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? 

Unemployment Bucket List: how I'm making good use of my time between employed and entrepreneur. Get the full list at The Drowsy Mama.

Unemployment Bucket List

When I decided to go live with my blog a month ahead of schedule, I had pre-written a month worth of posts. I wanted to share with you the strategies I was implementing to make our life keep working when I no longer was. Apparently… life had other plans for me because every single post now seems suddenly irrelevant. More than a few of my plans have changed. I had initially prepared to work from home, take my kids out of daycare and become the frugal penny-pincher we all know I am. Over the past eighteen months, I got an incredible life experience that has helped to shift the way I view my home, my life and the world at large. With some business experience under my belt, I’m approaching everything as business. How do we optimize? Invest? Grow?

Two Big Changes to Plan

I’m making two major investments in my family and my career. The first of which, is the decision to keep my kids in daycare. This is a financially significant investment, to the tune of a few hundred dollars every week. So how do I make this happen? Well, first is fighting for my unemployment benefits. They issued me information on what I’m eligible for but later this week, I have a phone interview to determine if my departure from the company makes me truly eligible. If I am, which I truly believe myself to be, then this is just enough money to keep my kids in daycare. This offers them the stability of maintaining their routine and offers me the time I need to keep working on my business and pursue other opportunities as well.

The second investment very much relies on the first– I’ve decided to return to school. I dropped out of college when I was promoted at work. The demands of parenting and career left little time or energy to finish my associate’s degree. This time investment will allow me to move forward with obtaining a bachelor’s degree– something I had planned on having earned by now– and opens many career doors for me upon its completion. Last week, I settled an old debt with the community college, met with my adviser to confirm I only had 3 classes remaining to graduate and finally, got enrolled. Although I haven’t yet logged in to start the process, I’m already feeling like I’ve accomplished something. So I sat down and had another one of those deep, introspective conversations with myself. What else do I want to accomplish while I’m in that weird place between employee and feeling truly self-employed? So I made what I am calling an unemployment bucket list. The rules for what can make it on the list? It needs to be some form of an investment, optimization or growth. With 26 weeks of available unemployment benefits, here’s my 26 item unemployment bucket list.

The Unemployment Bucket List

Unemployment Bucket List: how I'm making good use of my time between employed and entrepreneur. Get the full list at The Drowsy Mama.

  1. Get my associate’s degree. Get more client testimonials.
  2. Exceed my sales goal for a month.
  3. Sign 10 new clients.
  4. Join a BNI chapter.
  5. Get an office space or co-working membership.
  6. Complete 24 blog posts.
  7. Improve my credit score.
  8. Pay down my credit card debt.
  9. Enroll in a 4-year school.
  10. Get my GPA up to a 3.0+.
  11. Hit 100,000 page views on my blog.
  12. Read 6 books for pleasure.
  13. Find a sport or exercise to get reallllllly into. Maybe bicycling because running sucks. Hush brain. You’re going to offend the runners. Screw the runners. A bike can go faster than their angry mob. Hush brain. Hush.
  14. Get health insurance.
  15. Find a cleaning routine that I can stick with.
  16. Complete Google Analytics Certification.
  17. Complete Google AdWords Certification.
  18. Get Google Partner Certified.
  19. Make peace with my body. Love it or lose it.
  20. Take a vacation.
  21. Clock some volunteer hours.
  22. Launch the resume program. (Details to come!)
  23. Switch to decaf.
  24. Help someone in a big way.
  25. Get a really good job offer.
  26. Every time I cross something off this list, add something new.

So that’s it. That’s the plan. The goals I’ll be chasing for the remainder of year 25. Be sure to check back for progress updates and while you’re here, drop a suggestion in the comments for things to add to my unemployment bucket list as I complete other tasks.