7 Insider Tips to Help You Save Money on College Textbooks

Expensive textbook with one dollar bill hanging out of it

With a full load of college courses, textbook costs can pile up fast. If you’re looking to spend less and still have access to the textbooks you need, consider these tips for saving money.

Shop Off-Campus

On-campus college bookstores charge you a premium in exchange for one-stop shopping. 

You can find better deals when you shop at reputable online retailers, like Amazon, or at off-campus college bookstores. When shopping online, use the textbook’s ISBN code to ensure you’re getting the exact book you need, down to the right edition and language. 

There’s one exception to this rule — some classes may require campus-bookstore-exclusive materials, like access codes or packets, which are bundled with a brand-new textbook. However, in most other cases, you’ll save by shopping elsewhere.

Pro tip: Always double-check your receipt after buying from the bookstore to make sure they charged you for the correct version. Mistakes can happen, especially at high-volume times like the beginning of the semester.

See What’s Required

Check your syllabus to see which books are required and which are optional. Some texts, including classic novels, plays and philosophical texts, are in the public domain. That means you can find them for free at places like Project Gutenberg, or for cheap at your e-book shop of choice. 

For even more savings, consider buying an older edition of the textbook — just ask your professor first.

Pro tip: Sometimes books come in different varieties, like hardcover or unbound. Go for the cheapest option here. If it’s unbound, just purchase a large three-ring binder to hold the pages.

Related: Check out these financial aid resources >>

Buy Used

With a used book, you don’t have to worry about late fees. According to Trent Hamm at TheSimpleDollar.com, you can save up to 60 percent by purchasing used textbooks instead of their brand-new equivalents. 

Pro tip: Search sites like Amazon for used textbooks. Especially if it’s an older book, it’s possible to find one in good condition for just pennies.

Rent Your Books

While it’s more expensive to buy textbooks at your on-campus bookstore, it’s a great resource for renting books at a significantly reduced price. 

However, be sure to abide by the terms of the rental. This involves returning the book on time and taking good care of it. Incurring late fees or paying to replace a damaged book will negate your savings.

Go Digital

You can save a bundle by purchasing a digital textbook. Some digital textbooks offer rentals, which saves you money and the hassle of returning the book on time. As an added bonus, e-books are easy to navigate — especially if your class involves jumping around by page number.

Related: Money tips for college-bound students >>

Visit the Library and Share

University libraries keep several copies of common textbooks on hand, free for you to borrow. Since you’ll be competing against your fellow students for a copy, consider checking the book out before the semester begins. 

Be sure to avoid marking or defacing library copies in any way. Since some libraries only allow you to borrow textbooks for a few hours at a time, be prepared to take copious notes.

Similarly, if you have roommates or close friends on campus, see if you can split the cost on a textbook and share it. You’ll have to coordinate your schedule so you can use the textbook at different times, or simply study together. 

Pro tip: This method works best for classes when a textbook is required but you’ll only use certain sections. Trying to snag a copy right before an exam when everyone else is doing the same isn’t a sustainable plan. Check with your professor ahead of time before you gamble on the library.

Sell Your Books Back

Textbooks can be sold back to the bookstore at the end of the semester. However, stores won’t buy damaged goods. To maintain a book’s value, avoid getting it wet, wrinkling and dog-earing the pages, highlighting it excessively and writing too much in the margins.

And watch out – sometimes the prices they’ll offer aren’t exactly the best.

Pro tip: If you visit the bookstore and you aren’t thrilled by how much they’ll give you for your books, look elsewhere. Sell your books back online or make a quick post in your social media group of choice to see if anyone is interested. You won’t be able to charge more than the cost of the book, but you can often make more than what you’d get at the bookstore.

Just remember, before you part with a book, think about if you’ll ever use it again. Depending on your major, some books (like style guides) will be required or at least useful again and again.

More Financial Strategies From Minster Bank

These are a few strategies to help you save your hard-earned money on textbooks. Although some of these tips might take a little effort, why pay more for a book you’ll only need for one semester?

For more tips and strategies on saving money from Minster Bank, visit our blog. It’s full of personal finance tips you can use every day!

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Published by Minster Bank

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