10 Tips When Shopping for College Textbooks

Shopping for college textbooks has been interesting every semester and after 10 semesters as a college student here’s my advice:

When buying textbooks first consider if this book might be something you intend to keep long term (books for your major are often helpful to keep vs. books for random required courses). Think about the condition of the book and look into options like paperback vs. hardback. Check your ISBN and make sure you’re getting the right one. Life can be made way harder if you’re using the wrong edition of a book (chapters are often all switched around and there may be things missing from your older edition).

1. Always buy Used (Almost Always):

Buying used often significantly drops the price of the book but usually doesn’t significantly drop the quality of the book itself. Books listed as “Like New” or “Very Good” Condition are my personal picks and I’ve never received a disappointment yet. If there is a CD or some kind of release code with the book that your teacher says is required you will need to buy new.

2. Avoid buying at the campus bookstore, but use their online comparison tool:

Most colleges are going to have some kind of textbook comparison tool or at least give you the price of the book in the bookstore, many of the textbook stores surrounding campus will do so as well. Periodically you will have to buy a book from your campus bookstore (often required writing courses will have books with worksheets and prompts developed by the writing center at your school) so you won’t be able to find these online.

3. Try the library:

Often your campus library, public library (or another campus that does inter-library loans) will be able to let you check out your textbook. Usually as long as  you remember to continually renew the book you can use it all semester–the one downfall to this is you cannot write/highlight directly in the book so get used to using post its for side notes and noting important sentences.

4. (Similarly) Renting books is often a good way to go:

This is especially true if your textbook is on the expensive end of the spectrum and you have absolutely no intention of keeping it. Paying $40 with no buyback money is often a better deal than paying $100 and having a chance at buyback.

Several services offer book rentals and some of my favorites are Amazon.com, BookRenter.com and Half.com. There are lots of others I can’t remember the names to currently and there is a possibility that your school offers a rental program as well.

5. No matter what the school tells you, you are not getting a good deal from them on your book buyback:

The one positive note about school sponsored book buybacks it that often they pay cash on the spot for your textbooks but can pay as little as 1/15th of what you paid. If you’re interested in getting more money for your book rather than fast money try selling it back on Amazon. What’s really nice these days is you can look up your textbook on Amazon and if they are buying it you can confirm your ISBN and ship it free to them (they send you a mailing label) and once they receive it you get paid! (Downfall: the money is not cash nor can it be cashed, it’s Amazon funds which is good towards just about every purchase on Amazon except for Amazon gift cards.)

6. Amazon is Amazing:

As if you didn’t already know this, but Amazon sells through themselves as well as through individual vendors who they have approved. Don’t forget to check out that you have the correct ISBN number, the book’s condition and the percentage rating of your seller before purchasing. Also like I said above, they buy your books back (I’ve actually made money on this once!) and the money you earn can be used towards buying next semester’s books (or anything else you might want) on Amazon.

7. Buy Books soon after you’ve received the list rather than moments before the semester starts:

Periodically a teacher will be a complete butt-wipe and switch all of the books you needed for their class but it doesn’t happen often so it’s better to buy in advance rather than worry if your books aren’t going to arrive in time for your first open-book quiz.

8. eBooks can sometimes be a great option:

eBooks are fabulous if you are someone who loves to carry around your tablet or laptop. They make it really easy to highlight passages and often have special features to help you study or look up vocabulary words.

If your laptop is kind of heavy (or you only have a desktop) and you don’t own a tablet—I don’t recommend this since often your professor will want you to bring your book in to class. Also if you get easily distracted and end up on Facebook or Pinterest…DON’T GET AN EBOOK! You’ll inevitably do it in class and get kicked out of class or miss something important. Also some teachers who have open-book exams don’t permit electronic devices so that’s another thing to consider.

9. Take care of your books after you’ve purchased them:

Don’t leave your books lying around, someone can easily steal them and sell them back to the bookstore for quick cash. Feel free to write/highlight in your books if your purchase of the book allows it (remember, no writing in library books and only in rentals if your agreement says so). If you don’t this can severely damage your likelihood of selling them back and people will judge you for your book looking sloppy (lots of bent pages, warped by spilled Gatorade etc.)

