Books for the first year: check!

July 14, 2012 § 2 Comments

At 8:00 this morning, I was wide awake. I lay in bed for a while trying to force myself back to sleep but before long, my mind was ticking away. With everyone else still asleep, I decided to tackle one of the big tasks on our to-do list for school: ordering books.

In one of my earlier posts I wrote about the book situation in Hungary. Many bookstores don’t have enough money to stock books that they won’t be able to sell right away. Since there was no guarantee that the books we needed to start our first year would be available, it was recommended that we purchase our books ahead of time.

We receive a set book allowance from Lånekassen (Norwegian Student Aid) at the beginning of the school year. I don’t know yet how much the allowance is, or if it is even really enough to cover the full cost, so I was preparing myself for the task of finding the lowest possible prices. I really believe that a lot of money can be saved with the right preparation. Since I was up early on a Saturday with nothing to distract me, I figured it was the perfect time to search for our books online.

I had initially believed that amazon.com would have the best prices. Though they have a greater selection of used books at really low prices, the shipping cost is the key determining factor in their ranking as a cheap book source. I decided that amazon.com wasn’t the best option and instead tried my luck with the UK version. Here I was happy to find that, though the books weren’t AS cheap as they were in the US, the combined purchase and shipping costs were lower in comparison.

In addition to checking on the US and UK versions of amazon, I did google searches to check out options in the area. Once I discovered several Norwegian/Swedish suppliers, I made an excel sheet:

In this chart, I listed out the different websites and the price and shipping for each book at these sources. I had to account for shipping time in some cases; for example, some books were cheaper on amazon.com if I didn’t mind the 21-42 day delivery time. Since we are planning on moving to Budapest in the middle/end of August and all the books must be delivered before that. At the bottom of each source’s column is the total price if all books were to have been purchased from that site alone.

The “#” column indicates how many copies of the book we need. In my Preparation for the First Semester post, I listed out budapeststudent.com’s book recommendations for the first year. I sent him an email asking whether or not there were specific books/volumes assigned to each class and he responded that there were only one or two classes that did. He recommended two anatomy atlases, saying that you only needed one of them since they covered the same topics, but that he had both and liked to use them together. Since Skjalg and I are two people, I figured that we could each get a different book and then both of us would have the opportunity to use both of them. We discussed a little about whether or not we thought we’d be able to share any of the other books and at the end agreed that we might as well get one each to avoid any conflict.

For each book, I highlighted the cheapest option. On the right-hand side I created two columns. The first listed the average price for the book, calculated from the prices I found on the different websites, and the second listed the difference between the average and the cheapest option. In almost every case, we saved about 100 kroner ($17). After I was finished, the total cost of the books was 5444 kroner ($894) and we saved 1232 ($202) from the average price. The best part was realizing that, had I ordered all my books on amazon.com as I had previously intended, we would have paid about 4000 ($658) more than we did.

I felt pretty good after I placed the orders. I’m almost 100% certain that I found the cheapest, quickest options and am happy that we aren’t going to blow a bunch of money on overpriced books. Plus, maybe we’ll have money leftover for a microscope….? 😉

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