Ten Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

Whether you are a seasoned student in college or a freshman just starting out in college the one thing besides tuition that may leave you gasping for air is the price of college textbooks. Years ago I learned to do research before diving in and purchasing my required textbooks from the college bookstore.

Before starting research you do need to make sure you have the name of the textbook(s), the authors names, what editions and the ISBN numbers.

Just a note too: Even though some classes may have “custom” textbooks does not mean you cannot find them.


1. Before your classes begin, locate your professors email address and email them asking if it is possible to use the previous edition of the required textbook. Some professors will give you the ok, sometimes recommending during specific chapters to have some pages copied that may not be in the older edition(s). Other professors may say no possibly due to significant changes to the textbook. It never hurts to ask!

2. Visit directtextbooks.com. Type in your ISBN number and you will see the picture as well as info on your textbook. You will also see that just about every website and store that has that book in stock will appear with the price ranging from lowest to highest. This is a great way to price your textbook. BTW: sometimes Walmart.com will have your textbook so if you are a recent graduate and received a walmart gift card that can be a great way to save some $$!

3. Consider renting your textbook. Now before you run over to your local college book store that now rents books please make sure you do your research on pricing the textbooks. I discovered my local college bookstore now rents textbooks, BUT you rent them for the same price as purchasing them. So you are not saving money at all. Websites like Chegg.com and textbookrenter.com are great, reliable websites. Their shipping is fast and at the end of the semester or quarter you simply login to your account on their website and print out the return shipping label.

4. Look at your local college bulletin boards. Towards the end of the semester students will post their textbooks for sale typically at lower cost that used prices.

5. Towards the end of the semester also ask your classmates what classes they will be taking the next semester. One semester I got to sell as well as trade some of my textbooks. Other classmates want to save money just as much as you!

6. Check local used book stores, especially if you receive a reply from your professor that you can use a previous edition of the required textbook. My second semester of college I needed a handbook for my Composition II course. Brand new I would have paid $40. I found one, exact edition at a popular used book store for $7.  It was great since some of the other classmates had to order it from the book store which was on back order.

7. Ebay.com. This is one of my favorite places to find my textbooks. It is also another great way to find previous editions at much lower prices. Just make sure you use the option lowest to highest to ensure you get the best price. I have found and purchased textbooks with great prices, in fact I found some I was able to resell after the semester was over with. *This is also a great way to find unused codes for online/lab requirements. If for some reason your class does not require it, check on Ebay to see how much that particular code sells for because you may be able to make some $$$.

I was able to help a friend save $35 by purchasing a cheap textbook that included the math lab code she needed for her math class. Our college uses Pearson educational materials so I knew to look for math books that are published by Pearson. Do your research and save money!

8. Consider the eBook option. A lot of textbooks are now also available through their publisher online as an eBook. Coursesmart.com for example will give you 120 days to view the eBook textbook and also will allow you to print your textbook out and then some.  Most of the textbooks I’ve been able to get as an eBook cost at least half of what a new book would have cost me. The ones I purchased cost anywhere from $50-$80.  Also, Kindle offers this option although their prices are at or slightly below buying one brand new.

9. Amazon.com. I mentioned Kindle offering the eBook option earlier although their prices will probably not save you much money. If you don’t like Ebay but like Amazon they are just as good at selling or locating a book you can rent.

10. See if your college has a book sale day organized by fraternities or other organizations. More colleges are getting into this savvy way to trade textbooks or sell them at a great price.


Even though you may not find your textbook or necessary lab manuals, CD’s in one place don’t give up especially if you still have plenty of time before school begins. Another place to ask about textbooks and other required items is through Facebook. You never know if any of your friends or family may have that particular book you need.

Transfer of Ownership

Transfer of Ownership

Beginning today mikestrawbridge.com will be owned and managed by Jennifer Bryan. I will not go into the reasons behind this change but trust that the site is in good hands.

From this point forward, Jennifer will be responsible for the content of the site and will collect the commissions it generates. She will also be answering the questions you send via the “Contact Mike” form. If you need any Crown Parts, she will be able to get them for you.

Thank you for your support and I hope you will continue to support this body of information by supporting the advertisers here. They pay for the web hosting and other expenses associated with running the site.