10. Actually read your textbooks:

Whoever is paying for your education whether that’s you, a family member or someone else  benefits the most when you really take school seriously and do your assignments. Often you may be assigned what seems to be an ungodly amount of reading but push through it—take notes and breaks to actually comprehend what you’ve read rather than  reading without absorbing anything. Better yet, read the next section before class so you know which parts didn’t make sense to you and you can ask the teacher for clarification on those areas.

More tips on study habits and effective reading to come, but to my current college students —did I miss anything about good advice when shopping for textbooks?


Once A Month Cooking AKA Freezer Cooking

I’m really looking at once-a-month cooking as an option for me. I’m young and live alone and anyone who has done this knows how difficult it is to cook for only one person without A) eating the same thing for days upon days or B) food going bad. I have unfortunately done both and as a result dread cooking that involves pots and pans when I know I’m only going to eat a small portion and don’t have lots of time for dishes.

The option of making things so I can heat up one small portion and then have another individual portion of something else tomorrow is a great idea and a definite time saver when I just want to eat after a long day at work and school. I’ll keep you all in the blog world updated on how this goes and I plan to post pictures and give reviews on how well things froze and reheated as I cook and eat them. Until then, I’m going to continue to look up recipes and freezing techniques so once I move into my new apartment next month I can get started!

Disney Princess Engagement Rings

Disney did it again…found a way to weasel itself into your wedding. But that’s okay because these engagement rings are gorgeous!












The coolest part about these rings you ask? They are customizable on http://www.gemvara.com ! (But quite pricey as  you can expect.) You can change your stones and your metals to be exactly as you want your princess ring to be!

As much as I’ve always been obsessed with Ariel from the Little Mermaid her themed engagment ring would not be my personal pick…I’m personally a fan of (traditional) yellow gold and love the way the Rapunzel ring is detailed…which is your favorite? Do you think the ring provided reflects your favorite Disney Princess?

Pikini–The Creepy App that helps you find photos of your friends in bathing suits


I just received the email above. Obviously this is super creepy and any woman in her right mind would do what I did and send the email to Junk mail. After doing some research though, sadly this is a real thing and not just an internet scam—it’s a real app created by guys who I’m sure are real skeezy. An app to find your friends’ “bikini” photos? Jeez. If you want to learn more about how this is unfortunately real—I found a nice article by the Huffington Post.


Best Wedding Books (in my personal opinion)

It’s been a while but since a friend was posting on Facebook about recently starting her blog I thought it was due time to catch back up on mine.

Another friend who has been dating her boyfriend almost exactly a year longer than Theo and I have been dating was proposed to—FINALLY. Needless to say she agreed and is now planning her wedding. A friend gave her advice to use a wedding timeline from WeddingBee.

WeddingBee is a very useful website–its advice for brides-to-be from brides and brides-to-be. It’s great if you want a second opinion on a veil or shoes -or- someone to listen to you talk nonstop about wedding planning, since they’ve been there.

Oh, FYI I am not being paid to recommend any of the items below–I’m just providing my honest opinions and hopefully that can help someone out there!

I’ve invested in several wedding planning books and a considerable amount of time on wedding planning websites getting ideas of what would be great for my own wedding someday. From this research I’ve gained a better understanding of how things probably should be done in order to have the least problems along the way. (Also I’m very much a crafter and DIY-er so I’m looking to make beautiful things cheaply.) My favorite two books as a result are:

1. The Knot Book of Wedding Lists by Carley Roney


I recommend this book to anyone planning a wedding because it gives a really detailed breakdown of all of the things that can/should be done along the way. Obviously feel free to skip things you find unneccessary but it gives a lot of help if you’re looking to hire a wedding planner, hire vendors for your reception, get married in a religious chapel, set up a gift registry etc. It tells you what to do and when throughout the process to do it which is nice since the list can be seriously daunting. This book is amazing if you A) are super organized and LOVE lists or B) are disorganized or extremely overwhelmed and need help.


I personally bought a “like-new” used copy from Amazon and it was about  $7 dollars and was definitely worth it. Thats the cost of 2 bridal magazines (or maybe only one and a half) so I definitely thought this was more helpful than tons of pictures of rings and gowns out of my price range that I could have found on Pinterest.

(Side Note: I’m obsessed with Pinterest. I have several boards devoted exclusively to different parts of the wedding: eg. attire, decor, food and cakes, invitations etc. so check that out if you’re looking for some ideas!)

