College textbooks and supplies can be among your biggest back-to-school expenses. According to the College Board, during the 2010-11 school year, the national average cost for college textbooks and supplies was $1,137. Those expenses are second only to the money students and their families must dole out for tuition and fees. Fortunately, there are some ways to cut costs on college textbooks and supplies. As you head back to school this semester, use these seven tips to save money on your college textbooks and supplies this semester.—Lynette Khalfani-Cox
Buy digital textbooks. You can save a third or more of the cost of a hardback textbook by purchasing a digital book. Despite the fact that today’s college students are more technologically savvy than ever, the digital textbook market is only a sliver of the $9 billion industry for new and used textbooks. According to the National Association of College Stores, digital books make up about 3% of textbook sales. But that figure is expected to grow to between 10% and 15% by 2012 as e-books and e-readers grow in popularity.
“Follett knows today’s students are facing overwhelming education costs,” says Thomas Christopher, President of Follett Higher Education Group. “Our variety of affordable choices helps every student be successful.”
Comparison shop online. One of the easiest ways to find the lowest price on a particular textbook or supplies is to go online and compare prices from various retailers. Check out Half.com, an eBay property, to see if anyone is selling a brand new or slightly used version of the books you need. Campusbooks.com is a popular site for textbook shoppers, and can help you find the best deal on a specific book across several sites.
Get a head start. Waiting until the last minute to order your textbooks could result in high shipping fees and limited options. So always try to get a list of required textbooks and materials as early as possible. That way, before school starts you’ll not only have the chance to shop around, but also the time necessary to get books sent to you without paying extra “rush charges” for expedited shipping.
Check Craigslist or your college’s classified listings. Many local students may be trying to get rid of their textbooks used in the previous semester, so consider buying your next textbook directly through them for a lower price. Craigslist, your campus newspaper, and your college’s classified boards are a few places to start your local search.
Use coupons for price reductions. Don’t miss out on a great deal— compliments of a coupon—when you’re forced to purchase a brand new textbook. Sites like RetailMeNot.com and PromoCodes.com list the latest coupons and special offers by several major retailers that sell textbooks and other college supplies. A quick search is all it takes to find some attractive discounts on your next purchase.
Coupons are a good idea if you have any college courses that require you to purchase the latest edition of a book. Just be prepared for some serious sticker shock. It’s not uncommon for a new college textbook to cost $100 or more.
Buy off campus. Nearly all school supplies sold in on-campus book stores are more expensive than in stores located in town. “If possible, especially when you are making bulk purchases, make the trip off campus to buy school supplies,” recommends Jesse Ryan, managing director at Accounting Principals. “Sometimes local vendors even sell campus spirit wear for nearly half the price,” he adds.