When Naomi Moneypenny started college, she had to almost immediately make a difficult, but important choice. “I spent so much of my budget on specialized books that I had to make a decision between purchasing food or textbooks,” she tells MainStreet. “The textbooks won and I bought expired canned food from a hole-in-the-wall store [that year].”
While not all are regulated to a diet of Spam and Vienna sausages, any college student will invariably tell you they spend too much money on books. In fact, a recent study by the National Association of College Stores found that students spent, on average, $667 on required course materials over the last 12 months. Part-time students paid around $531 for their required reading; full-time students shelled out $693 … and these costs can be expected to go up.
A separate study completed by the University of Michigan found that the price of textbooks has risen, on average, 6.9% each year since 1978. This is less than the average annual inflation rate for general college tuition, but more than the 4% increase in the cost of medical care through the years.
“[It] depends on the semester,” Aubey Layno-Moses, a student at University of Southern California, says, backing these studies up with her sentiments. “But [I] usually spend between $600 and $1200.”
While the price for particular textbooks may fluctuate, just how much money a course load costs ultimately comes down to how and when you purchase your materials (it may be the middle of the summer people, but now is a great time to start looking for textbook deals).
“Freshmen year, I bought all of my books at the bookstore, spending over $1000,” 2010 college graduate Lisa Cuesta says. “Fortunately, as time went on I got smarter with my textbook shopping techniques.”
To help you bypass the trial and error process (and to prevent you from a similar first-year pitfall), MainStreet has some suggestions for how to save on school books.