Covering the cost of college textbooks can seem trivial, relative to what it costs to actually attend college. But if you're paying $1,000 for just one semester of books, the total cost of college can be an even bigger burden than you expected.
Knowing the ins and outs of textbook buying now can save you a considerable amount of cash and frustration.
To that end, here are some very reliable alternatives...
You probably already know there are numerous websites out there devoted to buying and selling textbooks. They are the best way to pair buyers and sellers on a large-scale in order to give you the most options.
Major online sellers like Amazon and eBay also offer sections for textbooks where you can look through hundreds of options for each book to find the price and condition that is right for you (often with the cheapest shipping costs).
Used books will usually give you the best bang for your buck, but be aware that your book will probably not come in pristine condition. It may have rips, stains, highlighter marks, and more. But it will also save you a ton of money. Just plan ahead since you will have to wait for it to arrive.
These retailers give you the best chance to get your books at the cheapest price, whether you are buying new or used. Just be sure to research the site ahead of time and avoid buying from sellers who have received poor reviews or feedback.
Many students are also starting to utilize textbook rental services where you rent your book for the semester at about half the cost of buying it, and return it when you're done with the class.
You will save on the upfront cost, but remember you will not be able to sell it and get any money back later.
If you prefer to buy your books in person, there are other ways to cut down on textbook costs:
*Buying used books directly from other students (schools often have Facebook pages or campus-wide message boards for private textbook sales),
*Sharing books with other students in your class, or
*Trying to check-out the required textbook from your library.
The library can be risky, however, since there will be limited copies and, most likely, a limit on how long you can keep it.
When it comes to getting the best return on your textbooks at the end of the semester, the internet, once again, is usually the best option.
Copious amounts of sellers, such as Amazon, offer textbook buyback programs which will pay far more for your used books than the college book store will.
You can also choose to sell them privately online or to your classmates. By selling them at marked down prices you will still get more money back than the bookstore will give, and you will also help fellow students save.
Textbook trading is another option, often facilitated by the schools themselves. Ask around and see if such an option exists at your college.
Whichever route you choose, doing some research and shopping around (especially online) will most assuredly save you a ton when you buy, and pay you the most when you sell your textbooks.
Scott Weingold is the publisher of CollegeMadeSimple.com and also co-founder and a principal of College Planning Network, LLC -- the nation's largest college admissions and financial aid planning firm. Scott has been ranked the #1 "College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About" in the U.S. by CollegeStats.org, and he co-authored the book, "The Real Secret To Paying For College"