I have to give credit to a college friend and reader, Alyssa, who suggested that I share this info about renting textbooks on my blog. Thanks Alyssa! This post also contains an affiliate link for those of you interested in buying off A
If you’ve ever been a college student, you are familiar with the lack of cash-flow that we experience. I am a first year grad student, so I am starting my 5th year of college. Wow. 5 years. Someday, I will finish…maybe. So far, I’m still loving it. However, when you spend somewhere between 15 and 30 hours in class, studying, or practicing, it’s hard to keep a full-time job. Really, it’s hard to even keep a part-time job. So how are we supposed to have any money?
For me, working a college job on campus has meant having a job that paid less than other jobs I’ve held, but at least it coincided with my class schedule. While I’m thankful for my job, I still look for extra ways to bring in income. Which, by the way, is something everyone can do no matter what kind of job they have.
My first semester as a freshman, I bought all of my books from the campus store. So–much—money. The next semester I got a little smarter and realized that I could rent used books from Amazon or from friends on campus to avoid paying full price. That second semester, I spent $200 on renting books. That’s when the light-bulb went off. “Why don’t I rent my books?”
So, I gave it a try. My second year of college I rented the books that I owned and made a couple hundred bucks. This covered purchasing my books for that semester. I realized that if I purchased a book used on Amazon.com, then I could rent it for the next two years.
Think about it, maybe you spend $100 for a textbook on Amazon. Then you rent it for $30 per semester for four semesters. That book has paid for itself by that fourth semester plus put an extra $20 in your pocket. Nice.
Click here if you’re interested in checking out what amazon has to offer in the world of textbooks:textbook.
If this wasn’t enough, I quickly realized that many students on campus just dumped their books when they were done. They’d sell them for really cheap prices in order to avoid weighing down their suitcases for the flight home. I have found books laying in dorm hallways marked “free.” I have found books in lost and found sales for $1. I have even had friends say, “You rent books, right? You can have these.”
“Hmm, ok!” I began accumulating extra books to rent. If a book was free and currently used for a class, I would take it and rent it. If a book was a commonly needed textbook for math or history, I would buy it for a cheap price and rent it for a reasonable price. This let me give people a deal, while still making money on the side.
Now that I’m in grad school, my book collection has grown because I have taken so many classes. This allowed me to make about $800 last year on renting books. Not a bad chunk of change! If you own textbooks, this is a great way to easily make money on the side. Let me share a few tips with you that may make this process easy and quick.
As with any business, being organized can help you quickly rent your textbooks without feeling like you’re spending a ton of time on the process. Keep a spreadsheet or chart with the books that you have and the price you’re willing to rent them for. I also recommend adding a column for the author and a column for the edition.
Pay special attention to a book that may be older. If you hear rumors that the teacher is considering requiring the new edition next year, SELL your edition this year. Unless of course, you want to keep the book for personal use. My teachers have always been very good about warning people when they intend to switch editions.
When keeping your chart, be sure to put down someone’s full name, email, and phone number when you agree to rent to them. I even have a column for how I originally contacted them.
Use social media.
I find most of my renters on social media sites. My school has a Facebook group that students put together. You can go on that group and list books that you need or books that you’d like to rent. If your school doesn’t already have something like this, consider piloting it! I bet you anything that it will grow quickly.
I also use email and a website associate with my school to get the word out about books that I am renting. Don’t feel ashamed about emailing students that you know may need certain books and offering them a good deal. Nobody wants to spend a ton of money on books. You could be helping them save.
When you rent a book, it is important that you communicate exactly how the process will go, especially if you’re renting to a new student. Go ahead and specify whether or not it’s okay to write or highlight in the book. Specify when you’re going to contact the renter to get the book back.
It’s always nice to mention something positive about the class if you took it and enjoyed it. Also, renters need to have your contact information before you hand them a book and walk away. I like to put my name and number on the inside cover so that they cannot lose it or forget who owns the book.
Let renters come to you.
When I first started renting, I would meet up with people at their convenience all over campus. I found myself running around here and there sometimes only to make $5-$10.
Now, I’ve learned to let my renters come to me. I like to contact them the week before school offering several meeting times. I have an office on campus, so I ask that they come during my office hours to meet up. Even if I just plan to hang out with friends at our campus snack shop, I can tell people to come by then. That way, I’m not going out of my way to track them all down.
Sometimes I have even left books in my locker and had students retrieve them and leave money there. At my school, most people are pretty honest and stealing isn’t a big issue. However, I know not every school is so fortunate in that respect.
Realize that some renters may be struggling to cover their expenses for books that semester. Try to give students the best price you can, but realize that you aren’t just giving away books. If a student comes to me to rent and promises to bring the money later, I decline. Don’t just trust.
Think about having change on hand. For example, if you are renting a book for $15, it might be best to bring at least $5 with you in case the renter brings a $20 bill. Thinking through change might save you having to meet up again.
If you don’t plan to have change for renters, then let them know ahead of time that they will need to bring exact change. I have even let renters write checks to me because that is easier for some people. Again, decide how flexible you can be without gipping yourself.
I hope these tips have been helpful to you as you consider how you might make a little extra on the side. I even knew one girl in college who charged people a percentage to work as their “renting agent.” She would rent books that others owned and keep a portion of the profit as their agent. Smart girl.
Renting your books might not be a full time job, but it might be a way to help pay the rent or the astronomical coffee bills for the semester.