Saving Money on Textbooks

As summer winds down, many of us are getting ready to head back to college, or may be starting out as a freshman. Back to school shopping isn’t as exciting as I remember it being when I was a little girl, when my mom bought whatever I needed to get ready for school. Back then, we would buy notebooks, pencils, backpacks, shoes, lunch boxes, and all that other fun stuff. I’ll always remember the popular Lisa Frank folders I loved to handpick for every subject! These days, my big purchase for the start of the school year istextbooks. Buying them is definitely not as fun as picking out the perfect pencil case.
I think everyone will agree with me when I say that the price of textbooks is downright outrageous. My freshman year of college, I spent over $600 on books at the school book store for just the first semester! (By the way, this was one of my first credit card purchases, and it took me way too long to pay the balance off!) Anyway, I spent all of this money my first semester because I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. I just knew that I wanted to be a good student, and I didn’t want to fall behind as a result of not having the right books. I eagerly headed to the bookstore before my classes even began and spent more money than I expected, but I was on my way to being a great student already, right?By the end of that first semester, I realized I had made a huge mistake. I learned that some professors do not ever use the book that their department requires them to use. Some professors will say to buy multiple books for one class, but will neglect to tell you that the books might only be used for a chapter or two. At the end of the semester, I had a book that was still in the plastic wrap that it was in when I bought it. I never used it once, yet had a great grade in the class. I also learned that there were so many alternatives to buying text books, and once I utilized them, I saved so much money! Here is my advice for saving money on text books:

  • Check your school’s library. There might be a copy or two of the book you need there. Sometimes you are able to rent the book for a period of time, but some schools have different rules for taking out books. If you can’t leave the library with a particular book, just use it when you are at the library. Often, you will be doing homework and studying there anyway – especially if you’re living in the dorms.
  • Try sharing a book with a friend who is in your class. My friend and I once shared a calculus book that we couldn’t find a good deal on. We split the big cost of one book, and divided time during the week with it. It was a little inconvenient at times, but it saved me more than $100 so it was worth it to me. It was also a good reason to make myself study with a friend and not procrastinate on doing homework because he was waiting to use the book.
  • Rent the book on websites like, , or even . Your rental period will be as long as the semester, and it is so much cheaper than buying the book. I found a few incentives for renting besides the lower price. You won’t have to worry about selling your book at the end of the semester for a fraction of what you paid. You also won’t have it sitting around taking up space once you’re done with it. And, sometimes, the person who had it will highlight sections of the book and make notes, which was great when I was in a rush to read or get work done.
  • Make sure you actually need the book to succeed in the class. On the first day of class, professors usually go over the syllabus and will mention the book they use at some point. I have been in many classes with professors that will encourage students to buy an older edition of the book. Sometimes it is missing a chapter or has a few small changes, but it will be much cheaper than the latest edition. Professors are usually happy to help their students find a way to save money on their books!
  • Before I picked electives, I checked out the textbooks listed for the class. I once picked an early childhood education class just to fill my schedule, but dropped in once I saw that the book cost almost $400. I found a better class with a cheaper book.

It pays to shop around when purchasing textbooks, just like when we shop for clothes, food, and anything else we buy. Doing a little research can save you some serious cash on textbooks, to make sure you don’t just run to the bookstore and buy every book without trying the alternatives first!


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