Monday, January 24, 2011

Smart Shopping: 10 Tips and Tricks that will help you save time and money. (Part 1)

A lot of us hate shopping. A lot of us love shopping, perhaps a little too much, and can spend all day long running around stores trying things on or reading nutritional labels (please, someone tell me I'm not the only one who loves shopping that much!) Whichever side we happen to fall on, as a Broke Student, we want to save money, and we want to save time. I mean, who has time to spend 3 hours in the grocery store price comparing? It's tempting to buy the more expensive option just to save time. But there are ways to save both time AND money! In this 2-part series, I will help you shave off valuable time and save precious money on your shopping trips. Part 1 will cover clothes shopping and Part 2 will cover trips to the grocery store.

Part 1: Shopping for Clothing
A lot of us may already be really good at clothes shopping. For the rest of us, here are some really good tips and tricks to keep in mind when you shop for clothing! Whether you're just looking to burn that $50 of birthday money, or you're looking for a few very specific items, these tips will help you save both time and money.

1. Have an idea of what you want. Even if you're just going to browse, have a few things in mind that you'd been thinking about lately. Wandering through the mall idly purchasing whatever catches your eye can often result in a really long shopping trip that ends with lot of stuff you don't really want, and thus wasted money/time. When you're on a budget, you need to purchase only things you really need, or REALLY really want. Making a mental list (or a physical one!) will help you to keep your spending in check as well as directing your trip through each store.

2. Before your shopping trip, prepare a list of stores you will visit. If you plan on visiting only one store, skip this step. But if you are visiting a shopping center with many stores, or are searching for an elusive item that may require visiting several stores, you will need to target your trip. I base my list on two things: 1) Which stores will have the item I want and 2) Where I can save the most money. To create my list I typically go online and quickly google around to see if there are any sales going on at the stores I want to visit. I also look up coupons or sales promotions (Kohl's often has print-out % off coupons, for example) and bring these with me. I also check through my wallet and see if I have any gift cards still left over from the holidays. I add any stores that I can save money at to the top of the list!

3. Dress Appropriately. When clothes shopping, you want to wear items that fufill two requirements: 1) they are easy to remove and put back on quickly and without much effort. DON'T wear anything with lots of buttons, hooks, snaps, or that takes more than 3 seconds to put on and off. Also be concious of your underwear - wear what you ordinarily wear. So don't wear a bathing suit unless you're trying on cover-ups. 2) They are items that you would wear on a typical day and items that you wear often, such as your favorite pair of jeans if you're trying on tops, or your favorite top if you're trying on bottoms. You want to see how the item you're considering will fit into the wardrobe you already own. You don't want to imagine that something will look great with your favorite pair of jeans, only to find out at home that it doesn't; and you don't want to fall in love with an item that you need to purchase additional things to create an outfit for.

4. Take care of your basic needs. Don't shop
when you're hungry, thirsty, tired, or need to go to the bathroom. These things can cause you to rush through and purchase stuff you might not wear later, or worse, spend ridiculous amounts of money at the overpriced food courts nearby. Eat before you leave, or toss something into your bag to take with you. And remember, there are plenty of public bathrooms for you to use. Shopping can be exhausting and you should never torture yourself.

5. First impressions are everything. Once you get yourself into the dressing room, give yourself about 5 seconds after you first put on an item of clothing and look in the mirror to make a snap descision about how you feel. If any of the following phrases pop into your head: "I love this!" "I look so good!" "This will go with _______ and _______ and I can wear it to _______." That item is most likely a BUY.
On the other hand, if any of the following phrases pop into your head: "I like this, but I don't LOVE it," "This is great, but it's pretty expensive" "this is just ok, but it's really inexpensive," then it's a "Maybe" item. Some maybe items end up being good buys, but some end up being wastes of money that sit in our closet unworn for years. We want to avoid the latter!

