My Story: A Grad Student's Guide to Books

contributed by Constance

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I was a poor college student and hated spending all that money on textbooks. I figured out a few ways to save. First, if the student absolutely has to have the book, they should buy used books. The bookstores buy the books back at the end of the previous semester and sell them for much less than the cost of new books. Always flip through to make sure that the book is in good condition. Usually the sale price is the same for a used book that is like new as it would be for a book that has been highlighted and marked to death.

At my college (Indiana University), there are two major bookstores where students can buy books. The prices are not the same at the two stores, so students need to comparison shop. Both bookstores are online so the comparison-shopping can be done before heading out. Looking online at the bookstore prices also gives the student a chance to make a list of the books for each course. Sometimes, those books can be found cheaper online through or similar sites.

A lot of my professors would put books on reserve at the library, meaning the books could be read in the library but not checked out. For those classes, I considered every hour in the reserve room reading as money in my pocket. If the professor didn't put the books on reserve, we usually just had to ask and he/she would often do so.

During one semester of my undergrad years, I was in four classes with the same four guys. There were some books that had to be purchased. We split the books between us, each buying 1/5 of the total. The purchasers would read the assignment, take notes, and pass the books on to another of the group. By the next class period, the book usually ended up back to the first reader for the next assignment. This had other advantages besides saving money. We could make notes in the margins for the others as a study guide or to ask questions. (Most people probably won't be able to share four classes worth of books in one semester like we did, but of course, this would also work for just one class.)

There were some books that I decided I wanted to keep, so at the end of the semester, I offered to buy those books from my buddies, and got them for less than I would have paid if I had bought the book at the beginning of the semester. They just asked for the price that the bookstore would have given them during book buyback. They were willing to do this since I had already paid 1/5 of the total price of all the books we used that semester. We all still came out ahead.

"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by

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