6 Ways to Spend Less When Buying College Textbooks

spend less on college textbooks

Are your kids thinking about whether or not they will attend college soon? If they are a big part of their consideration should be the cost. The cost of college tuition and college textbooks is much more expensive than they were even 5 to 10 years ago, and in fact many people are unaware of just how expensive they are. For example when it comes to college textbooks you could be looking at spending a thousand dollars or more.

Any student that plans to attend college either part-time or full-time will need textbooks. There is no way around it.

Fortunately, there are ways to save money when buying college textbooks.

Let's talk about how a student can spend less on college textbooks:

Buy College Textbooks Online

Some of the textbooks you need for college may be available online. Do some searching and see what you can find before you go to the college bookstore. You can also look for used textbooks online.

Pay attention to the shipping costs though, as books can be quite heavy.

All books have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) code. Do your online searches based on the code instead of the title to ensure that you buy the correct textbooks. A great place to start is on Cash4Books.net.

Borrow College Textbooks

Save money by borrowing college textbooks. A great way to save money on college textbooks is to see if you can get them at the library. You know they will be in good condition and as long as you don't write in them you should be fine.

Even if you can only find a few of the textbooks that you need in the library, you will still save money.

Buy Used Textbooks

Once you have a list of the textbooks you need go to the college bookstore and look in the used books section. Sometimes you can save up 70% by buying used books. Occasionally these books may be in rough shape, but many times they are much like new.

Also, try to find a student that just completed the college program that you are entering and see if you can buy all of their books.

This is a great way to spend less on textbooks.

Buy Older Versions

Older versions of the college textbooks may work well for you. Check the bookstores both online and offline for older versions of the textbooks that you require. This is a great way to save money as people are usually selling them for a discounted price.

Most times the information doesn't change between each version of a textbook, although images may be smaller or larger, which may cause some of the information to be on different pages.

Speak to your college professor to see if there is any issue with you using an older version.

Rent College Textbooks

Consider renting your textbooks. Do some searching online and look for sites that rent college textbooks for less. At the end of the semester you simply return the textbooks. You can begin your search at Chegg.

Check for International Editions of the Textbooks That You Need

Many people do not realize that the price of books will vary from country to country.

Again, take a look online to see if your college textbooks are available in another country for a lower price, even after you factor in the exchange rate and shipping. Begin your search at AbeBooks.com.

By purchasing international versions of your textbooks online you can sometimes save up to 80%. Of course before you buy, make sure the textbooks you are looking at are in the language that you need.

Unfortunately the cost to attend college increases every year. Although you may not be able to save money on the cost of tuition, you can definitely save money on your textbooks by trying some of the above ideas. 


    • Michelle

      Michelle 10/17/2012 7:27 a.m. #

      I always shop online! The bookstores at school were always WAY overpriced.

    • Money Beagle

      Money Beagle 10/17/2012 8:27 a.m. #

      When I went to college (graduated in 1996) the bookstore was about the only way to buy or sell books. Sometimes people tried to post them for sale on the hallway bulletin boards, but I always thought that was more trouble than it was worth, especially since one of the risks there is that you really never knew until the following semester whether it would be the same version and such.

      When I went to grad school in 2000-02, the ability to buy and sell on the internet was just getting into the stage where it was organized enough to make it feasible. I ended up using the bookstore for the most part, mostly out of convenience.

    • John S @ Frugal Rules

      John S @ Frugal Rules 10/17/2012 9:37 a.m. #

      Great tips. My undergrad was in History, so my textbook costs were just crazy. I'd usually find ways to get them online or buy them from someone else selling them on campus.

    • AverageJoe

      AverageJoe 10/17/2012 9:44 a.m. #

      Great ideas! I didn't think about buying online until the last class I took. I ended up getting the same book for HALF what the college bookstore was asking. That's a discount!

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 10/17/2012 12:17 p.m. #

      @Money Beagle - Same for me when I went to college. Bookstores were the only option back then.

      @John S - Thanks! I think the option to shop for them online is great and really wish I could've done that back in the day.

      @AverageJoe - Saving 50% is amazing, especially when you consider that we only use these textbooks for a few months.

    • Holly@ClubThrifty

      Holly@ClubThrifty 10/18/2012 6:14 a.m. #

      Great tips! College textbooks are unbelievably expensive! I think it's somewhat of a scam. I always tried to buy my books used.

    • CanadianBudgetBinder

      CanadianBudgetBinder 10/18/2012 12:08 p.m. #

      Some great tips for College and University students. I used to tell my mates to get used books as they are so much cheaper. I just graduated so I sold almost all my text books for a fraction of the price $250 for $60... hey any money is better than it collecting dust. Cheers Mr.CBB

    • Money Bulldog

      Money Bulldog 10/18/2012 5:30 p.m. #

      It's worth checking Ebay. You might have to settle for an older version but like you say, things don't change all that much!

    • Carla

      Carla 10/18/2012 6:19 p.m. #

      My sis is in University & her textbooks are crazy expensive!! Great tips here! :)

    • Tackling Our Debt

      Tackling Our Debt 10/18/2012 6:33 p.m. #

      @Money Bulldog - Why do I rarely think of eBay for this kinda stuff?? You are so right. That would be such an easy way to sell them when you are done with them.

      @Carla - Thanks for stopping by :-)

    • Leslie Tayne, Esq.

      Leslie Tayne, Esq. 11/15/2012 8:56 a.m. #

      Great topic and suggestions! Many people don't factor in extra expenses, like textbooks, when budgeting for college. Textbooks can be so expensive! There are so many alternatives students can use then paying full price for a textbook-- whether renting or buying elsewhere!

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