The Economista: Saving Money on Books

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Welcome to The Economista! My name is Andy Pham and I will be giving you weekly tips and tricks on how to budget, save money, and have inexpensive fun at Brown!

Every August and September, one of the big concerns for college students is how to pay for textbooks. They can cost upwards of $300 for a single one, and that would just be one class. Add that cost onto other expenses and paying for college can suddenly become worrisome. However, fear not. There are plenty of ways to save money on books at the beginning of every semester.

PDF Files 

One favorite of many college undergraduates is to first seek out PDF files of their books. This works especially well in literature courses where a lot of the read texts will include classics that are widely accessible in the public domain. Yet, this can work for hard science courses as well. It is not uncommon for people to discover their entire textbook in a pdf file online. Not only would this mean saving money, it also means sparing your arms from having to lug those books between classes.

Brown University Buying & Selling 

This is Facebook page is heavily used within the Brown community. A lot of college campuses have pages like this, and they’re definitely worthwhile to look at. While there will be a lot of scrolling past people begging for someone to take a lamp or microwave off of their hands, you can find people selling their used textbooks on here. The one problem with this though is competing with other students also trying to find cheap versions of their textbooks. However, if you are able to message the seller first, you could very well buy a $125 book for just $30.

Waiting to Buy the Books 

It can be overwhelming to look at the book lists for your classes. “Required” in bold letters could flash before your eyes over and over. Sometimes this is a lie. It is always recommended by upperclassmen to wait on buying books until your professor tells you to, or starts using it to teach. The reason for this is because you may not end up using the book at all for a class and that would mean money spent for no reason. Furthermore, sometimes a textbook for a class is where you will go for clarification or more information. It is not always necessary to your success in a class. In fact, some people don’t even open the textbooks they buy at all.

However, if you are worried about being behind by waiting it out then there’s a solution. More often than not there will probably be people in your class that have had the textbooks ready to use in their room for weeks before the class started. If you find that you need one of these books but do not have it yet, you could borrow it from someone in your class.

Other Textbook Websites

There are an increasing amount of textbook selling websites emerging now. There is text.com and chegg as well. There is always classic Amazon. In addition to websites that sell books, there are also websites that can compare prices for you. Brown University’s Bookstore actually does this. So, if you find that you cannot download a pdf file and actually need the book for the course, then there are resources for you to find the cheapest available one online.

These are just a few of the ways I have learned to get my books. For me, it ended up being cheaper to rent a lot of my books from Brown’s bookstore. A big plus of this was not having to pay tax. I also get the peace of knowing that I won’t have to resell the books at the end of the semester and can just give them back to the bookstore. However, if you think that you really need some one on one help about books then the office of financial aid is incredibly helpful!

Thanks for reading!

I am open to any and all ideas, and will be happy to answer any questions you may have! If you have any suggestions, questions, or comments you can e-mail me at andy_pham@brown.edu . Thanks!

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