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Saving Money on Books

When it comes to budgeting, there’s one cost that sets every student back right at the start of term: buying course books. With this in mind, here’s a wide range of ways to save money on books, not only during the buying period, but afterwards as well.

1. Don’t buy them!

Get your books from your subject library at your university. They will almost definitely have multiple copies of any book which is required for your course, so why not take advantage? But be careful, this tactic is a popular one, meaning you have to get in there early and make sure you keep renewing your loan – otherwise you could end up with hefty late fees.

2. Buy online

There is, of course, the option of buying cheap and pre-owned copies of books on sites such as Amazon. This often works out cheaper than buying them new from a bookshop, but there are a few drawbacks. Make sure you check the ratings of the seller to decide whether you trust their description of the book’s condition, also don’t forget to factor in the cost of postage and packaging.

3. E-books

Though controversial, E-books can save you a huge amount. Of course, if these are to be portable, they require a ‘spend-to-save’ attitude as you need a Kindle or similar device to read them on. However, once you’ve got one you have access to a world of books that are usually cheaper than their print equivalents.

4. Charity shops

This one is a personal favourite. Granted, it works best for English literature students – you’re unlikely to find your required Law or Biochemistry textbooks in the British Heart Foundation shop. But, for the dedicated humanities student, this is a great way to ethically cut costs on your books. Be warned though, it does require strong will-power not to come out with a pile of other books on top of the ones you were looking for!

5. Book sales


Keep an eye on any course-based society which is relevant to you – they often organise book sales which give students the opportunity to make a bit of money back on their old books. These are great for buying cheaply or selling once you’ve read every page and memorised each word. If you can’t find a book sale, it’s likely that individuals will post on the society’s Facebook page in an attempt to buy or sell books so make sure you’re the first to respond if you see a good deal!

6. Discounts

As always in the world of student money-saving, look out for student discounts at you’re uni bookshop and at other sellers: for example, Waterstones currently offers a 10% discount with a valid NUS card.

7. Extra reading

So now you’ve bought all the required books it’s time to glance over that ‘Secondary Reading’ list… which no one ever buys. But don’t write them all off, occasionally there will be a book or publication which your course leader recommends which doesn’t break the bank and just might give you the edge. Shop around for student on publications such as The Economist, which is currently offering your first 12 issues for £1 (here) and could be a God-send for students of Business or Politics. Make sure you don’t get locked into a longer contract though – many of them, like The Economist subscription, are great as long as you remember to cancel before the cost increases.

8. Looking forward

It’s important to remember the pain of exchanging your pounds for pages at the start of your uni career and to plan ahead to soften the blow in future. First of all get hold of a loyalty card for your uni bookshop; Blackwells offers a point per pound spent and, once you’ve reached a hundred points, these are worth £5. Also shop around for the most beneficial way to pass your books on: you can join the masses selling used copies online or use society Facebook pages and book sales. If you want your cash quickly you can often sell your books back to your uni book shop for cash. They will usually offer only a fraction of the original price, but this can be more if you accept store credit. Some of them will even let you sell back books that you bought elsewhere – I once made a profit doing this with a book I’d bought in a charity shop for £1.50!

Charlie Withers

3rd Year English Literature student at Cardiff Uni. Interests include drama, rugby and personal fitness.

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Charlie Withers
3rd Year English Literature student at Cardiff Uni. Interests include drama, rugby and personal fitness.