6. Ask yourself the following questions before purchasing a "maybe" item:

  1. Are there any defects in this item? Buttons missing, broken zippers, holes, hem too short, baggy, illfitting? This is a common occurence in "maybe" items, and the majority of people should NOT get these items. Why? Because they will never fix the defect, and thus will never wear the clothing. Unless you have a history of taking a defect item home and repairing them, and have ACTUALLY done this before, don't purchase a defect "maybe" even if it is a good deal.
  2. How many outfits can you imagine off the top of your head for this item, using your current wardrobe? If you will need to purchase additional items of clothing in order to have even ONE good outfit, don't purchase that maybe. However, if you can come up with several different outfits that the item will fit into using clothes you already own, this might be a good buy.
  3. Where will you wear this item? And how often? For example, when deciding on a cute but expensive pair of jeans, consider how often you wear jeans. If you wear them almost every day, then simple math can tell you how many days you will need to wear the item to earn back its use (example: for a $70 pair of jeans, wearing them over 70 times will have earned back the item's value and thus the jeans will have essentially paid for themselves). With the exception of special occasion items like prom dresses or wedding wear, you want an item that you will wear often enough to earn back its value, and that you have places you can wear it regularly.
  4. Is this item comfortable? Is it too tight anywhere? Can you sit down in it comfortably? For shoes, how well can you walk in them? How well can you balance? One thing I like to do for a "maybe" item - especially shoes - is to wear the item around for several trips around the store. If I'm deciding on purchasing an expensive pair of shoes, I'll usually wear them until I'm finished shopping to make sure that they are comfortable. For clothes, I like to wear them out of the dressing room at least once - that way I can gauge how I feel walking around in the item (restricted? confident?) and get a fresh view in the mirror when I come back.
  5. Will I miss this item if I don't buy it? This is a test I usually end up putting expensive "maybe"'s through. If I love an item and I know it isn't apt to dissapear anytime soon, I leave it in the store, go on my merry way for a while, and see if I'm still thinking about the item enough to come back and get it. This is easy on a mall shopping trip, but I recommend it even on one-store trips. Leave it for a few days. If you find yourself thinking about the item and wanting it, go back and get it.

7. Deciding on a "maybe" item using price. If you've gone through all of the above questions are are still indecisive about the item, name a price in your head for how much that item is worth to you - a price you would be happy to pay for it without feeling like you were ripped off. (Try not to look at the tag first, it makes this step much harder.) If the actual price of the item is significantly higher than what you came up with, don't get it.

8. Only buy what you love. "Maybe" rules aside, if you don't love something, you won't wear it - and spending money on something you don't wear is stupid, even if it's really cheap! (I learned this after buying a lot of random, inexpensive stuff at thrift stores that I later had to donate back to the thrift store after not wearing any of it.) Only buy stuff that you really, truly love and will wear frequently.

9. Return policies are your friend. Everyone makes mistakes - luckily for everyone, this is why we have return policies! Make sure you know about the return policy before you take an item home - clearance items are typically final sale. Do not rip the labels out of all your new clothes the second you take them home, and do not throw away the receipt. Give yourself a 2 week period to make sure you wear whatever you bought. If you haven't worn it by 2 weeks, you aren't going to wear it, and you need to take it back. If you wear it for a couple of hours and you feel like crap in it the whole time, you need to take it back. Do NOT return an item because you spilled something on it or ripped it - that's your fault and the retailer doesn't need to pay for your clumsiness! DO return an item if you don't wear it or don't like the way you feel in it after wearing it for a couple of hours. Remember, an item sitting unworn in your closet for months is a waste of money.

10. If you find yourself with more clothes than you know what to do with, it's time to clean out your closet. A great guide for cleaning out your closet can be found here: Purging Your Closet

Happy shopping! Part 2 will be up soon so check back.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Freebies and Free Samples of the Week!

Here are this weeks freebies and free samples! Enjoy.

John Freida Haircare Sample
Maggi Chicken Soup Sample
Always Sanitary Napkin Sample Kit
Cover Girl Foundation Sample
3 Free Bruegger's Bagels on Feb. 8th
Free Lens Cloth and Cleaner Voucher
Emergen-C Samples
Free Music Download: The Biggest Loser Workout Mix

Here's a code for a Free Movie Rental from Blockbuster Express! Use coupon code MRC37H to score your freebie. This code should be valid through 2/25/2011. Enjoy!

