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How can I save money on textbooks?

How can I save money on textbooks?

When each semester begins, the bookstore is crowded with students. I used to be among these people but later I realized that it was financially unwise to buy all my textbooks from the bookstore. Have you ever had the same feeling? Have you ever spent hundreds of dollars buying textbooks and wanted to find cheaper ways to purchase textbooks? I have some tips for you to save money.

First, you should wait until the first lecture to decide whether you need the textbooks mentioned in the syllabus or not. Occasionally, your professor will announce in the first lecture that the textbook is not mandatory as written in the syllabus or offer an alternative way to purchase the materials for a lower price.

It is always good to keep your receipt while buying books because you may not need that book in the future. Especially at the Illini Union Bookstore, you can return your books with a receipt for a full refund within specific period of time, so you should pay attention to the final date you can return a book.

Shopping in the campus bookstore is convenient but besides the bookstores, there are many other platforms to get free materials or purchase textbooks with lower prices:

  1. Library Genesis - This is a free online library database. You can try to search for the book you need with its powerful search engine.
  2. EBSCOhost - Every UIUC student can get access to this academic database (needs netid log in)and you can learn how to use it by reading the guide on UIUC library website.
  3. Use the “Free Trial” - There are many other websites you can use to access your textbooks, but they typically require monthly payments. If you are confident that you can finish reading the book in that trial, you can take the advantage of their free trial period. However, you should remember to cancel the automatic payment before the free trial period ends.
  4. Online Book Purchasing - On Amazon and Barnes & Noble, you can find cheap second-hand books or books for rent. With a membership for Barnes & Noble, you can get 10% off on items bought from their website.
  5. Second-hand Books - You can buy used books from students who took the same course. The advertisement of second-hand books for sale usually can be found on Facebook and other popular social media such as Wechat. You may be afraid that old-version book cannot fit the requirement but usually it works.
  6. Borrow Textbooks - Many students study in libraries but seldom take advantage of their abundant resources. You can check if the libraries have the books you need online or in the library where you can borrow it for two hours at a time. In a smaller class, your professor may also have extra copies of textbook that they can lend to you so don’t be shy to ask.

After the semester you used the textbook, don’t forget to resell any you are sure you will never need in the future to reduce your costs. You can post your advertisement on social media or ask your classmates and friends if they know anyone who needs the book.

In conclusion, don’t purchase your textbooks in a hurry and choose the solution that works best for you. If you are not comfortable with e-books, database methods probably won’t work for you. If you think renting is complicated, you may prefer used books over rentals. Finally, if you are not good at remembering the final date of free trial then don’t take that risk reading books for free. Once you have learned how to save money on textbooks, you can even save money on other expenses by using the methods you have learned from this blog.

Written by Baiyu Li, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Fall 2019. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension.