Tips for Teens – College Textbooks: The Cheapskate Way

Stick man reading books with graduation hat onCollege. It’s like handing over an ounce of gold at the bookstore for a years’ worth of supplies. Seriously though, according to the College Board, the “yearly books-and-supplies in-state estimate for the average full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public college is about $1,298″* and gold is currently trading at about $1,300 per oz. Thankfully, there are some ways to minimize the impact to the point where FASFA might actually be enough!

Don’t forget to check the public library!
Let’s face it, it’s probably been a long time since you last set foot in a public library. They’re still there and they often have the books you need to check out for free! For example, suppose the books your professor asks for are George Orwell’s 1984, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. One option would be to cough up $25 dollars for three books that realistically will never be read again and just take up room on your bookshelf. Option two is to check to see if these books are old enough to be in the public domain. Books in the public domain are free and are usually uploaded in a PDF format by a reputable source, like a .edu, .org, or 3rd party eBook distributor like the Google Play Bookstore or the Amazon Kindle store. Unlike PDFs that you find on Google after searching for The Great Gatsby Free PDF, these PDFs and legal to use, redistribute, and print since their copyright expired. The former PDFs are infringing on the books’ copyright and you might run into legal trouble if caught using one. However, the third and fail safe route is to use the public library. Just go back in, renew or apply for a library card, then go to the website to place holds on the books that are needed that semester. Just remember to return them after you’re done using them to avoid late fees.

What about textbooks?
Glad you asked about that. Certain textbooks can also be checked out through the public library. I personally haven’t had any luck with my public library system carrying any of the textbooks that I need, but it is one of the 71 library systems that participate in Link+, a library cooperative available from participating libraries in California and Nevada. There, almost any textbook that is needed for the semester is available since some of the participating libraries are colleges and universities. There’s no cost to use or enroll in Link+ and as long as your library card is in good standing, you’re in! Check with your local public library to see if it’s one of the library systems that participate in Link+ (Contra Costa, Solano, or Alameda County Libraries all participate in Link+) or check for yourself here:

Alternatively, check your school’s library and ask to checkout a textbook on reserve. Usually these books are only available to you for 3 hours and can only be used inside of the library. The advantage of this is that it forces you to do your homework during that time rather than procrastinating.

Okay, and the supplies?
Scantrons and Bluebooks are the unfortunate monopoly that hovers over school supplies. Thankfully, Scantrons can sometimes be obtained for free by attending orientation events at the start of the semester and during finals week. As for pens, pencils, highlighters, and notecards, use your supplies from last year. If you’re all out of those too, remember to pick some up next semester from an orientation event. You can also save on transportation by checking your public transit system to see if they offer any discounts for students such as free bus fare for UC Berkeley students and BOGO tickets offered by the County Connection.

Whatever you do, remember that the financial office at your college or university might also offer bonus financial aid based on your FASFA, which as a reminder, has a deadline to file by March 2nd!

Luis Dominguez
Student Social Media Intern
1st Nor Cal Credit Union