The second book I would advise getting is much more hefty than the petite book of lists:

2. The Wedding Book: The Big Book for Your Big Day by Mindy Weiss & Lisbeth Levine


If you want to be a wedding expert, read this book. OR if you are an etiquette queen and love knowing exactly what to do if the situation ever arises, this is definitely the book for you. This will give advice on sticky situations like bridesmaids with attitude as well as divorced parents who don’t get along but are both attending the wedding. It uses drawings and detailed explanations to illustrate the differences between the types of veils, necklines and trains you can find for your bridal attire as well as similar details for the gentlemen (ties, lapels etc.)


Again, I bought mine used on Amazon for a greatly discounted price and it has made me into a self-proclaimed wedding expert. As previously stated I’m an overachiever so this gave me enough knowledge to be dangerous. This book is an excellent guide for a bride who wants to know all of the possible options.

Both books have decent sections on writing up contracts with vendors and other important-but-forgotten subjects as well as all of the fun details that you can consider.

Happy wedding planning!

“Minor” Details: Favors

There are so many details in a wedding to consider and one of the less crucial are favors. But as you may already know I’m an overachiever and am planning every detail in advance so I’ve given favors some thoughts; here’s what I’ve come up with.

How much are you “supposed” to spend on favors? I have no idea. Just about everything I found about keeping them within a reasonable budget recommends buying in bulk and self-packaging. It makes sense especially for someone as craft-savvy as me.
There’s lots of pre made options out there today including all kinds of things you can write you and your spouse’s name and wedding date on (matches were always classic for this) but unless they are matches those just won’t get used to be honest and some of the interesting options are quite expensive.

Ooh! Unless your wedding is on the Fourth of July—sparklers and matches are a perfect combo, just be careful in your gown around those open flames!!

So after some research I’ve come up with many fun options:

Miniature Succulents (or other small plants) in miniature clay pots (maybe handpainted to match the decor?) –these can get kind of costly pretty quickly but may help me cut down on the professional floral budget a bit
It may also be super cute to stick a little sign in it as the escort card as well?

The infamous Candy Bar
Since I’m a perfectionist and a creative type to boot there is no way I could/would have a candy bar without a few gorgeous apothecary jars to hold them in. Even with the cheapest ones available (see http://www.save-on-crafts.com and http://www.jarstore.com for some great options) and some of least expensive but still yummy candy and baggies to put them in (see http://www.papermart.com for cute but inexpensive small bags, OOT (out-of-town) bags and tissue paper) it would be near-impossible to keep the price below $2.00 a person where ultimately I’m shooting for closer to $1.50 each.

Chocolate-covered Strawberries are always delicious  but would likely be very pricey unless perhaps I did the work myself.

My newest favorite? Handmade caramel apple. Seems like something I can make and package to my standard for about $1.50 a head. This would be ideal for a fall wedding when apples are in season and you and your soon-to-be spouse can handpick the apples at an orchard. Date with a purpose—love it! Check out the recipe options I found here:

Another recent favorite: Personalized Sharpie Markers! Who doesn’t love Sharpies? It’s super practical and if you buy it promotional-item style  its inexpensive, as it comes automatically in large quantities.

Any interesting favors you’ve heard of? Any favors that should be avoided? Let me know what you think!

Writing Your Own Wedding Ceremony & Traditions to Consider

So after doing way too much research on the topic (like I said before, I likely won’t even be engaged until about this time next year) I found some general guidelines for writing your own wedding ceremony.

I probably should backtrack first. I don’t really have a lot of interest in having my wedding in a church. I’ve never been closely affiliated with a church and neither has Theo. There’s no “getting married in the church my parents got married in” since it is a Catholic church and my parents broke their “promise” to bring their children up Catholic.  The church that my Dad and my new stepmom Dorothy got married in is not my personal style and and we didn’t have my sister or Mom’s funerals in a church (another post about losing close loved ones and grief another day). So overall, I feel no need to have a wedding in a church. Neither does Theo. So that’s settled.

I have thought about getting married in a garden for some time. Theo didn’t mind this idea but suggested the addition of a lighthouse. (Maybe, it’s possible?) I love gardens and since we are shooting for nuptials in late spring/summer that seems ideal. Plus its practical–which I very much am. Why pay for the flowers/lighting/decorative stuff to “transform” a space when you can get one that’s already beautiful? The trouble is just finding the right place with the right amount of space for the people you’re pretty sure you “have to” invite to your wedding (again, another post I promise!).


