How I Saved Over $450 On College Textbooks

How I Saved Over $450 On College Textbooks

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Since the day I decided to drop out of college for my last job, I have been filled with remorse about killing my education. I couldn’t be more excited to say that I am officially enrolled for my final 12 credits in community college, assuming I don’t decide to stay for an extra semester to try to bump my GPA up before I transfer. I was a little less than excited to have to purchase my course materials. Fortunately, this isn’t my first rodeo so I was able to find a great way to save a ton of money on my college textbooks.

How I saved 70% on college textbooks and the smart business practice that helped me save over $450 from The Drowsy Mama.

Figure Out What You Need to Buy

I like to plan ahead, so it would drive me absolutely batty if I had to wait for my syllabus to come out to find out which textbooks I need to get for each of my classes. I’m lucky that my college allows us to see the necessary materials by using our bookstore through Follett. Just select your classes and it will let you know what you need to buy. If you’re not as fortunate as the students at my school, you can always try emailing your professor before the start of term to see if you could get the required materials list and maybe even the syllabus. Some profs are cool like that.

My books and access keys for three classes came to a grand total of $677.25. Ouch. Not gonna happen.

See Which Are Available To Buy Used Through the Bookstore

A couple of my classes had books that were available to buy used. Switching from new to used on my textbooks brought my total from $677.25 down to $555.25. Well, that’s $122 saved… still not good enough for this frugal girl.

See Which Are Available to Rent Through the Bookstore

I get it. Books are awesome and it would be wonderful to have a library comparable to Belle’s but I’d rather spend hundreds of dollars on books of my own choosing, not those curated for me by the department of education. Feel me? So I checked out what kind of savings we’re looking at there, and I was able to bring my grand total down to $332.61 or $344.64 in savings. I just crossed the 50% off threshold… but I guess I’m greedy because I wanted even more savings.

Check in With Non-Bookstore Vendors

The first place I checked was Chegg. They’re kind of known for their great rental program and to be totally honest, I’ve used them in previous semesters. But when it comes to looking for the exact same product, I’m not one for customer loyalty; just give me the best buy, please. Chegg didn’t have one of my books, so I made a note and moved on. The missing book ran $34.21 at the bookstore, so I adjusted for this and made my new total $310.43 for bookstore rentals plus one access code. If Chegg could beat that, we’d be in good shape. Much to my delight, they beat it by a landslide! To make sure I was getting an apples-to-apples comparison, I always search by ISBN and double check the edition. You can often get away with using an older edition but it does create a bit of a logistical issue when I’ve tried it in the past. After confirming everything was the same, Chegg’s total came in at $178.48. Adding in the missing book from the bookstore, my grand total was $212.69 or $464.56 in savings.
Update: Get free shipping on orders over $25 from now through September 30, 2016. Use coupon code WOWCHEGGTHX. 



One thing I learned from my experience working over the last year and a half is that many businesses and government agencies have a policy that they always get three quotes before awarding any contract or major sale. For them, we’re usually talking about $5,000+ but dropping a few hundred dollars in a single(ish)-income household kind of warrants applying this principle. So I went to one final place to check, my longtime favorite online vendor, Amazon. When looking only at rental textbooks, not the access code, they came to a grand total of $64.11. When adding in my access code, $204.11 was my final cost. By this time, I was splitting hairs over only another nine bucks in savings. Time to settle. And that settlement wasn’t bad at all!

Had I bought new from my college bookstore, I would have paid $677.25. By only buying my access code with them and choosing Amazon Textbook Rentals to fulfill my needs this semester, I saved myself $ 473.14. To put that in perspective, that’s enough to buy a basic laptop for school or groceries for my family of four for a month. So is it worth shopping around? You bet your sweet Amazon it is.

By the way, if you haven’t tried Amazon Prime, you’re missing out. I’ve been a member for 3 years and have never even considered cancelling my membership, especially with all of the new features they keep adding, like free one-day shipping and Amazon Prime Now. If you’re a student who’s never tried Prime before, you’re eligible for a FREE six month membership.

What would you do with an extra $450?