Saving on Propane costs

Saving on Propane costs

I recently noticed that our propane costs have gone up a huge amount. I know the cost of propane has increased, but our usage is up as well. We use propane only for the stove and the water heater so we really should not use very much propane at all. In fact over the 15 plus years we have lived in this house I have pretty much ignored the propane bills and just let the truck driver stay on top of keeping my tank filled.

However I am paying the price for my inattention right now.

I started by setting back the thermostat on the hot water heater. There is no use heating the utility room any more than necessary. The clothes dryer does a good enough job with that.

Next I started checking for leaks. I mixed up a batch of soap and water and put it in spray bottle. I went around outside spraying joints. I started at the tank and worked my way back to the house. I checked the regulator vent as well because a broken diaphragm could be a big leak.

I finally found a joint that bubbled where the line entered the house for the stove. It had been repaired a few years ago and one of the fittings made a few bubbles. Snugging up the nut made the bubbles quit.

Next I checked around the hot water heater. It was relocated a couple of years ago when the floor was redone. Sure enough there was a leak where the copper pipe joined the shut off valve. I had to tighten the nut twice to get it to completely stop.

I had thought the smell around the hot water heater was just the kitty litter box but I guess it was the mercaptane in the propane after all. A couple of hours after I tightened the fitting, the air was much fresher smelling in the laundry room. I hope this will also translate in to lower propane bills as well.

Scrapping the ZJ

Scrapping the ZJ

There has been a burned out ZJ sitting in front of my barn for over a year now. I finally decided it was time to let it go.

The rear disk brakes are on my off road XJ. The engine (what we bought it for) is in Jenny XJ. The rear axle was sold to go in another ZJ. The transmission was sold for yet another.

It seems a shame to trash so many good parts, but there has been little interest in the body parts I have offered for sale. I have stripped off as much as I thought I might be able to sell and yesterday I loaded the rest on the trailer.

It is fun trying to load a Jeep with no rear axle on the trailer. I began by jacking up the rear and running my steel ramps as far as I could under the body. I then lowered the body on the ramps. I left the front axle in place with tires so that at least that end can roll.

I then set up my XJ at a right angle to the trailer and fastened my snatch block to the front of the trailer. I threaded the cable through the block and attached it top the rear of the ZJ. There are several holes in the rear bumper so it makes a nice place to adjust the angle of the pull by selecting different holes.

I used my battery charger to keep the battery up on my Jeep during the winching process. I then pulled the ZJ up the ramps.

Once on the wooden trailer floor, I put a floor jack under the bumper. This made the back roll as well as helped keep parts that were hanging down from dragging.

I slowly pulled the ZJ up onto the trailer. I often had to wait for the battery to recover before making another pull. Since the steering box has been removed, I used a long steel bar to turn the front wheels to line them up with the ramp.

Occasionally the whole trailer would slide toward the winch dragging the rear of the XJ it was attached to along with it. As more weight came on to the trailer, this became less of a problem.

It took an hour or so of maneuvering to finally get it in position on the trailer. Now I can strip the front axle and steering. Then it will be off to the scrap yard unless someone lets me know really quickly that they need a door fender or hood.

Update: pulled the front axle on the trailer. After the control arms and shocks were unbolted, the only thing holding it was the swap bar end links. I cut those with the torch and the axle rolled right out.

Update 2: I was waiting at the gate at Buff Salvage this morning when they opened at 8am. I was greeted by the friendly scale operator who helped fill out the form for a car with no title and sent me on my way to the track hoe. The excavator operator used hid giant thumb ot easily lift the ZJ off the trailer and drop it on a pile of other cars including what looked like a pretty nice Nissan ZX. The then used the bucket to squish the ZJ flat. He then noticed the axle that was left on the trailer and after a couple of missed grabs was able to pluck it off the trailer as well.

The return trip across the scales gave me a weight ticket which I took to the pretty girl at the cashiers window. She traded me a check for my paperwork. It was a quick and easy process.

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Book review

I had heard about Atlas Shrugged for years but I had never read the book. In fact, I did not even know the story. However, lately I kept hearing more and more about he book so I decided to read it for myself.

While the book was published in 1957, I often felt as if I were reading today’s news. The subject of government interference in business and the idea of two percent of the population doing all the work so that the other 98 percent can live must be timeless.

