Several weeks after registering for college classes as an incoming freshman, I received the list of textbooks I needed to purchase. The grand total from the campus bookstore amounted to $443.88. If I were to purchase all used textbooks that were available from the bookstore, my bill would have been $357.65, a savings of only $86.23.
Paying a bill of several hundred dollars after I had just written a large check to cover my first semester’s tuition was very unappealing, so I decided that I would not pay that much money for my books. Grabbing a pencil and a piece of paper, I wrote down the ISBN numbers and scrolled through listings on Amazon and eBay. After about four hours of work divided over the course of several weeks, I purchased all of my books for a grand total of $249.09. This price is $194.79 less than purchasing the books new and $108.56 less than purchasing them used from the campus bookstore. If I compare buying them online with buying them used from the bookstore, I made $27.14 an hour in savings for the time I invested in searching for the textbooks. It would have taken me over three times that long to earn the money, so I consider it time well spent.
Here’s how I purchased my textbooks:
1. I didn’t wait until the last minute. As soon as I received the list, I began my search. This allowed me time to find the best deals. I also allowed enough time for shipping.
2. I made a list of the books with their ISBN numbers. I included the bookstore prices for both new and used books.
3. I checked Amazon and eBay for textbooks listed in “new” or “like new” condition. I saved my searches and compared prices over several days so I would be able to identify good deals.
4. I asked sellers for more details about books listed in “good” or “excellent” condition. Some of these books are actually in “like new” condition. You just have to ask.
5. After determining the best prices, I bought most of my textbooks from Amazon and eBay.
6. I was unable to find several of the books used or new from private sellers. Before purchasing them at the campus bookstore, I checked the price of new textbooks on Amazon. Most of the books were around 25% cheaper if I purchased them on Amazon versus the bookstore. If you spend more than $25 (almost guaranteed when you’re buying books for college), you even get free shipping to your home.
Let me describe the quality of the books I purchased. Six of them are brand new. One has a slightly bent cover and a few bent pages. The eighth is in perfect condition but has writing and highlighting on four pages (Those four pages saved me $20.50. I can overlook the markings on a few pages for savings like that). Another is in great condition but has slightly yellowed pages. Considering this book was printed in 1984, this is due to age rather than wear. My tenth book is in great shape with minimal, barely noticeable wear on the tips of the corners. Again, this small imperfection saved me $50.18 over a new book. My final book is the only one I am somewhat dissatisfied with since the cover is worn on the edges even though the seller did not describe it this way. Nevertheless, I still saved $79 on it, so it was a great deal.
Overall, I am very satisfied with my purchases. I received a better quality than if I had purchased them used from the campus bookstore, had them shipped to my home, and saved a substantial amount of money. Since I bought my books at discounted prices, I should be able to sell most of them for the same price I paid for them. I could even make money on several books. If I am able to save this much money each semester, I will save approximately $1560 over the next four years versus purchasing them new at the campus bookstore. I will save about $870 versus purchasing them used from the bookstore, and both of these figures don’t include any money I can save by reselling some of my textbooks. Good luck searching for your textbooks!
Frugal College Student
Editor @ MyFinancialLifeCoach.net
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