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Can’t Afford College Textbooks – What Do I Do? 

If it wasn’t bad enough that we’re paying tens of thousands of dollars each year to attend university, at the start of each semester, or trimester, we’re shelling out even more.

One $150 book doesn’t seem so bad, but when you’re doing four topics a semester, with two semesters a year, it really adds up.

To stop you having to sacrifice your food budget just to get those books, we’ve compiled a list of some tips to help you out.

Borrow From The Library

Take a look inside your college library. If they don’t have the book you need, ask the librarian if they can find it among their network of library branches. There’s a good chance they can get it through the inter-library loan program. The beautiful part about this is that it will cost you absolutely nothing!

Rent textbooks

Renting textbooks will save you money and the hassle of trying to find buyers at the end of every semester. Buying and selling your own textbooks was common practice in high school when the class behind you took all the same courses and used the same textbooks. In college, it’s much more difficult. Course materials change frequently, and even students in the same major don’t always take the same courses.

Chemistry: A Molecular Approach (3rd edition), one of the top sellers on Chegg (an online textbook marketplace) costs $71 to buy used. You’ll get only $2 on a trade-in with Amazon. That’s a $69 loss for a textbook that costs $16.50 to rent from Chegg.

Choose to rent and avoid the pile of unsold textbooks that tends to accumulate throughout college.

Edition Down And Second Hand

If you’re not too picky and are looking to save some extra money, just go an edition down. Obviously not too far, and it depends on the discipline — no one wants a doctor who still thinks leaches are the cure for all.

Share textbooks with a friend

The best way to save money on textbooks is to share the book and the cost with a friend or classmate. You’ll save money and gain a study buddy to go along with it.

Talk to a financial aid advisor

If you don’t have any money at all for used books or even rentals, your best bet is to go to your college’s financial aid office and ask to speak to a financial aid advisor.   While financial aid counselors can’t simply give you money (as nice as that would be), they can help you find textbook scholarship opportunities. An example of one is the program administered by the Helping Hands Foundation, a national non-profit, student-aid organization. You can receive as much as $1,000 each semester.   Your financial aid advisor can help you with your student loan refund too. If you’re expecting one and haven’t received it yet, they can see if you do indeed qualify and how much you can expect. They might also be able to make inquiries about the delay.  

Talk to your professors

Students sometimes think that professors have a vested interest in elevated textbook prices. For the most part, that’s untrue. Most professors are sympathetic to students’ financial situations and will try to find affordable options when they can. The reality, however, is that textbooks are just plain expensive!   If you find that you legitimately cannot afford to buy or rent required textbooks, try talking to your professors and explain the situation. Professors sometimes have extra copies that they are willing to loan to students. You might also ask if you could use an earlier edition of the textbook. Your professor may lend you an older copy or you may find an old edition online for just pennies. Just make sure your professor has approved using an older edition. 

Don’t forget about Tax Credit

The American Opportunity Tax Credit allows students or their parents to claim money spent on school materials like textbooks as a tax credit. You can get up to a $2,500 tax credit per eligible student. Tax credits are different from tax deductions in that a credit is a dollar-for-dollar amount taken off your total tax bill. Check your eligibility before filling out this form, and be sure to keep any receipts you intend to claim.

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