So non-traditional location could still mean a traditional ceremony you say? That’s true, but again, not my cup of tea; I’ve always been one to exert my own style and ideas even if they weren’t necessarily “popular”. When we’ve been dating as long as we have I’ve had lots of time to mentally prepare details of our wedding. We’re only getting married once and they say it’s your day, so I want it to feel like our thoughts were put into every part of it, starting with the ceremony.

Anyways, I found this super-helpful blog post:


This post gives a really good outline of what can (and should, to some degree) be included in a wedding ceremony. It got me thinking about a lot of things. I definitely want to tell our love story and how we’ve been there with each other through everything (him going to Florida for college, me going to Northwest Ohio. My mom getting cancer and inevitably losing her battle. Many holidays and birthdays, many wishes at 11:11 and his puppy Teddy among many other things). 6 Years is a long time and a lot has happened in our lives during that time so it should be a great story to tell!

Theres also a lot of options for unity ceremonies: some of the fun ones are:
(Uber traditional)

1. Unity candle
2. Sand ceremony/ Dirt ceremony (becoming the popular alternative to the unity candle)
3. Water ceremony (I’ve also heard of this done more chemistry style where it’s not water but two chemicals that make a colored/glowing liquid)
4. Science Fair style volcano (similar concept)
5. (Dutch tradition) sealed wine box with love notes (sealed wooden wine box with bottle and glasses and a love note from you each–to be used on the 25th wedding anniversary or sooner if you hit a rocky point)
6. Tree planting together
7. Blanket sharing/shoulder draping (very cute when the blanket is sewn from scraps provided by the guests)
8. God’s Knot (3 braided cords one for you, one for your love and one for God)
9. Hand tying (where the term “tying the knot” came from!)
(See more options and details here: http://proudtoplan.blogspot.com/2011/05/ceremonies-within-your-ceremony.html)
There are tons more especially related to religions and cultural backgrounds that I don’t fully understand, but feel free to adapt those things and make them work for you!

There are lots of other traditions you can add in, one I like the sound of is the “Ring Warming”. You pass the rings to family/friends/wedding party/entire group of guests as you so choose and they can hold the ring and say a prayer for your marriage. I think to keep it short and sweet we might pass to my parents and Grandparents and his Mom, favorite Aunt and Grandma. Something like that.
rings pre warmingring warming

I also have an obsession with Corinthians 1:13. This is a reading typically done at weddings since it does relate to the idea of the love without being super church-y. I’m very much in love with the King James Version though because it just sounds so pretty, in the more recent versions “charity” has been replaced with “love” and this is what I intend to do.

My friend (and sorority sister) is also obsessed with this excerpt and is one of those people who is friends with everybody. Therefore she’s probably going to be a bridesmaid in somewhere close to 10 weddings since she would not dare turn down that opportunity. Since I want to keep my bridal party small but find it important to include her, I think Theo and I are going to ask her to be our officiant, we would cover the costs of getting ordained online and then she could add that skill to her resume! Ha! I really think she would be psyched and she’s not shy so it would be fun. Plus, it will just make everything more interesting photographically since she’s shorter than I am (and I’m 5’0″) and not sure if I mentioned this before….but Theo is 6’4″. Maybe we’ll get her a ceremonial stool or something hahaha. It will be great, I hope she says yes! I asked Theo if we could ask her a long time ago and it just feels like one of those things that feels really right. If nothing else I totally want her to be the one to read Corinthians. Sentimental story over.

For those you designing your own ceremonies a great place for a reading (often something about love) is after the introduction of the couple/love story (replacing a sermon) and before the formal vows and ring vows.

Being my overachieving self, I didn’t stop there. I’ve also looked into the various types of music you’ll need/want for the ceremony. Here’s a breakdown and some of my personal thoughts on what I might use:

Pre-ceremony music (1-1.5hours worth) Soft music to play while your guests are seated– I’ll probably stick with VSQ (Vitamin String Quartet) or perhaps a real string quartet of talented college students in the local music program!

Processional (1-2 songs depending upon the length of your aisle and how many attendants you have) This is the song(s) your partner-to-be will enter to as well as all attendants/bridesmaids/groomsmen/ring bearer/flowergirls

In my opinion VSQ versions are always classic, check out their version of “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars. 

