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How To Take A Class Without Making A College Textbook Purchase: 3 Simple Techniques

Jul 24, 2008
A college textbook purchase can set you back hundreds of dollars. I have 3 great places to look for textbooks to avoid buying textbooks altogether. You may not know it, but you can often get textbooks for free. Learn these techniques for saving money in college, and use them over and over again.

How I Took Classes - But I Didn't Buy Textbooks
I recently finished an MBA, and those textbooks are not cheap! In one class, I had 3 textbooks, but I was able avoid buying 2 of them. I had to make some calls or send some emails, and in this specific case, I had to talk to the professor as well. But in the end, I avoided some expensive books. I'll show you 3 ways below.

Strategy #1: Loaned Textbooks
I know, it sounds crass, but we are talking about real money. Besides, it isn't that hard to do. I just called some friends that had been in other classes with me, and I asked if they still had their textbooks. One did, and he let me borrow them for the semester.

Tip: Make lots of friends like this. This guy was a semester or two ahead of me, and took similar classes. We did have one class together where I took it before him in the program. Also, he loved to keep his books for reference for later. I didn't keep mine, and he didn't mind loaning his. Also, I was always careful with his books, and I didn't write in them. I just had to drive to his house to get them, and I avoided several college textbook purchases by maintaining the friendship.

One of the books was an article anthology, just a bunch of articles in one place. A new version had come out, so I had to ask the professor what articles we would be using, and compare that to my borrowed book. He said there were only a few new ones, and I found those online doing a search, or through a library database, like EBSCO Host. I had access as part of being a student, so it was free.

I took care of my friend's books and returned them at the end of the term. And he lent me some more after that.

Nearly Free: Technically, I may have had to use some paper and toner to print a 10 or 20 page article. Not bad ;o)

Strategy #2: Ask the Professor
I had a book coming to me, and it hadn't arrived yet, but you can use this to avoid your college textbook purchase altogether in some cases. Since mine was delayed, I asked the professor if I could borrow an old one of his for a couple of weeks. He said no problem.

I used his book till mine came, but I could have asked for a longer period. Professors often have books for years, and they often get extra books from publishers. A good relationship can help here as well.

Strategy #3: The Study Lab
When I took an economics class as an undergrad, we had a lab to go to study for the class. A teaching assistant was there to answer any questions, with his own book. The lab had some great hours, but was often unoccupied.

Simply go to the lab and use the book and ask questions, just like you should as an interested student. Let the lab assistant help you, and use their book while in the lab.

Bonus: You finish your assignment, and you avoid a college textbook purchase. Be sure your class actually has a study lab, a TA, and a book before you try this one. Borrowing is even cheaper than a used textbook sale.
About the Author
Want more techniques? During two degrees with little money in college, I learned how to avoid buying textbooks whenever possible. Visit the Beat-Tuition Cheap Textbook Hub for dozens of ideas like these for keeping your textbooks cheap.
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