The average college students pays $1,200 a year for textbooks as reported by collegeboard.org. If you're a single mom who wants to return to school, that huge figure seems daunting. How will you be able to afford books on top of all the other college and household expenses you have to pay?
Colleges and private companies understand that students need to save money. They offer a limited number of rental books that benefit your wallet. To rent textbooks, take your list of required textbooks to your college bookstore's sales associate and inquire about rental options. Or, check out Chegg.com, a leader in the textbook rental industry, where you'll find savings of up to half off the price of new books. While you can't write in a rental book, the financial savings make this option worth investigating.
Compare Rates From Different Sellers
To gain your business, numerous companies will offer competitive prices on the books they sell. Get out your calculator, and compare rates from different sellers. Start with the college bookstore and Amazon. Then, check out CampusBook.com, AllBookstores.com and DealOz.com. These sites will redirect you to websites that sell books directly to you. You'll need your list of required textbooks and time to compare prices, but the investment provides you with big savings.
Digital books typically cost less than printed textbooks, and they're also lightweight since you carry them on a single device rather than lugging around bound books that may weigh several pounds. Florida schools plan to go digital by 2015 as reported by the Tampa Bay Times.
Online degree and certificate programs, like those offered at Penn Foster, often use high quality digital eBooks. It works well when you're on a budget, have the right technology and are willing to adjust to page number differences between printed and eBook versions. Online programs offer a chance for you to learn at your own pace and on-the-go without having to haul around large, heavy textbooks.
Buy an Older Version
Older textbook versions won't cost as much as the new versions, so you'll save money when you buy the old version. Beware, though, that page numbers may be different, which could cause confusion during reading assignments. Additionally, some sections may have been revamped, which means you might miss valuable information. Make time to double check the differences between the versions before buying older textbooks. Often, the textbook publisher's website will list changes.
Read Used Textbooks
The ratio of new to used textbook sales is 1.7 to 1, reports the National Association of College Stores. Although new textbooks outsell used volumes, always check your college's bookstore for used books. Additionally, keep your eye on the school's classified ads, and ask students who previously took the class if you can buy their unwanted textbooks.
Flicker photo by Wesley Fryer
Don't Try These Methods
Other ways to save money on textbooks do exist, but they aren't as practical in the long run. They include borrowing from the college library or sharing textbooks with a friend. Even on your limited budget, resist these strategies. Instead, try the other suggested methods.