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I just finished ordering the last of my textbooks. Yes, I know the semester is well under way, but one of them (a student solutions manual) doesn’t even get released until September 19th. So I just pre-ordered it from Borders.

Also, I usually wait until the first week of classes to find out what books REALLY are required — last semester, for example, I saved myself the cost of a physics book by just using the book that my teacher had put on reserve in the library. I could only check it out for 2 hour blocks of time, and I was forced to do all my homework in the library (oh horrors, in a study-conducive, distraction-free environment!). But it worked out very well, and saved me at least a hundred bucks. Other times, for engineering books in particular, I can get away with ordering the international paperback edition for a fraction of the cost.

I figured I’d jot down my process for ordering textbooks. I can almost guarantee that by following this process you will save the most money possible. Ready? Set. Go.

  1. Look up your book(s) by ISBN number at BIGWORDS.com.
  2. Find out which store sells your book(s) for the cheapest price. Make note of any coupons listed to obtain the lowest price.
  3. Then go to evreward.com and look up the cashback site that offers the highest cashback % at that store. (For example, if Bigwords told you the best deal was at Alibris, then go to evreward.com and type in Alibris. Then find the cashback site giving the highest cashback %).
  4. Go to that cashback site, login, and then shop at the store. Use any coupons or codes found in step 2. Also, maximize your cashback by using a cashback earning credit card.

Note, there are one or two exceptions to this rule. The most obvious exception would be eBay. I always check to see what my text is going for on eBay before making my final purchase. Also, Borders and Barnes & Noble regularly offer coupons to their rewards members that may not show up on Big Words. So if you REALLY want to make sure you’re getting the best deal, before making your final purchase in step 4, go to a deals site like Slickdeals and look up "Borders" or "Barnes and Noble" coupons and then go to their respective websites and see if this will give you a better deal than calculated through the above procedure. On rare occasions, it will.

Like for me today.

The pre-order price for my solutions manual was $40 with free shipping at Amazon. I looked up the ISBN at Bigwords, and since it hadn’t been released yet, there was literally only 2 or 3 stores listed, with Amazon giving the best price. So then I went to SlickDeals, found a 30% off Borders code WHICH WORKS ON TEXTBOOKS! It was $45.45 on the Borders website, so after 30% coupon and tax, the book came out to be $33.59 with free shipping. I then went through Cashbaq to get an additional 5% cash back, so my final price will be $31.91. So for this particular book, I saved $8 off the Amazon price and $13 off the retail price by shopping around. Granted, this SOUNDS like a lot of work, but once you get used to the overall deal-shopping process, it’s rather quick and painless. Plus, when you’re buying several books, the savings really do add up. 

This semester alone, I saved $240 on three textbooks by using the above procedure!

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