Students’ wallets are getting a little thicker as they spend less on textbooks. (Photo by Joe Allen)

Inflation affects the prices of everything. A gallon of milk is more expensive than it used to be. A loaf of bread costs more as well. Although college textbooks may not be getting cheaper, a new study has found that college students are spending less on their course materials.

According to a recent story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the amount of money that college students are using to spend on their textbooks has declined over the past few years. The story cites data from the results of a study recently released by the National Association of College Stores. A number of campus bookstores are members of this association.

In the survey, college students estimated that they spent an average of $655 on required textbooks and course materials in the academic year that began in fall 2011. This number is down slightly from $667 when the fall 2009 semester began. In the fall of 2007, students were spending an average of $702 on academic materials. This means the overall budget that students are having to save up for has gone down by almost $50 over the last five years.

Although the survey did not ask students why they believed they were spending less money on books than previous students, most agree that students are simply getting more options these days on how to acquire their books. In addition, bookstores are gradually helping students save money in various ways. There is evidence that the number of used books being sold at campus bookstores has increased. Plus more bookstores are offering rental programs and digital textbooks, which are huge money-savers in many cases.

Association spokesman Charles Schmidt offered several tips to college students on how to save money. Here are the best tips from the story:

– Buy used books when they are available since they cost less than new ones.

– Rent books whenever possible. You can save lots of money by renting, but not all books are available for rent.

– Become a “fan” or a “follower” of your local bookstore’s Facebook and Twitter pages as many stores offer special discounts and printable coupons to these individuals. You can either search for them on these social networking sites or look up their websites, which usually have a link to these pages on them.

– Use caution when buying or renting books online as there are many spammers out there who are looking to rip students off. Use reputable websites, and use to find those reliable online booksellers.

– Be aware of your local bookstore’s return policy and the deadlines on when you can still return materials for a full refund if you end up dropping a class.

– Keep your receipts and organize them as many bookstores require a receipt in order to return a textbook for a refund.