Also I'd like to share this freebie that I scored:

The coupon for this one is here! Just print it out and check where Veggie Patch products are carried near you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

How I saved $11,700 in college (and you can too!)

You've heard the old cliche, "every little bit counts!" You might call the people who subscribe to that notion "penny-pinchers" in a none-too-kind way. Well, I happily count myself among that group of people. And to demonstrate that penny pinching does, indeed, add up into something significantly more than a few pennies. I present, for your enjoyment, a whole bunch of numbers. (Well, how else are you supposed to believe that I saved $9,600 since starting college??) As a reward for sitting through all the numbers, I took a bunch of pictures of some of the free stuff I had sitting around for a more visual demonstration. (There are more on facebook) The point of this post, essentially, is to prove to you that reading this blog is very much worth your time. You, too, can save this much, and by doing - let's face it - not a whole lot of extra work!

First I'll start with paid-to sites because they actually earn me physical, actual money, not just savings. I've been using paid-to sites since 2007 - aka freshman year - and have made roughly $600 total. So that's an extra $150 a year for simply clicking emails and links occasionally.

When it comes to free stuff (freebies, schwag, etc), I have also been actively getting free stuff since 2007. I get about $250-$300 per year (I figured a minimum of 10 free samples a month - each month varies - valued at $2 each on average, times 12) so a total of roughly $1100 minimum since I started college.

As for general savings I have accrued, there are a few main areas where I save significantly:

Groceries: I spend about $50 a month, the average person spends about $150 a month. that's $1200 savings/year. More on thrifty grocery shopping in this entry.

Textbooks, I save about $300 a semester selling back and buying carefully - read more on that here. The average college student spends probably $600. That's twice a year, so $600 savings/year.

Clothing, I spend a lot on clothing but I buy all of it at reduced prices! I'd say I save $800 each semester if you take the reduced price from what the full retail price would have been if I'd paid it. Read more on thrifty clothes shopping here and here. Savings: $1600/year.

Eating out, I use coupons with emailed 80% off codes (making a $25 gift certificate cost only $2) and I also save with things like birthday freebies, email clubs that send free appetizer coupons and such, and finding coupons online before I go out anywhere. I'd say I save about $300 a semester, so $600/year.

Total savings: $4,000 a year

I've been consciously saving for only about 2.5 years though. So that's a total of $10,000. Adding in $600 for paid-to sites and $1100 of freebies, and I've saved $11,700 or so since I began college. Not bad! See what I mean about how every penny counts?

Now, onto the photos!

Lots of freebies! These come from all over, so ask me if you have any questions about where I got specific ones. The perfume samples are all awesome for travelling or putting in my purse or gym bag to carry around. Actually, so are all the little bath/beauty samples. I never have to buy travel-sized anything!

I get a lot of free magazine subscriptions. I stopped paying for magazines a long time ago!

Freebies from, one of my favorite sites to shop at with free credits for referrals!

These were ALL 100% free!! On my last trip to the grocery store I got $40 worth of free groceries, thanks to coupons I got from writing to companies!

These are coupons I received from writing companies! The ones with that big, bold, FREE on them are obviously my favorites. They got me lots of free groceries!

I've received a couple of these gift cards from (comment for an invite) and about $50 worth of e-gift cards to Amazon from Swagbucks. They're perfect for buying Christmas presents for everyone on my list!

Freebies I've recieved! Pictured here: Tangled Disney free tote bag from Earth Day (my boyfriend has the Mickey Mouse one!); free Origins cleanser from Earth Day; free Too Faced palette from Sephora Beauty Insider VIB 500 point perk; Free Beauty Bag from Target with Fredrick Fekkai shampoo/conditioner sample, Nivea lotion, Pantene shampoo, Neutrogena lip balm, and Revlon lipstick; 2 free comic books from Free Comic Book day last year (coming up on May 7th!); cup, cupholder, mints and pen from a free career day event; Free Hallmark cards from a free career day event; Free Bath & Body Works Into the Wild lotion and Signature Item lotion (free with purchase using coupon); Victoria's Secret Dream Angels Heavenly Perfume Sample. Whew!