(Bridal Processional) You want a different song for yourself. Since its traditional for everyone to stand for the bride this helps notify the change towards that gesture. Also its your day so do your thing! (This where the traditional “Here Comes the Bride” would go.)

I’m in love with VSQ’s version of “Stolen” by Dashboard Confessional. I’ve always been a huge Dashboard fan and so is Theo and the lyrics (even though they wont be heard) are so appropriate. It has a lovely melody too so anyone not familiar with the song will just find it pretty—which is pretty much why I love VSQ music anyways.

Then comes the wedding. You don’t need music in that unless its something that you want (think: sing along like Becky and Jesse in Full House?  or maybe friends or family who would/should rather sing than do a reading?)

Again, do your thing, it’s your day.

Recessional: (1-2 songs again depending on your aisle and your attendants. This tends to move more quickly than everyone walking in and the music tends to be faster in tempo.) You’ve said I do and kissed and its official. You take your first walk down the aisle as partners and typically this song is a little more fun/spunky/joyous since the next portion begins the celebration part of the traditional wedding.

My Dad and Stepmom did Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah for theirs and it was really sweet.


From there now you’re off to photos and your guests are off to cocktail hour and then dinner and possibly dancing to celebrate that you and yours are now a singular family unit. Congratulations and on to the Reception!

Brides Against Breast Cancer

Brides Against Breast Cancer is something I’m very interested in as my mother died of colorectal cancer and my Grandma had a double mastectomy to beat breast cancer. Basically I’m quite at risk for cancer since my Mom and Grandma are on opposite sides of the Family Tree.—Just another reason to support cancer research and take steps towards healthier living.

Anyways, I heard about this company, Brides Against Breast Cancer which sells used and new bridal gowns. Many of the gowns have been worn but many are new donated from designers and/or are sample gowns. Brides can donate their used gowns to this organization for taxable purposes as well as out of the goodness of their hearts. The organization does (essentially) trunk shows across the country to sell the gowns at discounted prices (mostly $400-$800 with some as high as $4000).This is a significant discount as many bridal salons offer prices $1000-1500 being closer to average with higher costs from there. Personally I’m very into the idea of a tea-length gown as I’m only 5’0″ tall and REALLY REALLY want to have a garden wedding. My dream dress? Alencon (French) lace along the top of the bodice and some kind of straps/ cap sleeves to help hold it up.


Upon reading more about Brides Against Breast Cancer I came across a few things I’m glad to have learned:

1. Typically they charge you to get in the door- It seemed it was average to charge $20.00 per person to enter the event.

2. (Sort of obvious) It’s best to go early on the first day of the few days they are in town- Having more options will always be in your favor, especially when you’re not a common size and finding a dress is going to be enough of a hassle.

3. The V.I.P. event is and isn’t worth it- The V.I.P. event starts 2 hours before the formal event BUT you only have the second hour to get a head start on dress shopping. The first hour is cocktails and listening to all of the vendors  present (wedding services eg. salons, dj’s who want you to buy their stuff) then after that you can get a move on shopping in the racks.

4. Wear the underwear you intend to wear on your wedding—unless its revealing-  After doing my research it seems that the dressing rooms at these events are made from pipe and drape event curtains (i.e. not suitable for a real dressing room) since you have all sorts of complications in getting a dress on to begin with, make sure you’re wearing spanx on top and bottom to make things fit nicely as well as keeping yourself covered when changing (especially since it might be easier to have your helpers change you in the dressing open space rather than waiting in line for one of the few private rooms).

5. (Again, sort of obvious) Bring a small entourage- When I say small I mean like 2 or 3 people to help you get the dresses on and off and carry things around for you. You won’t have any bridal consultants to help you carry the gowns around or lace you up and get you in and out over and over again so bring your trusty helpers.

Side note to this memo: Everything I read said they have a policy where only 3 gowns at a time can be taken into the dressing room so if you like more maybe have a friend hold onto them and switch things out?

Another side note: Everything I read also said that there is always a seamstress there who can help by giving you some idea of the necessary alterations to make that dress fit you—which is nice if you find out one can be hemmed and another would have to be entirely reconstructed; alterations need to be taken into consideration of the dress budget.