College Preparation: Textbooks

College prep buying textbooks

Quick! Name some industries that, in today’s economic recession, still make a fortune every year. The medical industry? Check. The insurance industry? Check. The legal industry? Check. No matter how low the Dow Jones Industrial Average falls, there will always be some types of businesses that make a killing off of sucking their many clients dry. But one of these industries that may not be immediately apparent to a high schooler – and especially a high school homeschooler – is the textbook industry.

Many students get their first glimpse of what it’s like to set fire to money by buying collections of colored paper for over one hundred dollars apiece. With neither myself nor my parents being millionaires, we’ve had to learn our way around buying textbooks through the two years I was dual-enrolled in a community college. We conquered the textbook economics beast and came out on top with some excellent pieces of advice.

If you’re going to buy in person, buy early

Hell hath no fury like procrastinating, textbook-shopping college students. On the day before classes start, the textbook store at my community college is packed wall to wall. I can only imagine how it is at larger schools.

Other than crowds, there’s also the fact that as classes edge closer, the school stores can actually run out of the necessary textbooks, causing students to go “gosh-blastit!” and spend a week without their textbook as they wait for it to be shipped from If you’re going to buy from a school or any other kind of textbook store, buy earlier than the very last moment.

Try to find your books on sale

If you can get your textbooks online, all the better. Often times they can be found on sale this way. Even though they’re still expensive, it’s better than buying them at a ridiculous price in-store.

Be careful, though: when buying online, you have to make sure to get the exact right edition of the textbook for your class. In-store books are usually the latest edition, but buying online will require a little extra fact checking. On top of that, make sure the textbook is in relatively usable condition. Many online stores indicate the condition of the item being sold.

The ultimate textbook-buying secret

I don’t want to sound like I’m advertising here, but you can save tremendous amounts of money by renting textbooks online rather than buying them. With this kind of service, you gain access textbooks for only as long as necessary. After the semester finishes, you can send them back.

Chegg is a great company for this, and they’ve allowed my family to save a lot of money on textbooks since we discovered them. The books are usually in great condition (at least before you’ve jostled them around your bags for a semester), and they even provide e-book versions for many of them. I recommend this service if you’re tight on funds or even if you’re not.

Now that I’ve shared my vast sea of ancient, hidden textbook-buying knowledge, you’re probably ready to go out into the (college) world and spend money on educational dead trees. Even if you’re not going to college within the next couple of years, a lot of this advice applies to any sort of vital school supplies. Keep it in mind and stay out of debt, kids!



June 18, 2012


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