Textbooks are so expensive! How can I save some money?

Every college student has been hit by expensive textbooks.  Physical therapy students are no exception.  So, what are some strategies you can use to keep costs down?

Skip the campus bookstore

Buying books on campus is like buying a desk lamp for $40 at the mall when you could get the same one in Walmart for 20 bucks.  As long as you have the title, author and edition, you can pretty safely buy your textbooks off campus.

Students are routinely turning to online resources to purchase their books.  While it might be a little more convenient to buy them at the bookstore on campus, you could save a few bucks by shopping around (and really, is it that inconvenient to sit on your couch surfing for cheap textbooks?).  Amazon, Textbooks.com, and half.com are all great places to start.

Many times students can use their financial aid money to purchase books at the campus bookstore with a voucher, instead of laying out your own cash (or, more likely, credit).  But, don’t think that means that you have to buy the books at school.  Remember that you’ll get a refund check for any financial aid left over after paying for tuition, fees, etc.  Use it to pay for the books online instead!

Here’s a little secret …

International textbook editions are significantly less expensive than those sold in the United States – even though they are identical to the U.S. versions.   In fact, ABEBooks.com even lets you search for them by clicking a checkbox.  However, you should know that these sales are generally not authorized by publishers and may violate certain trademark or copyright laws.  Since this is a blog to help out students, I’ll tell you that I’ve known lots of people who have purchased these international editions and not one of them was ever put in “textbook jail.”  (Disclaimer: you’ve been warned.  If you do it, and it’s illegal and you get caught, don’t come crying to The PT Student, because we don’t condone illegal activities.)

Sell ’em back

One way to save a little bit of money is to sell them back at the end of the semester, but if you ask most of your professors, they would probably tell you to keep all of them.  While it’s a good idea to keep several, if money is super-tight, keep only the most important ones.

Want to know which ones to keep and which ones to sell back?  Start with the list of most-used textbooks published by FSBPT (the organization that creates the PT/PTA licensure exam).  Since they are responsible for the content of the exam, FSBPT sends out a survey to all of the PT and PTA programs in the country asking which books are being used.  That way, they know that the exam is based on content from the textbooks being used in PT and PTA schools around the country.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can only return them to the campus bookstore.  There are online sites that will give you a quote for your book.  Definitely check out what other sites are offering before you go to the bookstore to sell them back.  Better yet, sell them yourself on eBay – by cutting out the middle man and selling directly to the next user, you’ll keep the extra money.

Lease ’em

Another trend in textbooks is renting, where the students just lease a book for the semester and return it at the end.  Check out Chegg.com to see if your school is listed, or your campus bookstore may have the option.  The benefits of rental are less upfront costs, and no worries about whether or not you’ll be able to sell it back.  Just keep in mind that it’s probably not the way to save the most money.

Good luck in your search for less expensive textbooks!  And if you know of other ways to get them cheap, please leave a comment below and let us know about it.

© 2012 The PT Student

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