School for cheap

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You’ve made it to university, but you’ll need to pay for more than tuition, food, and rent to get that degree. Here are some tips to help you buy your textbooks, tech, and school supplies like the smarty-pants you are.

Textbooks

Don’t be pulled in by the rows of shiny, brand new textbooks in South Campus Hall. That new book smell comes at a hefty cost. Instead, try these sources for your textbook needs:

On campus: In the basement of the SLC, Feds Used Books is the most convenient of your options. Instant service, online search, and they’ll buy your books once you’re done with them. Or, you can check out UW Facebook groups like Used Books or Free & For Sale.

Online: Even prices for new textbooks will be cheaper online than in-person. Amazon is a good starting point. From there, try some of the many sites dedicated to used books and textbooks, like abebooks.com. You can also have rental textbooks delivered to you, either through the publisher or a third-party service. Watch out for shipping times though! Google also offers online textbooks for cheaper than print, advertising them as up 80 per cent off print price, though most go for 10-45 per cent. The textbooks also comes with add-on features for note-taking, multiple devices, etc.

Digital: If your course requires public domain texts or articles, you can probably find it for free. You can also buy, rent, or subscribe to digital textbooks. Publishers will often throw in extra resources with their digital editions too, but unless it’s a tool you’re sure you’ll use, choose lower costs over bells and whistles.

Keep in mind

How used is “used”? Only buy online from trusted sources with good reviews and customer protection.

Double check the edition. There are usually more copies of older editions out there, and at a much lower price. Just ask your professor if an older edition is fine at the first class, at office hours, or by email (don’t be frightened, they get lonely).

You may not need that textbook at all. Please note, that’s may. Courseware is custom-made for a course, and is likely only available new. However, some professors might barely or even never use the “required” textbook. If you can, ask upper-year students who have taken the same course with the same professor. You can always buy a copy later if you end up needing it.

Other stuff

There are three questions you need to ask yourself when you’re living on a student budget: What do I need to do? What can do those things? and What can I afford?

Example: computers. What do you need a computer to do? Do you need to compile code? Render 3D graphics? Research and write? There’s Windows and Mac computers all over campus that handle that. However, the convenience of having your own often outweighs that “free” tag. Just keep in mind that you have a backup while you figure out what you need, what can help you do it, and what price (with student discounts or sales) you can afford.

For software, Google “UW software depot” to find free apps provided by UW. UW students also qualify for free Microsoft 365, or you can use the free Google Docs or OpenOffice. Check for student discounts on other software, like Adobe programs, too.

Supplies like binders, paper, and pens are available at the dollar store. If you can’t find what you need there, take advantage of the back to school sales at Staples, Walmart, and nearly every other store. Later on, check out the Used & For Sale Facebook group, Value Village in St. Jacobs or Kitchener, and again, the dollar store.

For course- or program-specific items, follow the guidelines given to you. If it’s clear that you don’t need a specific model, you can buy used or cheaper. But double check the requirements.

Check out the rest of this issue for more tips on saving money while at UW.

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