’s about $2,500 for a week-long vacation.
But who has that kind of money to spare? Thankfully there’s enough stuff at home to keep you busy, which is why you should consider a staycation instead.
For the uninitiated: stay·ca·tion [stey-key-shuhn] noun: a vacation spent at home or near home, doing enjoyable activities or visiting local attractions like:
1. Free concerts. Summer is the season of free concerts. If you check out your local events calendar, chances are there are a few concerts happening in a local park, on the waterfront, or somewhere in town. Mark your calendar, put on your dancing shoes, and leave your wallet at home.
2. Hiking, kayaking, cycling, or mountain climbing. Take advantage of the perfect weather and go on an adventure. Always wanted to try mountain climbing? Here’s your chance. Of course, you could also go hiking, kayaking, or nature walking to experience what the great outdoors has to offer. The great thing? Rentals are affordable. Check with your local outfitter.
3. Comedy shows. Jokes are a good way of turning a dead evening into a funny one. Plus, tickets to a show are usually a steal, especially if the comedian is local.
4. The beach. Take a trip to the nearest beach and it will be just like that tropical vacation you were thinking about. Seriously. Sand is sand, and sun is sun, right? It’s just more affordable when it’s close to home.
5. A movie series. Consider yourself a film connoisseur? Even if you’re not, and all you want to do is sit in front of the silver screen, then dedicate a day or two to watching movies, either at the theater or at home. Movies can be a fun way to “get away” without actually going anywhere, especially if you do it with friends.
6. Food festivals. If you’re a foodie then you should definitely research local festivals and attend. They probably aren’t free, but the key here is affordability: you can spend a whole day filling your stomach with culinary treats for way less than if you were wining and dining in Cabo.
7. A simple party. If happiness is found in the company you keep, then invite some friends over for a party. Play games, sit around a campfire, tell stories, and catch up. What else do you need?
The short of it? Instead of traveling far, stay local, and save thousands. Next semester you’ll be glad you did.
Can you believe it? The school year is almost over. But the key word here is almost. While it’s probably fair to say that you’ve put in a ton of blood, sweat, and tears into your work this year, there’s still just a little more to conquer: those pesky final exams. To make sure you finish strong, heed the following:
- Do sweat the small stuff. Contrary to popular belief, sometimes paying extra attention to the little things actually makes a big difference. With that in mind, don’t get worked up over the big details, like re-reading the textbook or combing meticulously through every single note you ever took for every class ever. Instead, focus your studies on the specific things you don’t understand yet.
- Don’t cram the night before. While it’s a little late to spread out your studying, don’t make the mistake of staying up late, slamming coffees, studying non-stop to morning. That’ll zap your energy, your memory, your focus, et cetera–and you’re likely to do worse on a test for it.
- Ask for help. There’s no shame in asking your professors for a little help. In fact, doing so will only get you some bonus points, as they’ll see that you’re putting the effort into their class. Put in the extra elbow grease by attending office hours once or twice, just to make sure you clear up any class material that still seems a little fuzzy. Also talk with other students in the class, or friends who’ve taken the class before. They might understand something you’re struggling with.
- Close the blinds. Spring is here, and that means beautiful weather is right outside your window. That makes it kind of hard to sit in the library. There are chirping birds, a big sun, and a score of kids lounging on the grass. To ensure a top grade, set aside just a little time each day where you’ll forget that nature even exists (say, an hour or so). Then, when that hour passes, feel free to enjoy the outdoors as much as you want.
- Get some sleep. No matter how much studying you do, you’ll sabotage yourself if you don’t get some quality shuteye before your big exam. Remember that.
If you’re trudging through the last few weeks of high school, know you’re not doing it alone. And get excited, because your college life will be here soon! But it’s important to remember that transitioning from high school to college can be difficult. A lot will change over a short period of time, so to make sure you adjust and hit the ground running, consider the following:
- It’s a new way of thinking. A lot of high school is spent studying or otherwise preparing for standardized tests: SATs, ACTs, AP exams, et cetera. But in college, critical and creative thinking are of the essence. In college, your end goal isn’t a good grade as much as it is an educated life. In other words, the knowledge you acquire will have a real world application. It’s time to stop memorizing stuff and focus more on understanding it.
- Start keeping your own schedule. In college you’ll no doubt feel like you have a ton of places to be at once. With classes, extra-curricular activities, a social life, and other activities to get involved in, you’re going to be one busy undergrad. So, to prepare, get in the habit of keeping a calendar. That way you’ll get accustomed to navigating your day the college way: with organization.
- Take more notes. College classes are the real deal, and you can’t really fake your way through them. To keep yourself on the right academic track, take lots of notes and read them over throughout the semester—not just when studying for finals. That way, when that big paper comes along, or that big exam, you’ll be prepared for it.
- Try to be more outgoing. One of the main differences between college and high school is the social scene. In high school, your friends are automatically there in class everyday. In college you have to work to meet new people, especially when you first arrive on campus. So try your best not to be shy, and just be yourself. No doubt you’ll make friends in no time.
- Just keep swimming. In college, there’s plenty that can go wrong: you could get locked out of a class you really wanted to take, you could fail a paper, or you could spend the better part of 24 hours in the library. Get used to the fact that college, while fun, is also kind of grueling. Mentally prepare for that.