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Books and Supplies

The national average cost of books and supplies hovers around $1,100 per year (considered as two semesters), with that figure continuing to rise with inflation and the rising cost of college textbooks. The good news is, that figure can be dramatically reduced if you take steps to become more frugal when book-buying season comes and research ways now to reduce the cost of necessary supplies. We’ve come up with some tips below on ways you can stretch your money at the start of each semester, because no struggling college student wants to be saddled with a bill for hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks they may not even use again.

Cost-Saving Alternatives

If you’re willing to deal with monthly renewals, the library could be a good option for those in need of textbooks at a lower cost, especially if your professor is fine with an older version of a particular hardcover. A textbook exchange may be an option as well, where you bring back old books in exchange for others you need this time around. If your required books are harder to find, or if enough enterprising students have already exhausted the local libraries’ resources, you still have other cost-saving alternatives.

Most colleges have programs in place that allow students to buy their books used through the bookstores on campus. Although the copies may be a bit worn, you may save up to half of the cost of a textbook. Most bookstores will then allow you to sell your used books back, although you shouldn’t expect a windfall. An increasingly popular option is renting textbooks. You’ll have to restrain from highlighting, but if you’re confident you could return a book in good condition, you could save quite a bit of money renting your books if you are unable to find them used.

It’s always a good idea to communicate with your professors before buying your books and supplies. Often, a used previous edition of a book is just as good as the more expensive current edition, but you may not know that unless you ask. Or, although it’s less common, a professor may admit you won’t be referencing the text much at all in class, relying instead on handouts or Power Point presentations in class. If you’re too intimidated to ask, try to find other students who have taken the courses you’re signed up for, as they may have advice as well on which books and supplies you really need.

Scholarships for Books and Supplies

There are scholarships out there for odd hobbies, any and every student trait and characteristic, and your athletic and artistic abilities. If you pretty much have your tuition and fees covered thanks to the variety of scholarship opportunities out there, don’t assume that you won’t be able to find awards earmarked specifically for the costs of books and supplies. Many schools and organizations recognize that college is expensive, and that the rising cost of books and supplies only makes paying for school more difficult. So take advantage of awards for students looking to pay for those pricey textbooks.

For awards based on other criteria, conduct a free scholarship search, as there are many awards that will allow winners to use scholarship money to pay for any aspect of their college career, including your books and supplies.

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