You can see more pictures on the Broke Student Guide Facebook page, and be sure to "Like" us to receive daily status updates on free sample opportunities, new entries and more!

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Ways to Save On Textbooks

I was just made aware of a wonderful opportunity to save money on textbooks. is GIVING away 100,000 textbook rentals for only the price of shipping. To get your hands on one, "Like" their facebook page. Further instructions are on that page.

Click here to get a free textbook rental for this semester! Hurry because the books are going fast.

Also, for those of you relying on Amazon to purchase your books, don't forget to sign up for Amazon's FREE two-day shipping special. They offer Prime memberships free to students and include 2-day shipping (when available) free for an entire year.

Join here:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Health Care Freebies

It goes without saying: healthcare is expensive. Even with insurance, a $40 or so copay can deter many of us from getting the help we need to stay healthy. Luckily, there ARE ways to get health care for free. Not complete health care, of course, but anything you can do to stay healthy will save you money down the road, because getting sick and needing medication is expensive. If you're uninsured, getting sick can be terrifying. But there are ways to get stay healthy for free! Here are some of the free health care benefits you can receive as a college student.

At many campuses, the health center is a wonderful place full of free stuff that you may not have known about. The health center may frequently offer such goodies as free flue shots, free HIV screenings, free counseling appointments, free smoking cessation, free nutritional consultation, and free condoms. In addition to providing these services for free whenever possible, the health center is in contact with hospitals and health care facilities in the area who may also be offering these services for free. To find out what your health center offers, check out it's website and surf around, sign up for the newsletter if it's offered, or drop by/call and ask what free services are offered. You can save hundreds of dollars by taking advantage of free preventative health care. (Also note: quitting smoking can save you SO. MUCH. MONEY. And smoking cessation help is free at most of the campuses I researched!)

Many campuses also have a gym on campus that is free for students to use. Don't take these for granted - as soon as you graduate, gyms are going to cost you an average of $50 per month!! Campus gyms are good places to keep yourself healthy - remember that exercise boosts your immune system and staying in shape provides numerous health benefits, everything from lowering your risk of heart disease to assisting with the symptoms of depression! Taking advantage of the free gym on campus is a great way to utilize the freebies available to college students.

I've researched a few places to get you started on health care freebies. If your location isn't on here, try googling your campus health center and searching for "Free," googling "free flu shots in [my area]" or "free HIV screenings in [my area]" etc. Or email me and I can try to look around for you.

Health Care Freebies

At Indiana University, there are loads of freebies!
1. Free condoms on the third floor of the Health Center (women's clinic). They are in a basket on the counter. Babies are expensive, and so are condoms, so free condoms are where it's at!
2. Two FREE counseling sessions per semester. That's 4 sessions per year to talk to professionals about anything under the sun you want advice or help with! They also offer unlimited FREE sexual crisis counseling sessions. That means even if you come in every single week for the entire year to get help with ANY sexual crisis issues (such as rape, sexual assault, post traumatic stress disorder, etc), it's still completely, 100% FREE. Call 812 855-5711 to schedule appointments.
3. FREE smoking cessation consultations are available to assist students in stopping smoking and remaining a non-smoker. Call for an appointment (812) 855-7338.
4. FREE birth control consultations for persons wanting to begin a birth control method, to change methods or to persons who want to become informed about the available methods. Call for an individual appointment. (812) 855-7338.
5. Health education programs are FREE and can be scheduled at a convenient time and place for a group. Call (812) 855-7338 to request a program topic or to obtain more information about Health and Wellness Education outreach programming.
6. First appointment with a nutritionist is FREE at the Health Center.
7. FREE Gardasil shots are available through the Indiana State Department of Health! This is amazing because the Gardasil vaccine, which prevents the HPV strand that turns into cervical cancer, is usually upwards of $360. More information is available >here.
8. At the Student Recreational Sports Center, (SRSC) not only is admission to the $22.5 million state of the art facility FREE with your student ID, but you also get FREE two hour parking at the SRSC lot! (free parking is hard to come by on campus, so this is great!) My favorite thing at the SRSC is the free group fitness classes. They are incredible and are offered all week long several times per day to fit into your schedule. If you've never worked out in your life or hate working out, start here. They are a fun, free way to stay healthy! See the schedule here. Remember, this will cost $50/month when you graduate!
9. More freebies include UNLIMITED ACCESS to all the Campus Recreational Sports facilities and programs including: Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building (HPER); Woodlawn Field; Woodlawn Tennis Courts; Student Recreational Sports Center (SRSC); North Jordan Tennis Courts; North Fee Lane Fields.