There were parts that were uncanny coincidences however as one day I read about a flood on the Missouri River in the book when there was actually a flood on the Missouri river in the news. Other aspects of too much government oversight of business seemed to be taken from the evening news as well.

While the book is probably designed to promote and explain her philosophy of Objectivism, I really enjoyed the story. The heroes of the story are business men and women with a passion for what they do. They battle the evil of moochers and looters and government regulations that try to sabotage their efforts.

My favorite character in the book is Hank Reardon who develops his own type of metal that is stronger and lighter than steel. In the story he overcomes huge obstacles to get his metal produced and accepted. I could feel his pride as he rides on the first train to run on rails made of his metal and crosses a bridge he designed.

I also loved the character of Dagny Taggert. She runs a railroad that is owned by her brother. She is an amazingly passionate woman. My favorite part of the story is when she offers to trade her diamond necklace for the bracelet that Hank Reardon made for his wife from the first batch of Reardon Metal. Dagny understands the significance of the bracelet that is lost on Hank’s gold digging wife.

Dangy’s character is also interesting because even though she is a powerful business woman, she understands what it is like to be a woman and Ayn Rand very clearly spells out Dagny’s feelings of be submissive to a powerful man. Those parts of the book could never have been written by a man. And, I am not surprised that Ayn was criticized for those writing in her time.

I really enjoyed the story of Dagny’s childhood showing that she had always had a vision of running a railroad. Her vision of the rails running off to a single point is repeated in the novel to help connect the reader to her vision. Her relations with her childhood friends continue to the very end of the 1000 page novel. I liked how the other women in the story don’t think of her as a threat because she is not the classical idea of beauty. However the men in her life love respect and desire her for her passion.

Ayn Rand’s insight into Dagny’s thoughts as she relates to her first lover offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a passionate woman. Men who desire to pursue a powerful woman could learn a lot from the pages. Ayn reveals what most women refuse to even believe about themselves, much less share with the men in their lives.

As the story develops, men, and a few women, of action and ability begin to systematically disappear form business and life. Having been frustrated with the task of trying to keep a factory running despite its management, I can clearly relate to the frustration expressed by those who choose to disappear in the story.

The character that helped me understand business leaders who fail to lead was Dagny’s brother Jim Taggert. In the story, Jim is the one who inherits the rail road from their father. However it is Dagny that actually keep s it running. Jim is too busy playing politics and working the social angle to know what it takes to kept he trains running. For the first time, I have been able to begin to understand the managers who ran the last corporation I worked for into the ground. I had assumed that because they were powerful business men, that they would share a passion for running the business. But, no, like Jim Taggert in the story, they were more concerned with stock deals and political maneuvering than they were with actually making the product that had made the corporation what is was when they took over.

I am very glad that Ayn Rand put so much detain into what could have been a minor character, because it has helped me understand the mind set of this type of business leader. I realize that I will probably be no more successful; that Dagny was in negotiating with her brother when I try to go against one of them but knowing how they think will clearly help me in securing my position.

While difficult to read at times, I found Atlas Shrugged impossible to put down. There were times when she lapsed into more of a philosophical rant than told the story, but I enjoyed it all none the less. The famous speak by John Galt near the end I elected to listen to on You Tube rather than read. The speech is three hours long but has some really interesting points. However it has nothing to do with her story except that he said it and he was able to take over the air waves to make the broadcast.

The ending of the story was a bit anti climactic after all the build up. However after over 1000 pages, I was ready for the story to end.

The copy of the book I have has some appendices describing Ayn Rand’s philosophy of objectivism. I was surprised at one part of her philosophy. I have been a student of metaphysics for a while now and in her story she seemed to value the ability of her heroes to create using only the power of their minds. However in her statement of philosophy, she says that it is not possible to alter reality through the power of the mind.

In her story, Dagny Taggert creates a rail road where none existed before. Hank Reardon creates a metal that had not existed before. John Galt creates an entire utopian city. Each of her heroes uses the power of their minds to create something that had not existed before. However in her philosophy statement she clearly details that she does not believe it is possible to change reality by thinking it to be otherwise.

I think that she is referring to the same metaphysical teachers that I get annoyed with who seem to teach that all you have to do is sit on the couch and visualize and riches will come to you. I agree with her on part of her philosophy. I actually suspect we believe same things just expressed in different terms. Maybe that is why she chose to write a story to illustrate her philosophy.