I'm the blessed mama of 4 daughters. I'm a homeschooling, Jesus-praising mass of contradictions. Addictions include coffee, chocolate, social media, school supplies and great quotes.

Spring semester is nearly upon us, so it’s curriculum-shopping time again. My oldest daughter and I are both in school, so I know just how large and painful a dent this can create in the wallet. If you have the time to shop around, you’ll find that there are much cheaper ways to get textbooks than going to the bookstore on campus.

I start curriculum shopping by visiting the school bookstore’s website. Look up the textbook information for each class and take note of the title, author, edition and if a CD or online access code is required for the class. If you’re very fortunate, you’ll find the ISBN number there as well. The ISBN number is the most foolproof way to assure you are purchasing the correct materials. Once you have this information, you’re ready to begin shopping.

A couple of quick notes about those online access codes:

Access codes are not reusable (or transferable, to my knowledge), so if you find a great price online, be sure that the code is unopened. If the listing does not mention the code or CD, always assume that it will not be included. That can make a huge difference in price — some access codes cost $100 or more.

I have always trekked to the campus to purchase the codes that I was not able to purchase with my textbooks, but I made a discovery last semester. I plopped down $69 for an access code and was presented with a legal-size envelope which contained a generic-looking printed code. When I checked online, I could have saved nearly $20 by purchasing the code directly from the publisher’s website. Ugh! Live and learn.

Here are some of my favorite sites and a few tips for purchasing curriculum:

Amazon is usually my first stop. If I wasn’t able to get the ISBN number from the school bookstore’s website, I can usually find it there. (Always make sure you are purchasing the correct edition.) I check for used copies in ‘Very Good’ or better condition to get an idea about pricing because they are less likely to be highlighted.

Half.com code BTS12 is good for 12% off a $25+ textbook order; the code expires January 3, 2013. (The code can only be used once per customer. I placed a large order and one item was cancelled by the seller. When I re-ordered another copy of the cancelled item, I e-mailed them and asked if they would apply the code to the second order as well and they refused.)

Alibris is another good source for textbooks. Retailmenot.com has a lot of coupon codes listed for Alibris. I was able to get $8 off my $60+ purchase, which was enough to cover shipping.

All told, this semester I was able to save over $250 by shopping the sites above. That is just over 30% less than the prices listed by the school bookstores. Do you have any curriculum-shopping tips to share? What is your favorite site for finding deals on curriculum?

(Edited to include Half.com response)

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