Money-Saving Tips & Recommendations

Five Ways to Save Big Money on College Textbooks


Five Ways to Save Big Money on College Textbooks


Its back to school time and it seems like you’re blowing your entire budget on single-use books.

Fact: Students are spending up to $600 a year on books at community colleges, $900 a year at the state level, and well into the $1300 dollar range at some private schools, med school, and other upper echelon education facilities.

That’s a lot of money! Even if it is dad’s money…he would appreciate it so much if you could save him up to 60% on expensive college textbooks every single year, year after year.

The are many alternatives to standing in line at the university bookstore and racking up a huge bill for brand new textbooks. Right now we’ll show you five ways you can save big money every semester on books that you buy for school.

1. Don’t go “print,” go “printable.”

Yes, you read it right. Printable textbooks are becoming as mainstream as that dreaded math class. Imagine being able to download a textbook (the entire book) or only the portion you need, like a single chapter, and pay just for the chapter(s) you need.

Buying a single chapter or multiple chapters electronically can save you literally hundreds of dollars a year, and you’re not limited to reading it on your computer. Downloaded textbooks and chapters are printable documents that make them easy to use wherever you may be. And should you ever need to re-access the information, you have a saved, printed version. Now you won’t have to waste time on Facebook or texting friends asking to borrow their books!

[Tip: Visit CengageBrain, CourseSmart, and for a large selection of printable textbooks.]

2. Be a Renter, Not a Buyer.

You’ll never “own” the information in a book, so why “own” the book? Instead keep the information tucked safely away in your brain where it should be and save money on textbooks by renting books by the month, project, semester, or longer.

Similar to downloading ebooks, renting college textbooks saves you money and you get the book you need as a less expensive alternative to new textbooks.

Renting is a lot like buying used textbooks. The books arrive in good condition, are usable, have all their pages and you save money. However with renting college textbooks you’re only paying for the time you need, then you return the book.

If you decide to rent college textbooks you’ll save yourself about 70% over buying the same books in brand new condition. This means you can actually rent more books than you budgeted for such as alternative readings, unexpected lab books, etc.

The other benefit to renting is that you’re not sacrificing a tree to earn an “A” in Micro-Fungal Theory, so your personal “carbon footprint” is reduced, making for a happier planet.

[Tip: Two popular online providers of rental textbooks are Chegg and Campus Book Rentals.]

3. Buying Used – Now a Much Cheaper and Safer Option

Yes, in bygone years there were real life horror stories about buying used books, but those days are mostly long gone. Used books purchased from reputable outlets are checked and rechecked for usability and completeness. Many of the used books you can purchase online are often in almost new condition and are considerably less expensive than new books.

How much can you save buying used college textbooks? One college student we asked said they will spend only $100 dollars on their books this year! For some of you that represents a 90% savings on your book purchases. Imagine what you can do with an extra $900?

There are quite a few Internet used bookstores and their selections vary. Some try to stock a broad selection of used books while others specialize in specific study, topics, or majors. A little online research for “used college textbooks” will help you find good values that have been “certified” as being in good condition.

One such outlet we hear a lot about is Well known for its book variety, Amazon also has a gigantic used book market where book owners can sell their used college textbooks online for big discounts. Sellers are rated by buyers about the purchase, shipping, condition of the products, and overall experience, so you will not be “flying blind” when purchasing books. There are thousands and thousands of college textbook titles available and there’s a good chance you’ll find the one you need. If you happen to get a “dud” in the mail you should alert the seller and other buyers to help prevent buying textbooks in poor condition.

There are also considerable resale advantages to used books that we’ll talk about in just a little bit.

[Tip: Visit our Used Books and Textbooks shopping categories for a variety of related options.]

4. Local Alternatives for a Fast Purchase

If you’re in a college town there is one thing that is a fact of life, Craigslist. Craigslist is not only good for pawning your car or mp3 player, it’s also a great place to locate and barter with other local students for the exact book(s) you need.

The two big advantages to using Craigslist is that you can have fast access to the books you want because most sellers are right in your neighborhood. Meeting up with someone on campus or at the local cafe is an easy, safe way to do a quick exchange.

The other advantage is you can see for yourself the condition of the book and decide if it’s worth the asking price. Bartering, or making deals with the seller is often the norm with Craigslisters, so you may be able to strike a killer, money saving book deal in your favor.

5. Buy Low, Sell High

There are confirmed stories of college students buying textbooks that have then turned around and sold them for a profit at the end of a semester, which of course brings your purchase price down to ZERO.

Being a savvy shopper is one thing, being a shrewd seller though can put extra needed cash in your pocket and create bigger savings than you originally anticipated.

So, where do you go to sell a textbook? There are many online textbook retailers that will purchase your used books from you for a fraction of what you paid for it. Not a bad way to go, but you can do better if you look.

Craigslist is the fast way to sell a book if you need cash today. Meeting with buyers is a snap if they are in your college town and you’ll get money in-hand. Sweet and easy!

Another way to sell the book yourself and make a bigger profit is through Selling books on Amazon is easy to do, and there are plenty of buyers looking for books year round. You set your the price you need and wait for the book to sell. Money can be deposited to your bank account or as a credit on Amazon. Again, it’s a fast, safe way to make a buck off your used books and earn back your hard-earned dollar.

With (very) little effort you can save money on college textbooks, sometimes as much as 90%. With ebooks, downloadable books, printable books, used college textbooks, and textbooks you can rent, the options are plentiful and so will be the extra money in your pocket.

This post was last updated on July 20, 2023.

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