How to Save Hundreds of Dollars on College Textbooks (Every Semester)

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  • College textbooks can get expensive. Depending on the course you’re taking, the textbook could cost the same as the class!

    Publishers have their ways to ensure we keep them in business.

    Old editions quickly become obsolete and newer versions are required, just so a small revision can be added. Online access codes for digital books are only usable once.

    It’s a high price to pay for a book that your professor may not even refer to once class starts.

    But textbook prices aren’t set in stone. If you know what you’re doing, you can get a deal on yours and save hundreds of dollars.

    Instead of using your student loan or emptying your bank account for these books, try these tricks to keep your money in your pocket. With a little time, effort, and research, you could save hundreds of dollars on your college textbooks.

    1. Avoid the Campus Bookstore

    When you’re new to college, shopping in the campus bookstore is exciting. There’s something about being surrounded by all that potential knowledge that makes it an attractive place to explore.

    Once you start checking the price tags, though, it’s not so fun anymore.

    There’s a lot of math involved in why the campus shop is so much pricier than buying books and supplies other places. The short answer is that bookstores on a university campus have no competition.

    They can charge what they want, up to the retailer’s MSRP, and they do.

    The longer explanation is that college bookstores struggle to keep students coming back after their first semester. Once you realize that you can get your books for less money elsewhere, why would you keep spending so much?

    There’s a monopoly effect in play, too. If you’re using certain grants or loans, you may be required to shop on campus. Because the bookstore is your only choice, they can charge a lot more.

    But if you’d rather pay out of pocket now instead of later, you can buy cheaper somewhere else.

    2. Shop Online

    If you’re a planner, you can save money by purchasing your textbooks online. Purchasing new and used books through web retailers is an easy way to bargain shop.

    Keep in mind that you’ll need to shop early for in-demand textbooks. If you wait until school is about to start, you’ll be stuck without a book or heading to the campus bookstore with your fingers crossed.

    Popular, legitimate sites for online textbook shopping include:

    As you comparison shop, another thing to watch for is the taxes and shipping added at the end. There are lots of sites that provide free shipping with a slightly higher textbook price. These may be worth it.

    3. Rent Your Books

    There are those bibliophiles out there who love to keep their college textbooks forever. Other people use theirs and get rid of them as quickly as possible.

    If you fall into the latter category, you might prefer renting. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll also be relieved of the burden of reselling them at the end of the semester.

    Some places, like Amazon, allow you to rent textbooks. Like car rental services, they make their money on renewals and late fees.

    And if you decide you want to buy the book, your rental credits will go toward the purchase!

    4. Head to the Library

    What better place to look for a book than the library? Even if it’s been years since you were inside one, getting a library card is simple. You’ll just need your ID and maybe proof of residency.

    If you decide to borrow your textbooks from the library, head there well before the semester starts. It’s hit or miss as to whether they will have your specific book on their shelves when you show up. Remember, libraries have limited copies of every book.

    If they happen to be out of copies, the librarian may be able to have a copy transferred from a nearby library.

    5. Join a Study Group

    Study groups serve many purposes in higher education settings. Obviously, they’re a great way for students to help each other study for exams. But, you can also save money by sharing textbooks with the students in your study group.

    It’s tricky, but if you find a group of responsible, reliable students, it works. The honor system is necessary with this format, so you need to work with people who have the same work ethic as you do.

    other valuable tips:

    In theory, it’s simple. Each person chips in on the book and rotates it on a predetermined schedule.

    Another way this works is to study with students who share multiple classes with you. Each person buys one book, and the group shares them on a set schedule.

    Of course, challenges can occur. If someone is sick or loses the book, you may end up without a textbook at crunch time. When it works, though, it’s a great way for everyone to benefit.


    Sometimes, it feels like a new textbook edition replaces the old one every year. These fast updates are good for the publishers’ pockets, but not so great for the students’.

    Instead of paying full price for a resource you’ll only use for one semester (if at all), use these tips to save money during college!

    Author bio:
    Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Reserve Carrollton to help them with their online marketing.

    Image Credit: college textbooksby

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