Financial Education Blog

How to Beat your College Bookstore and Save Money on Textbooks

Obtaining your college education requires a big commitment and lots of cash. But there are plenty of ways college students can save. Start by saving a few bucks on your textbooks every semester.

On average, college students spend more than $1,200 a year on textbooks alone. Check out these simple tips to help eliminate some or all of the cost.

Wait until the first day of class
Most college students have access to their syllabi ahead of their new term. While this allows them to prepare for what lies ahead, it can also lead them astray. Professors often reuse syllabi or some classes are taught off of a single syllabus that governs multiple sections. This means that the book list may not be accurate for the course. Hold off on buying books until after your first class. Don’t be afraid to ask your professor how much of the text is necessary for the course. Sometimes, books are only used for a small section of the course, and the professor may provide what is needed. They may also be willing to provide tips on the relevance of older editions or suggestions for sharing books.

You may also be able to find someone who is willing to share a textbook with you and split the cost. The situation may not be ideal, but splitting the cost of a textbook could be your cheapest option.
Some universities and colleges provide free textbooks through the open textbook movement. Check with your school to see if this option is available for you.

Check out the library
Every campus has a library, and depending on where you go to school, you may have access to one or more community libraries. Be sure to utilize them! They may have the textbook you need or are able to provide access via online resources. While it may not be feasible to checkout a textbook for the whole semester, it will most likely be helpful to have limited access (scan those pages!) or it will make sharing with a friend easier.

Search for deals
Take the time to search for deals. Often times, you can find later editions at a much lower cost. But beware. New editions often have some differences like page numbers, chapters, problems and answers. Be sure to shop by the International Standard Book Number or ISBN. You can find the ISBN on the copyright page or on the back cover if there is no barcode.
There are a variety of online stores that allow you to rent textbooks, like Chegg, Amazon and CampusBooks. You pay a fee at the start of the semester, the company ships you the book and you return it at the end of the semester. Renting a book can save 80% or more off of the new book price.

Check out e-books
E-books or E-textbooks offer lower costs and portability. They are considerably cheaper than a paper version, and are easy to search and navigate. They offer feature-rich content, like hyperlinks, embedded videos and more. Students can rent or buy e-books from online stores like Chegg, Amazon and Textbook Rush.

Not all of these tips may work for you (math and science courses often require the use of new textbooks), but it’s worth looking into these options at every opportunity.