NEW YORK (MainStreet) — When you go back to college, the tuition is the least of your worries. The average student is going to pay $1,200 a year just for books, according to the College Board. On top of that, there's room and board, which averages between $9,804 and $11,188 over the course of your higher education. But there are ways you can rack up significant savings without forfeiting any necessities. Here's how you can save money when you head back to school this year.
The Elephant in the Room of College Education
The main cost that people leave out when it comes to planning for college is the cost of books. But you don't have to drop over a G on your textbooks. Elizabeth Riddle, director of OnCampus Research, the research arm of the National Association of College Stores, points out that the cost of books per year is the average for people who buy only new books. In the 21st Century, that's no longer necessary.
"There are a lot more options out there," says Riddle. "It used to be just new and used. Now you can rent or get books in digital formats. Custom course packs are arranged from custom materials, so you don't necessarily have to buy the whole textbook." She notes that the earlier you shop, the more options you're going to have. The last things left on the shelves are likely to be the super expensive, brand-new books.
A lot of students these days shop online. That might save you money, but Riddle says that you need to make sure that you're comparing apples to apples. "The material on the website might not be the right edition," she says. "It might be missing online access codes that a lot of course materials come with." She also urges students to factor in shipping expenses and return policies. "Taxes and shipping can add up real fast," she says.