December 2012
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How I make textbooks affordable

One of your responsibilities as a college student will be ordering your own textbooks. I imagine that a lot of students dread ordering textbooks, but I embrace it since I like hunting for good bargains!

Before I go on, I will mention that some students have the cost of their textbooks covered by financial aid. In that case, students get to buy their books directly from McDaniel’s bookstore. In most cases, though, students need to pay for books out of their own pocket; if you’re one of those students, you absolutely must read this guide! :)

Prior to the beginning of each semester, you’ll need to check McDaniel’s bookstore website ( to see what books you need to get for each class you’re taking. While some students enjoy the convenience of buying or renting books from the college bookstore (you can order online and pick them up right on campus), this convenience definitely comes at a cost, which is why I prefer to do my textbook shopping elsewhere. (I will say though that by buying textbooks from the campus bookstore, you’ll be able to get a refund on your books if you end up dropping the class that they were for. This won’t always be true of other websites.)

When I know what textbooks I need to buy, I search their ISBN numbers on a site called From here, I can look at different websites’ prices for a book all on one page and select the lowest priced book. Most often, this website directs me to listings on Amazon,, and Since I tend to use the marketplace features on these websites, most of the books I order have individual shipping charges, so be sure to factor in shipping to your total cost. And before I check out from these websites, I always check for coupon codes so I can save even more money. (I use this website for all of my online shopping and I love it!) I also keep a log of what books I’ve already ordered and how much they cost using a spreadsheet. This helps me avoid accidentally ordering a book twice!

This process is time consuming, but the money I save by buying my books this way makes it worth it, especially when it comes to actual textbooks (the savings for novels is smaller, but when you’re buying several a semester, the savings add up). Tonight, I bought eight novels for my literature class Growing Up in America for under $30! And I had them shipped right to the campus post office so I can pick them up while I’m on campus for Jan Term!

For me, buying textbooks works well. As an English major, a lot of the books I need to buy are novels, which I tend to keep after the semester. I’ve also had to buy a lot of reference books for my major that I like to save for continued reference. I also like to be able to sell back books that I don’t keep so I can get some of my money back in my pocket. Some students prefer to rent books though. While it is more affordable to rent, you can’t sell your books back and you can’t keep them (unless you pay the difference in some cases). You can rent from the campus bookstore or you can rent from one of many websites. ( has rental listings too.)

I can’t tell you if renting or buying books will be best for you, but when it comes to getting textbooks, shopping around can help you get the best deals!

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