At University of Louisville:
1. FREE Cold and Flu Self-Care Kits available at Campus Health Services, Residence Halls and Commuter Services. Kits include personal thermometer, tissues, salt for gargling, saline spray, aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and/or Ibuprofen.
2. Students have access to FREE personal nutrition counseling and other health education and self-management support from Karen Newton, MPH, RD, at the Belknap Campus Health Services office. Students may get a referral from a Campus Health Services provider OR make an appointment by calling 852-6479. Read more here.
3. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and prescription medicine for students who qualify medically will be provided by UofL FREE for up to 90 days of use. This option is available to currently enrolled UofL students who participate in a UofL sponsored or approved cessation program from January 1, 2010 through May 2011.
4. Yoga in Miller Hall FREE -Tues/Thurs February 1st - March 10- to all students who live in residence halls. All levels of experience are welcome at all classes. Bring a yoga mat or large towel and a blanket.

At Purdue:
1. Purdue Student Health Center has a program in place called Patient Assistance. This program may be able to help students pay for prescription medications or may be able to provide them FREE of charge. Read More Here.
2. Purdue offers FREE counseling and psycological services to students. Read about the services offered here!
3. The Student Wellness Office offers free nutrition counseling to Purdue students. Read more here. To schedule an appointment, call the Student Wellness Office at 765-494-WELL (9355).
4. FREE smoking cessation packs called X-Packs are available to students! The free X-pack includes one or more brief counseling sessions with a quit leader. The X-pack program can help you find the next steps to quit successfully! Available in the Purdue Pharmacy (RHPH 118), or contact the Student Wellness Office at (765) 494-9355.
5. FREE condoms are available at the Student Wellness Office in PUSH 201. Our office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM and 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM. Simply visit our office and pick up a pack from the front desk. You do not have to request them and we do not ask for your name or student ID card.
6. Talking to a doctor and having a consultation for a 'illness' visit is FREE of charge at PUSH if you are a full-time student

Free Flu Shots available in St. Louis! Downtown Urgent Care is offering the free vaccines to children (ages 4 through 18) until February 15, while supplies last. Adults can also get a free shot if they bring in a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to kids in need. Otherwise, the cost for adult shots is $24. Downtown Urgent Care is located at 916 Olive Street. For more information, call 314-436-9300.

In North Carolina, FREE flu vaccines are available in Halifax and Northampon counties. For more information, call: • The Halifax County Health Department at 252-583-5021. • The Northampton County Health Department at 252-534-5841. Found here.

Want me to research healthcare freebies on your campus? Have some insider tips? Post a comment!

10 Freebies I've Gotten Lately

I've been getting a decent amount of freebies lately because my 21st birthday is tomorrow (yay!) and I spent a few days last month writing companies for free coupons. (Check out my entries on how to get free things for birthdays and by writing companies!) Here are some of the freebies I've gotten lately, and how I've gotten them:

1. Free iPhone holder (that fits the iTouch 3!) from Sephora for downloading the free Sephora App. (Just download the App, walk into any Sephora and show it to them. They will give you either a iPhone 3 or 4 Sephora cover.)
2. Free eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara from Sephora for my birthday.
3. Free entree and free piece of cake from Mimi's Cafe for my birthday
4. Free scoop of Baskin Robbin's ice cream
5. Free entree from Noodles and Company for my birthday
6. Free Stash tea bags from writing the Stash Tea company and complimenting them.
7. Free Van's products for writing Van's and telling them I loved their waffles.
8. Free Clif Z-bars for writing Clif and telling them I love Z-bars.
9. Free White Castle burgers (6 total) for writing White Castle and complimenting them.
10. Free J├Ągermeister wifebeater and poster for writing J├Ągermeister and telling them it was my 21st birthday.
11. Free Aveda sampler of Smooth Infusion products. Get the coupon here.
12. Free Cold Stone Creamery ice cream for my birthday.
13. Free package of Lofthouse cookies for my birthday from Lofthouse Cookies. I wrote them a compliment letter.

