How College Students Can Save Money on Textbooks

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It’s no secret college is beyond expensive. According to the College Board, it costs $30,094 to attend a private college and $8,893 to attend a public college every year. Add to that an additional $10,000 for room and board and another $1,000 in books and supplies, and you could see how expensive college really is.

Scholarships and financial aid can help, but students are increasingly relying on student loans to help cover the cost. The problem with that is that after their studies are over, they begin their adulthood with anywhere from $50,000 – $100,000 in student loan debt.

So you can see why it’s important to scrimp and save on as many things as possible while in college. Students can choose to live at home so they won’t have to pay for housing, they can also eat at home to save on food, but one expense they can’t avoid is those pesky college textbooks.

Read also: 25 best-rated money-saving apps

Oh, is that so? Well, not so fast; the doctor has 7 ideas for college students looking to save some big dough on their textbooks.

Share Your Books

If you’re going to the same college your high school friends are attending; odds are you’re going to have the same classes, at least for the first two years. Rather than having each of your friends buy a hundred-dollar textbook, share it with each other. This works best when your classmates are your roommates. You can split the costs in half or by three or four, depending on how much you want to split it.

If you’re concerned that you won’t have the textbook when you need it, realize that colleges are reducing the reliance on textbooks, relegating them as supplemental reading material. Just takes notes at the lecture and refer to the textbook only when you need more thorough information. If you really need the textbook right away so you can review chapter 7, for example, just ask your friend to take some pictures and text them to you. Sure, the textbook publisher isn’t going to like it, but it’ll be our little secret.

Rent The Textbook, Don’t Buy It!

Why would you want to purchase a hundred-dollar textbook if you’re only going to use it for a semester? Renting textbooks is a prevalent option for cash-strapped students, and it’s probably the most common way to save money on them.

You can rent textbooks at the campus bookstore, but you may find a better deal online. Before you rent, you need to make sure you understand the terms of the rental agreement. Typically, they forbid you from writing in the book, destroying it, and you must return it on time or face a hefty fine.

Avoid The College Bookstore Altogether

Textbooks are expensive, and no other place charges more for them than the college bookstore. Shopping for your books at the college bookstore is a lot like buying your groceries from the convenience store. Sure it’s convenient, but you’ll wind up overpaying for the same exact book.

So, where else can you get a better deal? The answer is simple: anywhere else. While your local bookstore may have better deals than the college bookstore, your best bet is to go online. Popular online sources for cheap books include Amazon,,,, and

If You Must Buy It, Buy It Used

While it feels good to buy something new, you should never buy a new textbook. The process of buying or selling a used textbook is simple. But that wasn’t always the case. Years ago, college students used to have to personally find a buyer for their used textbook. But now, there are online sites that facilitate this process for you.

The big websites like Amazon and eBay are both great places to shop for used books. Amazon makes used book-selling and book-buying easy. To buy a used book, you can simply search for the book you want via the ISBN code or the title and author and place your order. Selling your book after the semester is just as easy. You can print a prepaid shipping label, then mail your book, and within 2 weeks, you’ll have some credit in your Amazon account.

To ensure you’re getting the best deal when buying a used book, use a comparison search engine like Book Finder ( to see the lowest prices for used textbooks. When you sell your used book, use the BuyBack search feature on Book Finder ( to see which company offers the best deal for your book.

Take Advantage Of The Library

If you don’t want to buy new, you don’t want to buy used, and if you don’t even want to share the cost with friends, there’s another option. You may be surprised to find the textbook you need available for free in the campus library. You probably can’t take the book home, though, so expect to do your homework there.

Another option is your local library. If they have the book you need for your class there, you can check it out, and you don’t have to return it for a couple of weeks at a time.

Get The eBook

Some textbooks are now available in ebook form. You can just buy it or rent it as an ebook and then read it on your tablet, kindle, or other devices. If you need historical texts, fiction, biographies, poetry, or essays, those may be available for free as a pdf file if you search for them online.

One bonus to using eBooks over textbooks is, of course, the weight of them. You can carry your tablet wherever you want, and it holds more books than you can ever dream of physically carrying. Reading and navigating an ebook is super easy, too, depending on which app you’re using. You can easily swipe to change pages, go to a specific page number, bookmark pages, highlight text, and search for keywords.

Purchase An Older Edition

Many books have older editions that are much cheaper than the current versions and have very few changes. Sometimes the only difference is the cover or different page numbers. Compare editions to make sure there aren’t any major changes and then look into the savings of an older version of the required books.

These different editions come out every year and are just a ploy for the textbook companies to make more money. Keep in mind that political or history books frequently change as events unfold, while an introduction to chemistry or physics book will not change very much.

Do you have any other cool ways you save on textbooks? Any sites you’d like to recommend? Please share them with our audience in the comments section below.

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