One of the reasons for the empty wallets of many college students is the exorbitant cost of those necessary evils of higher education: textbooks. Most colleges and universities have on campus bookstores where textbooks can be purchased. In addition, a reservation service is typically offered, whereby the bookstore orders all of the books a student needs and has them ready for pick-up by the start of the semester. On the surface, this is an attractive option, as it makes for less work on the part of the student, letting the bookstore take care of everything. Buying textbooks through this method can become very costly, however. Campus bookstores generally charge more for the books than other stores. During my freshman year, I spent approximately $400 per semester on textbooks through the campus bookstore. Fortunately, I soon realized that there were other, much cheaper, options available.
The first step is to find out exactly what books you will need for your classes. The bookstore might be willing to provide you with a list of titles and ISBN numbers if you tell them what classes you have scheduled. If they are not cooperative (and that does happen), contact your professors. They have been in your shoes before and will most likely be sympathetic to your desire to cut down on expenses. When you ask them for the list of required texts, be sure to also ask for the ISBN numbers, which will make it easier for you to search for the specific edition that they will be using.
After compiling a list of all of the books you will need, there are a number of places from which you can purchase them. Amazon.com and Half.com are two reliable web sites that offer new and used textbooks at low prices. You may also want to check eBay. I have saved around $250 to $300 each semester buying my textbooks through these three sites. However, if you do not like the idea of buying online, your local bookstore might be able to order the books you want. Books purchased through this method will likely be more expensive than what you will find on one of the above-mentioned web sites, but will still be cheaper than those bought at the campus bookstore. If you are not the type that needs to highlight or write in your class books, you may also want to check the library to see if they have any of the books you need. This is most convenient for books that you will only be using for part of the semester, as opposed to those that you will need to consult often throughout the duration of the class.
College is expensive enough without spending more money than you need to on textbooks. Using the above tips should help to alleviate at least one source of stress on your wallet.