The 8s

Tips for cutting costs at the bookstore: Becoming a Savvy Student

July, 2017

© Olga Iermolaieva / adobe stock

The price tag on university textbooks is getting higher all the time, a fact that comes as a constant shock to first-year students. Depending on the area of study, the final bill is often hundreds of dollars, sometimes even breaking the thousand-dollar mark. If you’re a student yourself or know of someone who is just beginning the post-secondary phase of his or her life, here are some tips on how to keep that bookstore bill to a minimum.

  1. Buy Used: This first tip should come as no surprise. Don’t buy new textbooks if you can help it. Students are always eager to make back a little cash at the end of the semester, so it’s easy to find used textbooks. Publishers are always printing “new and improved” editions of the same book, but quite often, the older versions will get you through just fine. Make sure you know what specific changes have been made to the text before you commit to an older copy, but if you can find last year’s edition for half the price, your wallet will thank you.
  2. Don’t Buy Early: Professors sometimes announce their textbook lists months in advance, and it can be tempting for eager students to get their shopping out of the way and maybe even get a head start on the readings. But many professors use textbooks as supplementary reading materials, and if you don’t struggle with the material, you might find that the whole semester has gone by without you so much as opening the front cover of your $100 book. Always wait until the first day of classes before you start your shopping, and don’t be afraid to ask your professors how relevant the textbooks will be to the course. Don’t be afraid to return unused books if it becomes clear that they won’t be needed, and remember that sometimes the best option is not buying the book at all.
  3. Go Online: Online trading sites like Kijiji are full of used textbooks that you can get for a low price. But there is also valuable textbook information out there. If the students in your faculty have a Facebook group or online forum of any kind, find it and join it. Older students are usually more than happy to share their experiences of last year’s classes, including information about where the best deals are and which older editions still contain all of the current information.
  4. Check Copyright Dates: Make sure to check the publication date on your books. In Canada, copyrights expire 50 years after the death of the writer. For those enrolled in the arts, many of your novels and history books will have entered the public domain long
    ago, and are available to be legally downloaded for
    free online.
  5. Go to the Library: Whether it’s the public library or your school’s library, you’d be surprised at how many of your textbooks are just sitting on the shelves. This won’t be the case for those students enrolled in the sciences or engineering, but for those humanities electives that everyone has to take in their first year, the library will be your best friend. Science textbooks are constantly changing, but Shakespeare will always be Shakespeare.
  6. Consider Rentals: Online textbook rentals are becoming more and more popular, and many publishers are offering rentals themselves. If the price tag seems too high to justify, check to see if there is a rental option. This usually comes in the form of an online textbook that will expire once the term is over, but physical rentals exist as well. Sometimes these prices will be better than buying a used copy to keep, and other times not. Make sure you do your research, but always keep this option in mind.
  7. Ask Your Friends: If you have friends or relatives who have gone through the same program as you, chances are that some of them have held on to their old textbooks. This might be because they wanted to keep them to use as reference materials throughout their careers, or it could be that they just didn’t get around to selling them. Whatever the case, these friends might be willing to lend the book to you for the term if you promise to return it once the course is over.
  8. Keep Books in Good Condition: If all else fails, buy your textbooks at full price and sell them when the term has concluded. It’s rare for you to earn all your money back from the sale, but to justify a higher price tag, keep the books as pristine as possible—no underlining, folded pages, highlighter marks or coffee stains. Good luck with that. t8n



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