Money Saving Tips

How to Save Money on College Textbooks

How to Save Money on College Textbooks
Written by Irina Vasilescu

The cost of brand new college textbooks is incredibly high and can really hurt students’ (and their parents’) budgets. You absolutely need to read this money saving tips to slash the cost of your set works while still having everything you need.

1. Double check what books you need study from

While some books will be essential to your studies, most courses offer a list of ‘recommended reading’ books. You don’t actually have to buy these books, and as we’ll see, you can still have access to them without paying for them. Remember: only buy the absolute necessities.

Your syllabus will usually indicate which books are mandatory to get and which ones you can get by with just having a look at. Sometimes, you just need a couple of chapters out of a book, and there are ways of getting that without buying the whole book.

2. Older editions are usually cheaper

Before you set off in search of the 1st editions so you can compare its price with the 5th edition, you’re supposed to get, ask your professor if you can get away with doing this. Quite often, it’s just fine, and you’ll get all the information you need at a lower price, but sometimes the changes made to the newer editions are relevant to your studies.

3. Share with a friend

If you have a reliable friend in your class that you like having as a ‘study buddy’, you can get away with splitting the list of books you need to buy and share them, socialize and study counts as double fun! The important part here is that your study buddy has to be reliable. If he or she has the book today and you get it tomorrow, the commitment must be honored.

How to Save Money on College Textbooks

More ideas about how you can save money in college here.

4. Rent don’t buy

We only use most of our textbooks for a semester or two, so renting your book through Chegg, Campus Book Rentals, and other online textbook providers can save you a significant part of the cost. Once you’ve finished using the book, you just return it. Easy!

5. Hit the local libraries

This trick is especially handy for the books you’ll only need for the sake of a few chapters or for a short time during your course. Start with your college’s library and then widen your net. Libraries do loan books to each other, so if you don’t see the book you need on the shelf, ask the librarian if there’s any way to get it. You get free access to the books you need.

6. Look for open source textbooks online

Some websites offer you free access to textbooks. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for, but if you do, you get full access to the book you need at absolutely no cost. That makes it well worth your while checking this option out.
Try OpenStax College or OER Commons.

How to Save Money on College Textbooks

Are you an avid reader? This is why buying books online is the best idea you’ve ever had! Read: Why Buying Books Online is the Best Idea.

7. Buy second hand

Get books from a senior student, check whether your college has a second-hand book network or hit the web. Before you just buy, compare prices. You could find the same book for sale second hand on Amazon, E-Bay, from a fellow student or through Chegg at vastly differing prices.

8. Go digital

So you won’t be able to make notes in the margins – who cares when you can save by opting for an electronic copy instead. And, get this, you can even rent an e-book.
Amazon says you can save up to 80% of the cost of your set works using this option.

9. Compare your book choices quickly with Occupy the Bookstore add-on

You can get a handy Google Chrome add-on called “Occupy the Bookstore.” Visit an online bookstore, select a book, and the app checks other sites for cheaper options. In Occupy the Bookstore’s tutorial, you’ll see a book that costs between $90 -$220 on a bookstore’s website for just $28 elsewhere. If you can get that lucky with the books you need, you aren’t going to be sorry you got that free add-on.

10. Sell back

Once we’ve passed a course, we very rarely refer to our old books. That makes selling your old books to help finance the books you’ll need for next course well worth doing. Put them up for sale on Amazon or Craigslist, and help other money saving students too!

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How to Save Money on College Textbooks

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About the author

Irina Vasilescu

Irina Vasilescu is our money-saving and DIY expert and also the editor-in-chief as she's always on the lookout for the latest online deals.


  • When I was a student in my first year, I bought all of the textbooks on the list, but then by the time I got to my second year I didn’t bother because I realised that I could simply get everything online and it was actually easier than using the books anyway because I could search for the key terms that I was looking for. So I saved a lot of money indeed by not buying the books at all, and I feel that was a great thing to do.

  • Something I have seen being done on reddit. Well there is a section for task and sometimes people will ask for someone to find them a PDF copy of a text book. I guess that must be a thing now. I also noticed a lot of selling their books after they finish the course. Selling on local shop or swap groups on Facebook for instance. These are great tips and a good way for a student to save some cash.

  • I learned along the way that i will be paying alot of money for books i dont even want to read for college. Why purchase books you will only be using for one semester in college, and not even on a day to day basis. Most classes do not even go by the whole entire book but certian sections. Renting is a way better and cheaper option as you are able to use the book for what you need and give it back for a much cheaper price. My sister as a freshman in college learned the hard way. She purchaced most of her books new, unaware of how much debt she ended up towards the end and now she has a closet full of new books that cost her over $500.

  • In my experience, buying a second-hand book and then selling it after a course is one of the best options you have: not only you spend less and gain back part of the expense (sometimes even all of it!), but you can also have a look at the notes previous students left there (I personally found them to be very useful). They usually organize local book markets just for this kind of things, so finding and selling are both easy tasks.
    Anyway, I’ll probably link this list to a friend of mine (starting college this year, book expenses are one of her major worries), this will help a lot.

  • The college library is usually a sound bet for a lot of the secondary reading, but I found my college library purposely did not stock the main texts for the exact reason that they want you to buy them – they are often written by the professor and sometimes published by the University’s own presses.

    One useful tip is to check your student union for book sales – these are regulated by the union, not the university, so their prices can be set as low as the sellers are willing to go. Often these are seniors wanting a quick buck before they finish, so you can find some great deals!

    Also, I would be wary about previous editions, especially for scientific and legal subjects. These topics can change quite drastically, and the professors will expect you to get these things right given you are supposed to have the most up-to-date texts.

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