I recently found an old newspaper clipping my dad gave me when I first started college. The small 2- x 2-inch news piece listed a couple of Web sites to help save money on textbooks. His show of affection by saving me money had a lasting effect on me throughout my experiences as a starving college student.

You see, my four years in college at UC Riverside and later as a transfer at UCLA were extremely successful in beating the horrendous overpriced textbook publication industry at their own game. The result: I only spent a total of $300 on all my textbooks throughout college. Mind you, this includes textbooks in courses in English, math and sciences (I didn’t know what to major in so I took everything.).

Considering my classmates spent thousands of dollars on books they used for one quarter that now lay underneath piles of clothes and pizza, the amount of money I spent in four years is probably enough to pay a down payment on a car. Now, this of course, took a lot of patience, ingenuity and sleepless nights. If you’re the type of person that values convenience (having access to your book anytime), my methods probably won’t work for you, and buying a textbook at the bookstore is probably your best bet. For the rest of us poor folk, here is an alumni legacy I hope you’ll find useful.

Active planning starts with the syllabus. Yeah, yeah, you would think the required reading list is important, but really it’s the due dates of papers and assignments that you need to scan carefully because it dictates which books you really have to have all the time. Any other book that is required reading mid-quarter/semester is something you can probably wait to borrow at the library.

The price range I always went for was FREE first, and the library is always free (in theory, I’m looking at you library fines). Do a book search with the ISBN number, and see whether copies were put on hold by the professor or available for checkout. Be wary though, smart frugals like you will be eyeing the same book, so plan to check out the book early enough so you can renew it just in time for the assignment. Another UC library feature to take advantage of is called an “interlibrary loan” – if another library happens to have the textbook you need, you can request it to be sent to your school’s library. Voila! Free.

Sometimes this can be tricky though. Some UC libraries usually place a two-hour limit for books on reserve. To go around this, do overnight checkout, don’t sleep and use the hell out of the book. The catch is the book will be due early the next morning (around 9 a.m.), so return it on time to avoid fines.

The next cheapest way is to use your social networks, including Facebook. Ask around for people who’ve taken the class before, and quickly snatch it up. Just hope your buddy doesn’t try to make money off of you. Shout it out on your Facebook: “I need this book!” or Facebook marketplace it. Bring it up during a casual conversation, “I need said book. Do you know someone’s whose taken said class?” Chances are, your dorm mates, Greek siblings or some random is willing to give away a book they no longer need.

If you’re really desperate, which I was, there’s this option (but use precaution): Buy or borrow the book, make copies of the pages you need and return. This works only when you have to read short chapters. That is all.

Now if there is no way to get the book free, then it’s time to do some Internet searching. Half.com has served me well, and I thank them. Also try a Google search of the book’s ISBN number and compare prices. A risky venture is to buy a previous edition, which contains basically the same information but lacks some newer “features.” Whatever pages you’re missing from your old edition you can ask a classmate to borrow their newer edition to make copies. Another reason to make friends in class, right?

Something interesting on that newspaper clipping my dad gave me was a site called textbookz.com, which has a textbook swapping service. You can immediately e-mail or phone a person who has placed an ad buying or selling their book. The important part of this is the ability to negotiate, even if it’s only $5.

Every penny saved is worth all the effort. Hopefully these tips find you well, and you stick it to those overpriced bookstores. Cue: evil laugh.