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Textbooks on a Budget

Man with books flying around him

Based on RRP, it costs 12.5 cents each time I turn a page in my constitutional law textbook. My corporations law textbook works out at $98 per kilo. And back in my contract law days, I sacrificed 51 soy lattes so I could afford the prescribed text.

Law students pay big bucks for textbooks, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s how to get the textbooks you need, and still be able to afford your regular coffee throughout the semester…

Firstly, do your research. Although it’s so obvious it goes without saying, I’m going to say it: there’s nothing worse than ‘budget backfire’. Don’t rely on past students to tell you which books you need – especially if you’re buying the book off them. You’ll find that the assigned textbook for a certain course may change from time to time, and former students aren’t necessarily the ones who know best. Plus, if you do accidentally buy the wrong book, chances are that you’ll have a tough time getting it off your hands. Refer to the latest subject outlines and if a new one hasn’t been released, just wait.

Secondly, search the secondhand textbook market. Whether you rely on word of mouth, university corkboard ads, your law students' society's Facebook page or other online textbook forums, be sure to look around for the best deal. Usually, secondhand books start at half of the RRP, but you’re always able to haggle. It’s wise to check the condition (highlighting, as new, etc) and make an offer based on what you think it’s worth.

If you like your textbooks new, try searching online bookstores. Sometimes your university bookshop may be more expensive than other places. Although you aren’t likely to find a great difference in price, it’s still worth a try.

There’s always the option of ‘textbook pooling’. Like car-pooling, the idea is that you take it in turns to use the textbook. If you have a group of close friends doing the same subjects as you next semester, consider each buying one textbook and having a roster. This will encourage you to do the readings on time, as you only have limited time with the book before passing it on. Just be wary of the busy parts of the semester…

Some students get away with not buying textbooks at all. Relying on the wonders of the library reserve, they manage to survive their semesters without spending a cent on textbooks. But this isn’t necessarily easy. Depending on the popularity of the subject, you might find that the book is rarely in the library.

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