The Frugal Student’s Survival Guide: Part One - Textbooks

Welcome to Mozo’s Frugal Student’s Survival Guide. ‘Survival guide to what?’ we hear you ask. Well, to everything you might need to spend your very finite money supply on. We’re offering tips for tackling #studentlife without being forced to sell a young and well-educated limb on the black market.  Let’s start with the biannual wallet clear-out that is purchasing textbooks.

Fact: textbooks are obscenely expensive. If you’re a student whose housemates double as parents, textbooks might be your greatest annual expense. And, if you’re a student who lives out of home, they can seriously blow your budget out.

While textbook costs vary, for some ‘heavier’ degrees like law, engineering and medicine (don’t shoot, Arts students!), buying four paper bricks each semester can cost over $500.

It’s easy to wonder if buying textbooks is worth it. There’s always one that you don’t open all semester, and often you find yourself asking: “Am I buying this new edition because it will actually enhance my learning, or because my lecturer is a co-author on it and has a mortgage to pay?”

But, HDs get degrees. If you do want to do well in your subjects, you should probably read the course materials. Here are six ways to do that which won’t bankrupt you before the orientation week party.

1. Buy second-hand textbooks: Most universities have a second-hand book shop where you can buy this semester’s books, or sell your old ones. There are some drawbacks: the shop will take a percentage of the price the book sells at and, unfortunately, there are no guarantees as to whether it will be sold (it could leave the shop the day after you hand it over, or sit on a shelf for such a long time that it no longer appears on the subject reading list).

2. Use textbook exchange websites: If you don’t like the uncertainty of a second-hand book shop, you could always use a textbook exchange website like Student VIP Textbooks. Simply search the site for the book you need, check its quality rating and price, and send an email to the student seller arranging a time and place to pick it up.

3. Rent textbooks online: You only need your textbooks for three months - so why buy them for a lifetime? Textbook rental websites allow you to rent the most recent edition of your book for the semester duration at a fraction of their total cost. Zookal and Jekkle are some of the more popular services, with both offering free shipping to most states in Australia.

4. Become a Co-op Bookshop member: If you’re an Australian uni student, joining the Co-op Bookshop is a no-brainer. With outlets on most campuses, a Co-op membership costs $25 and offers discounts of up to 50% on books and other educational resources. Most textbooks are discounted by at least 10%, so it only takes a $250 spend for you to make up the cost of your membership. And did we mention that most memberships last forever? Seriously, sign up.

5. Visit the library: While borrowing a textbook for a popular course around exam time can be a bloodbath, the university library is still a great place to get your hands on textbooks for free. Our tip? Use the library for those extra course materials that you will only need to refer to for a few weeks of semester.

6. Go in with your mates: What halves the cost of a textbook? Doubling the amount of people using it. Buy your textbooks with a friend in your class. In addition to saving a bit of cash, you’ll have a study buddy come exam time.