Off To College: Avoid The College Bookstore!


The following is one in a series of articles for students heading off to college. To help make your transition to school a smooth one, why not download your free copy of our College Moving Checklist today?

Anyone who has followed me on this blog since we got started in late 2007, knows that I don’t like college bookstores. Textbooks are overpriced, most of the supplies are too expensive, and bookstores are run by vendors which means the bulk of the profits go to a company, not the college. I’m not against businesses making a profit but college is already too expensive — so who needs to pay more than one thousand dollars per academic year for textbooks, supplies and other stuff when you don’t have to?

Save Money On Back To School Stuff

textbooksThat one thousand dollar figure isn’t something that I came up with, rather it is based on the $900 that U.S. PIRG determined that students spend on textbooks alone. Add in supplies and some other stuff and that four-figure amount is quickly reached.

So how can you save on books and supplies this academic year? There are a number of different ways including the following ideas:

Shop Back To School Sales – Back to school sales are now going on with some states still offering “tax free weekends” which means that you can avoid paying state sales tax on most of your related purchases. Depending on your state those items can include standard supplies such as paper, pens, notebooks and pencils as well as on laptop computers, desks, chairs, and related furniture.

Rent Your Textbooks – A number of companies will now rent textbooks to you for the semester and at rates far below the cost of buying your books. Even if you’re able to find a buyer for your textbook after the semester is over, chances are you’ll only get a fraction of the $100 or more you paid for that biology book. Google the following companies –, and – to see what each text book rental company has to offer.

Shop The Thrift Stores – Buying used is in, especially if it saves you a bundle on stuff you don’t need new. Your local thrift store may have that bookcase you want, a bed frame you need or even an umbrella to take to school with you. Consignment shops, remainder stores and consolidators are other good places to shop to help you find everything you need at a price that you can afford. Hey, we’re in a recession – think cheap!

Don’t Buy It! – When I was in college, one of the students in my Foundations of Business Marketing class decided not to buy her textbook, rather she found a copy of the book at her town library. Turns out the book wasn’t the latest edition, but the professor didn’t seem to mind. I’ve discovered that the books featured on the professor’s list aren’t always required, so wait until class begins to find out what you need for the semester. Consider also buying a book with your roommate, splitting the cost of the purchase.

So what if you decide to shop the college bookstore? Well, caveat emptor for you. If price isn’t a problem for you, then go for it. Far be it that I have a hand in closing down a money making enterprise!

Update: YouTube AP video added later to back my assertion about textbook price while naming the three main companies who rent textbooks.

Adv. — Do you need financial aid for this semester? Have you exhausted all other options? If you answered yes to both questions, then visit your Sallie Mae lender for more information or call them directly at 866-530-9523.


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Categories: Personal Advice