One of the best-kept Oakland secrets is that the Oakland Public Library, just like its better-funded Berkeley sister, currently has a tool lending library.
This means you can go and borrow anything from a power saw to a wrench or putty knife totally free, provided you return it on time.
The Oakland Library is a treasure trove of freeness in some other unexpected way as well.
Want to sue somebody? Lawyers in the library offer free legal assistance, advice and information every first Thursday of the month.
Of course, the main point of the library is books. And while Mills has its own collection, any California resident can join any Bay Area library in Berkeley, Oakland or San Francisco-expanding the amount of books you can access without paying.
The public libraries have larger selections of fiction and non-academic books than Mills and they offer more CD and DVD options.
The Berkeley library has an especially good selection of DVDs, so you can cancel your Netflix subscription or Blockbuster account.
Probably the most dreaded and reviled part of a new semester is coughing up hundreds of dollars for the semester’s textbooks. The most important rules for buying textbooks is to buy them used, early and not from the bookstore. The bookstore knows it has a captive market and prices textbooks accordingly. For the insanely cheap there is always the option of just reading the reserve book at the library, which is OK but the limited access might impair your learning.
Another rather novel way to deal with the evil price of textbooks is chegg.com, a textbook rental company. Cheaper than even the cheapest used copy, chegg.com allows you to keep a textbook for an entire semester, even highlight in the book and then return it.
To buy your textbook, try affordabook.com. Just type in the ISBN number, author or title of your textbook and it will show you the prices from all the major on-line booksellers.
This semester, I only spent 50 dollars on books by shopping online. The downside of this method is the lag time between ordering your books and receiving them. Also, you must be vigilant you are getting the correct edition.
Finally, sell your books back promptly at the end of the semester. The bookstore at Mills does buy books back but they do not pay as much as other places. However, it is convenient and quick.
But if you wait too long to re-sell your book, a new edition might come out causing the value of your textbook to plummet, or the professor might change the required text and the Mills bookstore won’t buy it back.
Web sites like books4cash.net or valorebooks.com offer free shipping and competitive prices.
Some also buy non-textbooks, so if you need some extra cash I suggest you raid your bookshelf.