So, let's start with textbooks. I am a student and have to buy books. If I purchased my books through my college bookstore and got all used, I would have spent $455 including tax. And that assumes I could find used. If I couldn't find thme used in the bookstore, it would have been around $600 with tax. I was in a bit of a bind because I couldn't register for classes until orientation, so I had under a week to get my books. I went to the campus bookstore online store and got a list of my books. One of the books on the list had been given to me as a gift from my mother-in-law for Christmas! One down. One of the recommended books was a how-to guide on Stata, but I decided I would be able to find any question I have either through the computer, my school library, or in the computer lab. So I opted not to purchase that one.
With those decisions made, I was off to my favorite site: www.bigwords.com. I enter in the ISBNs of all my books, they search through all sorts of booksellers (amazon, half.com, textbooksrus, textbooks.com, marketplaces, etc), add in the shipping charges that each seller lists, and combines them to find the absolute cheapest combination. Then I click each seller and order them. Since I needed them fast, I clicked on "need them by Saturday" and they found me the companies that had the lowest 2 day shipping price. I did buy one book through the bookstore. A new thing companies are doing is textbook rentals, where you rent the book for the semester. You are still allowed to write and highlight in them and then you return them in the prepaid envelope at the end of the semester. I did this with my stats book because I already have a great statistics book at home that I will use for long term reference. I was able to get all my books by the days I needed them and I spent only (!!) $330 including shipping and any taxes. Next semester I will know my classes earlier and will be able to save even more money, since I won't need two day shipping. Some of the companies had the books at greater savings, but they only offered 8-14 day shipping.