Planning a student’s budget, especially on financial aid, is tough. Techniques for making your money last often focus on things like not eating in restaurants, making your own coffee at home, shopping at second hand stores and soon. One of the biggest expenditures of a college education, though, is your required texts for courses. The average cost of textbooks for a full-time student is $550 per semester, according to Reducing what you spend on this budget item makes getting occasional lattes a reasonable treat.

Check Your Library

Once you get your syllabus and list of required texts, check your university and local library catalogs. What you find there may be a previous edition of a textbook. But, in many cases, texts are not changed significantly from one edition to the next. Contact your professor if you’re concerned about changes or additions. College libraries have extended loan periods for students and you should be able to make it through a semester that way. If you are checking the book(s) out from a public library, inquire about their copyright policies. You may be able to scan or photocopy assigned reading and use it as the semester progresses. That way, you can still return the book to the library on time. If the library doesn’t carry your text, explore inter-library loan options. Many libraries are networked and can get the books you need from another library system. This is more easily done by a university library but public libraries have options, also.

Shop Online

Purchasing your texts online can cut your textbook bill in half. Cheap textbooks, even current editions, can be bought and sold on the Internet. Check the ratings of the independent sellers that offer your text(s). This way you can make sure you’re buying from someone reputable and reliable. Shipping costs are generally minimal (or nonexistent) and you won’t have due dates to return the books by. Advanced, rare, or narrowly focused texts are easier to find this way. The selection at online stores is extensive and, with many stores to choose from, you can find any book your professors assign. You can also avoid the lines at the bookstore and get your texts delivered to your home. Choosing this method can save you time as well as money.

Explore Renting

Universities are adopting rental programs in many cities. If your school offers this, you can pay a lower or partial fee for texts. Then, when the semester ends, you simply return the text(s) to your campus bookstore. In some cases, this even applies to eBooks or PDF formats of texts. Check with your university bookstore about what options they offer.

You can make any or all of these options work for you. Talk with other students, your professors and employees of the university you attend. They can tell you what’s available on your campus and share what’s worked for them before. You may even find that a fellow student has just the text you need.

Melissa Batai

Melissa Batai

Melissa, a mom to three little ones (ages 7, 3 and 1), blogs at both Mom’s Plans where she writes about living a fulfilling life on less and paying down debt, and Fiscal Phoenix where she writes about rising from the ashes of your financial mistakes.