Student Life

Help Your Student Save Money on Textbooks

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By Lorena Roberts, Uloop

As college tuition seems to increase every year, parents are stressed about how they’re going to finance their child’s higher education. It’s tough to earn enough money to put food on the table and give your family everything they need as well as putting money away for their college education. But what some parents don’t think about is how much money it’s going to cost to get their student the textbooks they need. 

Sure, some students will opt to go without textbooks at all, claiming they’re resourceful enough to get the information they need on the internet or from their friends. But as a parent, it probably feels like you’re sending them into battle without armor. How can you expect your child to be successful if they don’t even have the materials they need?

With the average total cost of a semester’s textbooks leveling out at $655, college students are struggling to justify taking out more student loans (or using their grocery money) to pay for the literature that would aid in their education.

If you’re the parent of a college student in today’s world, you are no stranger to high textbook prices. Every semester you and your student are forced to decide whether it’s worth it. Your student might even suggest ways for getting textbooks at a cheaper price.

So what do you do? There are a number of ways students have opted to find textbooks for a cheaper price. If you’re looking into ways to help your student save money on textbooks, here are some options you might want to explore.

1. Rent textbooks, instead of buying them.

When your student first goes to college, it’s pretty likely that they’ll be taking general education courses. Owning these textbooks is not a necessity. Therefore, renting these textbooks is a much better option. Websites like Amazon will rent textbooks for a much more reasonable price. Additionally, Chegg is another resource to check out if you and your student are interested in exploring the option of just renting textbooks instead of actually purchasing them.

2. Encourage your student to take advantage of social media.

As the parent of a college student, it’s likely that you aren’t familiar with all the Facebook groups for exchanging home decor, apartment necessities, and textbooks. But in every college town, there’s bound to be one. Encourage your student to use this as a resource! Post the books they’ll need on social media and let upperclassmen battle for who can give them the lowest price. Students who have already been through the classes will want to get their textbooks out of their closets and pawn them off onto the students below them who might need them!

There are hundreds of ways to get your books from people at a discounted price. And trust me, any college student would be happy to make $30 off a textbook.

3. Opt to buy textbooks from used bookstores.

The bookstores on campus will charge you an arm and a leg for the smallest thing. I would suggest never stepping foot into one if you’re concerned about your higher education finances. Used bookstores typically exist in college towns because of how much turnover there is for college textbooks. Buying and selling used textbooks isn’t the way to become a millionaire, but it’s a way for a business owner to support themselves in a college town – that’s for sure.

The problem with buying your textbooks from used bookstores near campus is that they’ll likely still try to charge you more than what they’re really worth. If you were to buy the same book off of an upperclassman, you could it get for way cheaper.

You’ll also probably have to settle for buying an older version than what’s required for your class, which I’m getting ready to elaborate on in #4.

4. Buy previous versions that are no longer being printed.

New versions of textbooks seem to come out every year. But the changes that have been made can be extremely minor — seemingly unworthy of an entire re-print. When courses require that your student get the newest edition of a textbook, it’s likely that they can actually get by with an older (cheaper!) version. Some professors will actually tell you (the honest, cool ones) that the newest edition isn’t necessary. They’re required to say the newest one is what’s required for their course, but remember that if your student even has the textbook at all, they’re doing better than half the class.

5. Cengage Unlimited, the subscription service your student definitely needs.

You probably haven’t heard of Cengage Unlimited, the new subscription service for college students. Having just launched this fall (2018), students are coming to find out how great of a deal it truly is.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks, a subscription to Cengage Unlimited is only $119.99 per semester. This subscription gives your student access to hundreds of courses and thousands of educational resources, all at the touch of their fingertips.

You might feel stressed when it comes to the finances of putting your student through college. And trust me, you definitely aren’t the only parent feeling that way. Whether you’re having to take out student loans, you’re using what you’ve saved over the past couple of years, or you’re simply scraping by on donations from family members and the part-time job your student works to try and cover expenses, textbook prices are a challenge for everyone.

Hopefully, now you know some alternatives to paying full price for the textbooks your college student needs.

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