A Guide to Cutting Expenses On School Essentials

Seven tips on how to save money on books and other school supplies this semester.

NYU students discuss their tips and tricks for saving money on school supplies for a new semester. (Photo by Min Ji Kim)

The beginning of a new semester can be overwhelming. You have to get used to new classes, new routines — maybe a new roommate. Unfortunately, a new semester also means new expenses. Don’t break your bank and learn a few tricks from these NYU students on how to save money on books and other essentials.

Before he even thinks about spending any money, CAS junior Ben Kaplan said he always searches for his books online.

“Just Google everything,” he said. “[Sometimes] you can find it online and download the PDF. Don’t spend money if you don’t have to.”

CAS junior Megan Liu also said she always looks for her books online. One of her favorite websites to buy books is AbeBooks

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“You can search by publisher, by publishing date,” she said. “And you can search certain editions because a lot of professors require you to have specific editions of books — it’s pretty useful.”

Liu said the books are cheap on this website, and she has saved a lot of money buying them there. She also said Abe is cheaper than the NYU Bookstore or secondhand bookstores. 

“I’ve looked at secondhand book stores around New York and compared what I’ve found to the prices on Abe — it’s a lot cheaper,” she said. In addition to looking online, Liu said she only buys secondhand books. 

“You might go to the NYU Bookstore and see a book for $17 — original price — but used, it could be anywhere from $8 to $12 instead,” she said.

While buying your books used and online can be a great money saver, some students can’t wait for their books to arrive in the mail. But CAS sophomore Gabby Beauharnais has a solution. 

“First, I’ll look for my books on Amazon because they’re a lot cheaper, and then I’ll go to the Bookstore — they do price matching,” she said.

According to the NYU Bookstore’s website, students must come in-person to get their price match deal. They can price match against “Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a local campus competitor.”

Kaplan advises students to not buy the book at all unless it’s absolutely necessary.

“I don’t buy books,” he said. “The only time I’ve bought books is for Spanish because you have to do the online activities with it.” 

Beauharnais also said that it never hurts to ask a teacher.

“If you can’t afford to buy books for the semester, you can ask the professor, and sometimes they’ll just give it to you,” she said.

CAS senior Fatih Kaya said it is important to plan ahead and track how much you spend. “I write down every expense I make,” Kaya said. “I like to use Google Sheets, so when I get something, I can make a quick note.” 

For many students, buying books and other school supplies is unavoidable. So while it won’t save you any money at the checkout line, noting your expenses is one way to avoid spending too much.

Email Tatiana Velasco at [email protected]

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