Archive for Education

Free Credit Reports

federal trade commission page on free annual credit reportsEven though the law requires it, there are some unscrupulous companies out there that mislead you into thinking you need to know your credit SCORE, which certainly has it’s place, but it’s not necessary when you’re just doing an annual checkup on your credit report to check for accuracy. They will also try to sell you all manner of other services, many of which are a total waste of money.

Most of the following has been swiped directly from the FTC web page on the subject:

Why should I request (and check) my credit report?

Because the information in your credit report is used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, you should be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date.  In addition, monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft.  Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity.

Federa law requires commercial websites that say they offer free credit reports to include a box letting you know you can get a free credit report at Click on the link to, the only place to get the free report that’s yours by law.

Many companies claim to offer free credit reports – and some do. But others give you a report only if you buy other products or services. Still others say they’re giving you a “free” report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. If you go to and follow the prompts for your free credit report, you can be sure the reports you get really are free.

What is is the ONLY authorized source for the free annual credit report that’s yours by law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every 12 months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn’t get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout “free” credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.

During a class on protecting oneself from identity theft the instructor offered an interesting idea on how to monitor your credit year-round. Since you are entitled to a free report from each of the three big credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Trransunion and Experian), rather than getting them all at once, just order one, then 3 months later, order the next one, then 3 months later the last, then start the series again in 3 months.

How to save money on college textbooks

The Pain. The Agony. The Price.

Plan Ahead to Save Money on Textbooks.

Textbooks are a necessary “evil” when it comes to your college expenses. While essential, there are many ways to reduce the burden to your budget. The fall semester is almost here, but a little work now can reap big savings. The biggest money saver is to purchase your books used. For expensive books, savings of over 50% are common.

The most convenient way to get your textbooks is, of course, from the college bookstore on campus. However, because of the contract they have with the college, it is likely to be the most expensive choice. In some cases, like with certain scholarships or grants, the bookstore is your only option.

The biggest factor in looking at alternative sources for textbooks is making sure you get the right book. Under federal copyright regulations all books are required to have a ISBN (International Standards Book Number) assigned to the book for easy identification. This is a ten-digit number, and it usually appears above the bar code on the back of the book, as well as on the copyright page.

Most college bookstores now have online ordering and you can check the book requirements online, and get the details on what is required: title, author, edition, and the ISBN.

If the instructor is listed as “TBA” or the course has no books listed, contact the department head listed on the college website to get more information. Let them know you are planning on getting the books from a different source because you want/need to save money. The professor should tell you the ISBN as well as the title, author and edition. Also, if any of the books you need are part of a collection of CDs, web-study programs or other “accessories”, be sure to contact the professor and find out if you actually need these items. Frequently the bookstore bundles products together and not all of them are used for the actual course you are enrolled in.

There are several options to buying your books once all the necessary information is obtained. Between semesters, one is to wait outside the classroom where the course is currently being taught and offer to buy a used book from the students as they exit. This technique is a bit tricky, because most students aren’t going to sell their book before the final, and most students don’t bring the book with them when taking the final exam.  A good solution to this is to make a flier with the course name and number, the title of the book along with your name and phone number and hand it to the exiting students. It’s a good idea to have an amount you are willing to pay in mind, and perhaps put it on your flier. Generally, half of the bookstore price for new books is considered reasonable.

Another option is to put a flier on the bulletin board listing the books you are interested in. This would definitely be something you’d want to do before the end of term, because once students finish their finals, they won’t be back until the next term begins. You can also browse the bulletin boards looking for textbooks for sale.

Another great place to find used textbooks is to find local sellers on Just be sure to get the correct edition. Just because teacher X used a certain book last semester, doesn’t mean they are using the same one this semester.

If soliciting for used books on campus isn’t your style, you might prefer to check out the internet and shop from home. The best sites let you search by ISBN, and several of them let you enter more than one ISBN at a time, which saves time if you’re buying books for more than one course.

Local bookstores also sell textbooks, and their prices for new books aren’t much better than the campus bookstore. A better option is to browse the used book section on, and Ebay, where you can either buy at the price requested or make a offer. An alternative to manually searching several sites is to use a price search site such as It displays the results from many different sites and includes the book price and the shipping price.

When buying online, be sure to pay attention to shipping charges and the shipping method. Media mail rate saves the most money, but it may take up to two weeks for your book to arrive. Another source is online auctions like eBay™. EBay™ owns, so they work much in the same way, though searching on eBay™ isn’t as efficient and doesn’t seem to be included in the book search engine results.

For textbooks that you won’t need in the future (which is most of them!), keep in mind that most of the sources that sell used books also buy them. Before you accept a low price from your college bookstore for a book that they will re-sell for 80% of it’s ‘new’ price, consider selling online or even stand outside the classroom door on the first day of school and offer your book to students at a price somewhere between. If you buy your books from sources other than the school bookstore you will have to sell them yourself, most college bookstores won’t buy a product they didn’t sell you.

If you buy used and then resell your textbooks your actual cost can be close to nothing. Just because you have to buy textbooks doesn’t mean you have to go broke doing it.

We bought all of my son’s textbooks via secondary sources. Only one of them was purchased new, and that was because it was a new edition, so we had no choice. We sold all of them online after his classes were done and our total expenses for the whole year were less than $30.

For purposes of comparison, several websites were tested using a science textbook and public speaking handbook. Data is from a couple of years ago, but current prices are similar.

Website Geology Textbook
ISBN 0534375502
Public Speaking Handbook
ISBN 0312400780 $35 + $2.79 S/H = $37.79 $10 + 2.79 S/H = $12.79 $33.95 + $5.25 S/H = $39.20 Not available
COLLEGE BOOKSTORE New $93.75; used $70.50 New (used not available) $20.50 $22 + $2.50 S/H = $24.50 $22.22 + $3.75 S/H = $25.97 Marketplace $35.95 + $3.49 S/H = $39.44 $13.75 + $3.49 S/H = $17.24

Compare sites carefully, they don’t always have the lowest price on all items. Carpe diem!