My Top Tips for Saving Money on College Textbooks

One savvy college student's top tips for saving money on college textbooks.

Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly spend one more cent on college costs, it hits you: textbooks. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can bring down your college textbook costs. Here are one college student’s top tips for saving money on her college textbooks.

College is expensive. I attend one of the most affordable public universities in the South—and it’s still ridiculously expensive.

On top of having to pay tuition and housing, I’m always dismayed at the beginning of every semester when I look at how much my college textbooks are going to cost. But because I’m a cheap person and prefer to spend my disposable income on coffee and bargain-priced novels (not advisable), I’ve found a few ways to cut corners when it comes to textbooks.

Follow my tips and tricks, and you just might find your college textbooks are cheaper this year too.

  1. First, I figure out if I even need the textbook. A lot of my freshman and sophomore classes required very expensive books that we never even used, so I started filtering through my “required” books. Was the class a gen ed or a major course? Was it a large lecture or a smaller class? Did previous students use the book in the same class? What was the professor like? Doing this kind of research helps me decide which books I actually do need.
  2. If I’m not sure, I’ll wait until the first day or so of class to kind of “feel out” the professor and the course. Professors usually ask on syllabus day who has the required book or online code. Sometimes they ask because you don’t need it and they want you to have time to return it…and sometimes they ask because they want to start assigning homework that you won’t be able to turn in without it.
  3. Once I decide which ones I need, I look for deals. Unless there is literally no other option, I will never, ever buy a textbook from the university bookstore. The prices are incredibly inflated. The four textbook sites I always compare are Amazon, Valore, Chegg, and AbeBooks. If you use a site like to find the lowest rates, make sure you also look up the seller on Yelp—you do not want to get scammed out of your money.
  4. If I can’t find any really good deals, I look for international editions or older editions. These are almost always cheaper, although sometimes you do have to be careful, especially with older editions, because important information can change from edition to edition. With this, it’s a good idea to ask the professor if an older edition is okay.
  5. If I don’t think I’ll use the book later, I rent. This is almost always cheaper than buying, and then you don’t have old textbooks cluttering up your space. You may also be able to borrow required books from the campus library (even if you’re limited to using them for just an hour or two inside the library to “take notes”).

I’ve done a pretty good job so far of making it without buying outright a lot of my supposedly “required” textbooks. However, I have been in trouble with a couple of courses because I didn’t have the book, and I ended up scrambling to borrow one before the final. So if you’re nervous, it’s best just to get the book. But it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

Bonus tip: Don’t forget you can sell your books back! International editions may be hard to sell, but most companies that sell college textbooks will also buy them back. It’s worth the effort to make a little money back, especially if you wait until the start of the next school year to sell, when prices will be up. Don’t sell right after the semester ends, because that’s when companies can get away with offering you cheaper prices, as lots of students want to unload their books!

What are your tips and tricks for saving money on textbooks? Poor college students everywhere are desperate for your help! So leave a comment or share your advice here. (And while you're in the college money mindset, why not search for some scholarships?! Find ones that fit you here.)

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About Sarah Millard

Sarah Millard

Sarah is a book-loving, coffee-drinking, sweatpants-wearing college senior who is about to have to find her own place in the real world. When she's not applying for marketing jobs or working on her senior projects, she can be found reading, hiking, or writing for her personal blog, which you can visit at


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