Be Smart with Textbooks and Save Some Money

by Guest Contributor · 11 comments

College is ridiculously expensive no matter what you do. Cutting costs wherever possible is essential if you are to end your years in school without crippling yourself with debt. One of the best places to save money is textbooks. An average textbook, especially for a higher level class can run over the hundred dollar mark, and most classes require more than one. Saving money on these books is easy, but it takes a bit more planning than just stopping by the college bookstore.

Don’t Buy New

The most expensive textbook to purchase is a new one. Unless you are purchasing a book that you want to add to a professional library, getting a new book is a phenomenal waste. Even the bookstore at your school will purchase back books that will be reused the following year and offer them at a significant discount. Think about it. Even your professor isn’t using a new one, so why do you need to?

The more worn or written in the book is, the greater the discount. For some, ignoring other highlighters is difficult; others see it as a benefit. They don’t have to read everything as closely and just focus on the highlighted material.

Beg, Borrow or Get It Cheap

Once you pick up your required reading list at the bookstore, it is time to start searching. If you know someone who took the course in the previous semester, ask to borrow his or her book. If you don’t have that option, check the library.

Many professors place a few copies of their requested reading material on hold at the library so that students can read the material without purchasing the books.

Another choice is to go online and check out the prices with dealers of used textbooks. Online bookstores sell just about everything for a lot less. You just have to make sure that the books will arrive on time.

Talk to the Professor

Some professors will swear that you will need to read every book they assign. Others will be more honest and let you know which books are strictly for reference or won’t be used often. By only purchasing the books you need most, you can save the expense associated with purchasing a $50 book, which you will only touch once. Making a copy of a chapter you need is cheaper than investing in an entire tome.

Free Options

While not as reliable as discounted options, you can get your books free from time to time. Free-cycling websites often list common, and not so common, textbooks that are available for the price of the gas it takes to pick them up. There are a number of student owned and directed websites that facilitate students moving textbooks around from one to the other for the price of shipping.

There are plans in place to start an ebook website specifically for textbooks. For now, there aren’t too many books available, but the sites should expand. At this time, you can generally find texts that no longer have copyright concerns.

If all these strategies fail you because you didn’t leave yourself enough time to work your way through the options, bite the bullet and invest only in the books you need. Next term, remember to start your search earlier. Time is money, but in this case, not spending the time will cost you big money.

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  • Ryan Colls says:

    It is true that buying new is such as rip off when plenty of used books are available. Sure talking to your professor you can see if you could you previous edition textbook or a low price edition or if it is a must to buy book.

  • Nicole Smith says:

    Oh yes inter library loan, buying international edition and use of previous edition are other ways to save. A textbook price comparison website like or can help find cheapest books.

  • Jodi says:

    I paid for textbooks my first semester of college, and then never again.
    My friend’s boyfriend had the same major as I did and much wealthier parents. So I would often take the same classes a semester after him and simply borrow all of his books for 4 months. Finding someone to ‘book share’ with is a great way to save money.
    I also worked in the library all four years on the weekends, and aside from getting paid to study while others were out partying, I could order and re-order almost all of my textbooks from the Inter Library Loan system.

  • Tashy says:

    Students can buy and sell textbooks cheaply on a website for students only called zillboard – or check it out on facebook.

  • Andrew Murgola says:

    You can also compare textbook prices by using .

    College textbook prices are getting ridiculous especially if you buy them all on campus. I remember being a freshman and making the poor decision of spending over 500$ on my books. Ugh, my last semester was only 100$

  • CreditShout says:

    This is a great reminder, especially before the fall semester starts. I never buy new textbooks and I sell them as soon as the semester is over again. I don’t buy the books until I receive the syllabus from the professor. Professors HAVE to list a textbook to accompany their class to satisfy the dean, but some don’t even teach to the text. These are often the best classes anyway and you can save money.

  • Chris says:

    Renting textbooks from is a great way to save money. They offer fast delivery and free return shipping. Chegg also plants a tree every time you rent so you’re saving money AND helping the environment at the same time.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Check out

    Put in the ISDN number of your textbook.

    It will give you the least expensive way to get the text book.

    Sometimes it’s renting…through places like campus rentals or chegg…other times its purchasing used through amazon or other book sellers.

    Just a suggestion. Renting works really well for my daughter in college.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Actually, if you can swing by, textbooks are MUCH cheaper in Asia. For some reason, the prices are a ton lower and the only difference is that the textbooks you buy in Asia are softcover instead of hardcover.

  • Gerad says:

    If you are going to buy your books a great place to start is Amazon. Just get the IBN number for the book, usually on the syllabus and put it in the Amazon search box. The advantage of Amazon is you get access to all of these independent stores that they are affiliated with and you can really compare. Much better variety than textbooks-r-us or other ones like that

  • basicmoneytips says:

    It has been awhile since I have been in college and even then I felt like textbooks were high. Plus, I felt like most instructors who wrote their own books were doing it to make a little extra money and they really had you over a barrel.

    I would think ebay or amazon offers a lot these days. Plus, looking for used books is a great way to go, and you might even find some notes written in there.

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