My husband Daniel is going back to school this month, this time to earn his master’s degree.
College can be insanely expensive. Thankfully, Daniel and I learned from the financial mistakes we made as undergraduate students. One of our most memorable lessons was this:
Do not buy textbooks from the campus bookstore!
During the 2016-17 school year, the average undergraduate student spent $1,250 on textbooks and supplies alone.
82% of students still buy books from their campus bookstores, despite their being notoriously expensive.
There are a few ways to avoid spending money on textbooks, but if you have to rent or buy them, here are four discount websites that offer great deals.
By way of example, I’m looking at Reflect & Relate, Edition 4, by Steven McCornack. This paperback book is listed as a required resource for my local university’s Interpersonal Communication course. It would have been a classic resource for my BA degree in Communication Studies.
I did my research in early August, 2017. On this day, Reflect & Relate cost $125 new, $93.75 used, and $62.50 to rent at my local college bookstore. But here’s how the price compares at these popular online sites.
I love buying textbooks from Half.com, mainly because it’s very user-friendly. The website has a clear layout and is easy to navigate. You can filter your search by quality, and seller reviews are helpful.
At Half.com, a brand-new copy of Reflect & Relate was available for $93. An “acceptable” copy was $76.93.
Unfortunately, renting textbooks is not an option on Half.com. While I, along with 86% of college students, prefer owning textbooks, renting is a great way to save some cash!
If you’re getting textbooks for classes related to your major, you may want to hold on to those. However, if you’re just trying to plow through some gen-ed courses, it’s a good idea to rent books instead of buying them. Renting is another great way to save you some money.
While some other websites on this list offer rental options, Bookbyte is known for having super flexible rental terms.
Bookbyte’s rental page is very easy to understand and use. If you don’t want to rent a book for an entire semester, you can choose to rent for periods of 30, 60, 90 or 150 days and extend your rental time if needed.
You can mail back your rentals free of charge, and Bookbyte even offers a seven day grace period in case you’re running behind.
You can buy Reflect & Relate brand new at Bookbyte for a little cheaper than bookstore price, $117.75. (Thankfully, because the order would be over $49, you wouldn’t have to pay for shipping.) On the day of my search, renting the book for 30 days would cost me $27.95, and $31.05 for 145 days.
I like the sound of those rental prices!
3. Barnes & Noble
Generally, I think of Barnes & Noble as a bookstore as overpriced, so I actually did not expect it to be a great place to buy or rent cheap books.
But it turns out that Barnes & Noble is definitely cheaper than the campus bookstore. I found Reflect & Relate on sale for $109.11. A 60-day rental would cost me $32.35 and a 130-day rental, $38.98.
If you choose to rent your books, shipping is free when you return the items. If you choose to buy new textbooks, any order over $25 includes free shipping.
Like Bookbyte, Barnes & Noble has flexible terms for its rentals. However, there is no 30-day option.
Top Ten Reviews praises Amazon for having the widest selection of textbooks available on any discount site. If you’re struggling to find the book you need on another website, you can probably find it on Amazon. And the price will probably be lower than at the bookstore!
Top Ten Reviews points out that Amazon doesn’t always offer the lowest prices. However, when it comes to Reflect & Relate, Amazon was a great deal! My search revealed a new copy of this textbook for $106.98, used for $89.95 and available to rent for only $19.98!
Hopefully, the price tag for a college education seems a little less daunting now. Don’t forget, avoiding the campus bookstore isn’t the only way to cut college costs: You can always negotiate the costs, attend a tuition-free school or choose from over 100 scholarships!
Laura Grace Tarpley is a nomad and freelance writer who runs the blog Let’s Go Tarpley!, where she shares tips about budget travel and moving abroad. Follow her on Twitter @lgtarpley.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites. We help millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. In 2016, Inc. 500 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the No. 1 fastest-growing private media company in the U.S.