Hopefully I'll have more soon - and I'll try to get pictures of the stuff I have received as well!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Smart Shopping: Affordable Clothing and Accessories

It's important to look nice in college. No, not just to impress that cute nerdy girl in Molecular Biology or that hot, sweaty drunk guy at the tailgate. There are also job interviews and career fairs to consider, impressions to be made on faculty members who will become your networking connections in the future, and occasionally in-class presentations in front of industry professionals. Having a nice wardrobe that consists of more than college-logo sweatpants and north face jackets is definitely worth spending some money on. But, duh, we're all broke as sh*t. So we have a few alternatives: hunt for for clearance-rack scores at T.J. Maxx, spend hours looking through thrift stores for incredible deals, or shop online. Wait - shop online? That doesn't really seem to fit, right? I mean, clothes at are just as expensive as clothes in the stores. Well yes. But that's not what I mean. And NO- I'm not referring to sites like Ebay, where what you see is sometimes the complete opposite of what you pay for. I'm talking about low-risk, high-reward shopping for affordable, legitimately nice clothing and accessories. Even designer stuff!

So where can you get a $40 Calvin Klein jacket, or a $10 American Apparel tee online? The answer: websites that sell designer and brand name clothing at drastically reduced prices during brief private sales. The sites are basically online members-only sample sales of all your favorite brands, and the best part is that they are totally free to join. Not only are they free, but they actually reward you with my favorite thing ever, free money, if you refer your friends to the site! If, like me, free money is your main goal in life at all times, this ends up being a very worthwhile venture. I've purchased over $200 of completely free stuff off these sites, and I have free money (in the form of credits) waiting to be spent. Each day the sites send out bulletins about the brands available, ranging from men's and women's clothing and accessories to home furnishing, gourmet foods and even vacation getaways - all with significantly reduced prices, sometimes up to 90% off. So what are you waiting for? Because these sites are members-only, you'll need to sign up before you can shop, but I've got invites for you to some of my favorites: is definetly my favorite overall. Their products are typically the most affordable, and they tend to have my favorite brands, plus "blowout" sales where things are even MORE discounted. Many, many things in my closet were purchased from HauteLook, and I'm sure many more will be to come. Best finds so far? A $600 Swiss watch for only $50, (Christmas gifts for guys, anyone?) LORAC and Urban Decay cosmetics for $4, an adorable turqoise cross-body fringed purse for $6. I recommend this site if you only sign up for one! You'll get $10 for a referred friend who makes a purchase.

RueLaLa is another good one. There stuff tends to be a little higher end than HauteLook but they have a really good variety of brands.

Gilt Groupe is the cream of the crop. They get the nicest designers and often have the most sales going on at once. I've seen everything from off-the-runway Chanel and Galliano to gourmet knife sets and designer tea cozies. You can get every luxury item you need at Gilt for the best prices you'll ever find. Even better, you get $25 in credits for every referred friend that makes a purchase - that adds up FAST!

Ideeli is one that I don't have much personal experience with, but it is endorsed by Oprah and has a lot of sales each day. Like Gilt, you'll get $25 when a referred friend makes a purchase.

Are there any sites I missed? Post your invite links in the comments! And of course, happy shopping!

Stretching Your Dollar on Textbooks

For most college students, our number one out of pocket expense - after tuition, of course - is textbooks. Every semester we all have the shell out upwards of $300 for a bunch of books that we may or may not use or even open for 6 months, and probably won't need for the rest of our lives. The solution to this problem, of course, is to spend as little money as possible buying textbooks, and earn back as much money as possible selling them. The technique to stretching your dollar when it comes to textbooks is all about timing.

As all of us who have sat through a micro-economics course know, markets are ruled by supply and demand: the more demand there is, the higher prices rise, and the less demand there is, the lower they fall. As a seller, you want to earn the highest price: therefore, it is in your best interest to sell whenever demand is highest. The opposite is true as a buyer of textbooks. So, when do the stars align for textbook buying and selling?

