Textbook Tactic 1: How I Saved $461.96 on Textbooks in One Semester

Its a new semester, and a new chance to be ripped of by your University Bookstore. You get to spend $500 on overcomplicated books that you may or may not read and then collect dust for all eternity.

That sounds like a great use of money, doesn't it? Stick with me and you will hopefully get out of this semester with a few extra hundred dollars in your pocket. There are 4 parts to this post.

The first is my rant about textbook prices and why they are so high. The second is my experience on how to beat the system, and hack those prices down to a fraction of the cost. The third is a method of saving another extra 7% on textbooks. The fourth section is proof that I received my textbooks and truly saved $461.96 using this method.

Class is in session. Let me teach you how to save some serious cash!

Most professors are just going with the flow and have no idea that the method mentioned in this post exists, and that their students do NOT need to pay $200 for each textbook. The university they work for is willingly causing financial turmoil in the lives of students. We need to get all of the professors on board to change the system.

If the majority of college students and professors start using this trick, we can change the entire educational system in our country.

To understand this trick, you need to understand the textbook price-gouging technique that the industry doesn't want you to know about.

The longer a book is in print, the more copies are in circulation. The more copies are in circulation, the greater supply available for the public to choose from. Because there are a finite number of college students willing to buy textbooks, a book that has been in print for a few years becomes cheaper as the supply of used books begins to exceed the number of college students requiring that same book.

In effect, the supply eventually exceeds the demand for textbooks and the price of that book drops.

Old textbook editions, though they may be perfectly educational and useful, become far less profitable to the textbook companies over time.

It is far more profitable for the textbook companies to charge ten times more for the new ones. Since you are forced to buy whatever textbook your schools tell you to, textbook companies do not have to worry about you switching to a competing textbook. So they print new editions every few years. These editions are usually identical to the previous editions apart from tidbits of formatting, chapter order, homework questions, and images. They contain the same educational value, but have useless differences intended to convince students and professors that there is new value added. There isn't.

The textbook buying trick that saved me a hundreds of dollars.

The University of Missouri Bookstore told me to buy the 12th edition of my Statistics textbook... for the low price of $224.50. Sure I could go to other online textbook dealers, but the price was still in the upper hundreds or over $200.  Even the used version of the book on Amazon was almost $200. Below is a screenshot of the Bookstore website.
The Mizzou Bookstore is a straight-up price gouging nightmare!
You can't see it in the screenshot, but my school presented me this edition of the schoolbook as a requirement for the course. If I were a normal college student, I would assume that I was required to get this book or a used copy of it to have a chance at performing well in the statistics course.

Luckily, I am not a normal college student. Here's what I did: I went to my first day of Statistics 3500 and asked the professor if we are assigned homework directly from the book. He said "No."

So I went home, did a little Google search and found this beauty:

Statistics for Business and Economics super cheap...
With shipping and handling, the 9th edition of the book cost me $18.77. (This is before any other discounts applied, though I could have gotten up to 7% from the Swagbucks method discussed below if I knew about it back then.)

The bookstore wanted me to pay $224.50 for the 12th edition, and wasn't providing me with a cheap alternative. By not bowing down to the system, I saved $205.17 on one book.

Rule of Thumb: if you are just using a textbook to study or follow along in class, never buy the newest edition. The new edition is a complete scam! You could have all the same information, maybe in a slightly different order, for so much cheaper.

Unless your professor assigns you homework before classes start, always wait till the first day of class to make the book buying decision. Find out whether book homework will count for a grade. If not, buy an older textbook edition. You could potentially save hundreds of dollars.

This wasn't just a one-time fluke.

I used this trick on my Economy 3229 textbook. Instead of buying the 2nd edition, I bought the 1st and saved $154.99 - $18.12 = $136.87.

I used this trick for my Accounting textbook. Instead of buying the 4th edition, I bought the 2nd and saved $125.65 - $5.73 = $119.92.

Those were my only three courses this semester that require expensive textbooks. Many students are forced to pay for four or five books and have a huge problem affording those insane prices. Savings could easily be double what I managed for some students.

Additional Up to 7% Cash Back on Textbook Purchases and a Way to Make some Extra $$$ For School.

Did you know you can get up to 7% cash back for all of your Amazon purchases? Do not waste 7% of your Amazon spend.

The method is to join Swagbucks.com, use their shopping feature, and click through to Amazon from there. Whenever you do that, you get Swagbucks (worth $1 for 100 Swagbucks) in proportion to whatever Swagbuck's deal is with Amazon at the time, usually 7%. If you're spending $100 on textbooks for example, you can get up to $7 back in Swagbucks. You can redeem your Swagbucks for Paypal cash, gift cards, sweepstakes, or even charity. Use the frame below to sign up for Swagbucks.

I used this method to get extra cash back on textbooks, and I also used it when I went on a cruise to Alaska by getting 8% back from Expedia.

In addition to saving money on your text book purchases, you can also make Swagbucks your default search engine and every once in awhile they'll just give you from 6 cents to $1 worth of Swagbucks just for searching with them.

When you Shouldn't use this technique:

One case where textbook edition matters is when teachers assign homework straight from the book. The technique printing companies use with new textbooks is to change the homework questions so that students are unable to succeed with older versions.

Always wait until the first day of class to buy your textbook. Ask your teacher if homework is assigned from the book or if the book is purely used for studying. This way you can determine if it is safe to use this money saving trick.

Professors who assign homework from a newest edition are just playing into the hands of the system. They need to know how to help their students out. If they truly believe in the importance of educating the next generation, they should also care about the availability of study materials.

What can I do about it?

Email your professor. Send them a link to this post and tell them why they shouldn't let their University Bookstore tell them to use the most recent edition of a textbook. It just isn't worth it. Make a pathos appeal to your professors. Show them how painfully expensive books are under the current system, and how easy it would be for the professor to help their students save money on textbooks.

They can still assign questions from the book if they want, but maybe they could tell the class to buy an older, cheaper edition of the textbook rather than forking out the hundreds of unnecessary dollars. Or, the teacher could assign homework from the new edition but provide the questions online or by print.

That way, even students who don't want to go into debt from the stupidly high prices can be successful throughout their college career.

Update - Textbooks Received - 2/4/2014

My textbooks have come in! They look great and have all the information I hoped they would. I'm especially impressed with the Statistics for Business and Economics book which is hard-cover and very high-quality.


This pile of textbooks cost me $461 less than what my school wanted me to pay.

Read the second post in the series - Textbook Tactic 2: How to Save $120 on a Single Compilation Textbook

Disclaimer: when you click through a Swagbucks link on this website, I get a 10% bonus of whatever you make from Swagbucks. For instance, if you install their browser extension or mobile app and use the Swagbucks search engine for all of your normal internet searches, you can probably make $20 or 2,000 swagbucks a month just by doing your normal search activity. Under those conditions, I would be compensated $2 or 200 swagbucks. Or maybe you buy $100 in textbooks and get 7% cashback to earn $7 back or 700 swagbucks. I would be compensated $0.70 or 70 swagbucks. This is my way of being transparent. Sign up for Swagbucks here!