A College Student’s Guide To Saving Money on Textbooks

How much money have you already spent just to buy college textbooks?

Probably a ton. I spent way too much money on college textbooks when I was first getting started. I eventually learned how to save money over the years because I was fed up with spending a fortune on textbooks.

I’m here to share my information with you so that you or a family member can save money on student textbooks.

How to save money on college textbooks

Do you always have to buy college textbooks? What’s my theory when it comes to saving money on textbooks?

Just because a new edition of a textbook comes out as you’re beginning your semester, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck with buying this new edition. In fact, the new edition is only “new” because it has up to date examples or new cases.

Technically the information in a textbook should never be “new” because the content should be timeless so that people who graduate from the program at any time will know the same concepts. The only difference between textbooks will be that yours will have a different page number or different examples. As long as you follow your course outline and understand the same material as the rest of the class you should be good. You don’t have to use your student credit card to get yourself into any more debt.

I would do my best to avoid buying the new edition of a textbook.

How can you save money when you buy college textbooks?

It’s time for my list of the four best ways to save on textbooks (ranked from worst to best methods):

  1. Buy use/cheap textbooks from your school. School libraries usually have a used book section where they sell the same textbooks for a lower price. The main problem with this is that the price reduction is usually very small. The good news is that you’ll still save money. As a student, you have to take any savings you can get.
  2. Buy new/used but share with a classmate. One of the best methods of saving money is to have a study buddy that has the exact same schedule as you. This way you’ll both be able to motivate each other through school and you’ll be able to split the cost of the textbooks by sharing. The only problem here is that you have to manage your time pretty well.
  3. Buy from other students. Former students who purchased a textbook for a course have pretty much zero use for it when the semester is over. The student will try to sell it to the school but will immediately realize that the school offers a fraction of the retail value. It makes more sense for the former student to sell it to you, and it’s better for you because it’ll be cheaper than the school store.
  4. Don’t buy the textbook at all. No you shouldn’t drop out, but seriously, how many times have you purchased a textbook to only find out at the midpoint of the semester that you barely opened it? My advice is to go to the first few classes and make an honest decision whether you feel you really need this textbook. Some professors will be truthful and tell you that you don’t need the book, while others will try to push it (only because the school makes them). If it’s a course that you heard is difficult or one that you feel you’ll struggle with, then you’re better off purchasing the textbook. If the professor gives off the notion that exams will be based on their notes and power points, then you’ll probably not need the textbook.

Bonus tip: Try to use the library. 

I remember saving money on textbooks by checking out the library. They sometimes would have a copy of the textbook. I would force myself to consume the information because I knew that I couldn’t take this book home.

How did the readers save money on student textbooks?

Let’s see what you guys had to say about saving money on college textbooks.

Stephanie wrote in with the following on student textbooks:

“You didn’t include the number 1 way I get most of my textbooks: buy online, usually used from Amazon.com! It’s usually cheaper than the bookstore’s used prices (sometimes even the new copy on Amazon is cheaper than the used bookstore copy).

I also rent some of my textbooks from Chegg. Usually I do a cost analysis on my textbooks to figure out what the best combination is. Most often, I end up buying most of them used on Amazon, and renting one or two from Chegg.”

Mel chimed in with:

“This semester I don’t plan on buying any textbooks. Like you’ve mentioned, I made the mistake of buying everything on the list in my very first semester. I bought what I could second hand but I still shelled out about 120USD, which is almost two weeks rent for me!

The main problem with the library is that everyone hires them out and places holds on them as soon as they start the semester (100s of students, 10 copies of the book, you do the math). I hope to get around this by getting in early, I’ve read and taken notes on a few of my required textbooks and the Australian semester hasn’t started yet. It also means I have a good foundation going into my courses. The downside: you have to be pretty dedicated to read textbooks in your holiday time. Luckily I’m very passionate about my area of study and I just see them as new books to read.”

That’s how you can save money on college textbooks. You can keep more money in your pocket. That’s more money for going out and for those bills that are always piling up.

3 thoughts on “A College Student’s Guide To Saving Money on Textbooks”

  1. Hey MD thanks a lot for sharing the post. Being a dental student in India its very much difficult to get second hand dental books from senior students at half rates as no one is willing to sell their books. Due to this reason, lot of money gets spend in buying the dental books. Can you please suggest me some ways by which the books can be bought at low prices. Thanks.

    1. If I was in your position I would check out the school library to see if the books are available. At my school, most books were available. I would go in weeks before and exam to take down notes.

      1. Thanks for the sugestion. I apply the same, but many a times this is difficult as I need to study on daily basis and taking books from library and reissueing them every week becomes hectic. Anyways, once again thanks for your suggestion.

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