1. If you are BUYING textbooks, the best time to do it is whenever other people AREN'T typically buying textbooks. Put it this way: the WORST time to buy textbooks is at the beginning of the semester, when everyone is looking for the same book and frantically fighting over beaten up used copies in the college bookstore. Practically any time except the beginning of the semester is the best time to buy your textbooks. As for where to buy your books, the best thing to do is price comparison shopping online using a site like TextYard (started and run by an Indiana University student!) or a free-market site like Amazon.

Of course, there's always that one giant obstacle: maybe you CAN'T purchase your textbooks before classes begin. What if you don't know what textbooks you need before you start classes? What if you want to wait to see if the professor is one of those "you don't really need the book, just take good notes" types? What if there's a test on chapter 1 on the second day of class and you're bookless?? That's where selling timing comes in, to help you earn back some of that $600 you shelled out the first week of classes after all the used textbooks were already gone (ugh!).

2. When SELLING textbooks, the very best time is when demand is highest: aka, the beginning of the semester. That first week of classes when everyone - including you - is scrambling to acquire everything they need is prime time to get the best price possible on last semester's textbooks. I know it's tempting to sell them before you leave for the semester, because who wants to cart around a bunch of insanely heavy books? But it's so worth it. No one is buying books at the end of the semester (that is, no one who didn't read this blog! you know better now!) so the prices will be driven down by lack of demand. So keep your textbooks with you over Christmas break or the summer holidays, so you can sell them at the beginning of the next semester.

3. Now that you know WHEN to sell, the next question is WHERE. We all stopped at the college bookstore as freshman, overpaid to get new books (or maybe we went early and were one of the lucky 3 people to get an over-highlighted, chewed up, but discounted copy) and then returned to the same bookstore at the end of the semester to get back a whopping $00.03 for our zillion dollar textbooks (hyperbole, maybe, but let's face it - not by much). At my school, there are competing bookstores that set up stands across campus to buy your books back for marginally more money than the college bookstore - but still, you'll never make back more then 30% or so of what you paid. Where can you sell your books back for almost the full price of what you paid for them? The answer is The Internet. (Cue harp music and angels singing) The internet is a magical place where people like you are willing to pay close to the same price that you were willing to pay last semester. As long as you list at the right time, you can get back practically the full price for your book (provided a new edition hasn't come out in the past year, in which case, ouch.) My favorite site has always been Amazon because you can set your own price based on the market price (what other people are selling for), the site is easy to use, has a huge market of potential buyers, and Amazon covers your shipping costs. Many other sites give you a price once you ship your book to them, which I don't like because it's really no different than selling it to your local bookstore. I'm sure there are other sites like Amazon where you can set your own price, but I don't know about them (if you do, please comment and let me know)! I think Amazon is really the most popular one, which means more people use it, which means a better chance to sell your book.

4. Now, say you do sign up for a seller account on Amazon, list your book, and it sells. What now? There are a couple of steps before the money lands in your pocket. At some point, either before or after a book sells, you'll need to link up Amazon with your bank account. There are instructions for that on the site. Once you do that you are eligible to receive payment from Amazon. Now, once a book sells, you'll need to confirm the sale - Amazon will send you an email with further instructions once your book sells. Next, print out a shipping label or packing slip, stick the book and packing slip in a bubble mailer or box, and take it to the post office. At the post office, ask to send it by Media Mail. Media Mail is a special shipping rate for books and other media items that makes it much cheaper to ship heavy books. Most packages are judged by weight, which would drive up the price to ship significantly. Within a few hours of confirming shipment, Amazon will put money in your Amazon account, and that money will be deposited in your bank account after a certain period of days.

Now that you know when and how to sell your textbooks online to earn back as much of your money as possible, go forth and sell! Happy saving!!

(Note: one glaring absence from this post is any mention of renting your textbooks. I've never tried this, but I know it's possible. One site to do that is Textbooks R Us, where you can also buy and sell. If you do rent, let me know how it goes!)
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