College Advice: How to Save Money on Your Textbooks

For the first time in my life I felt as if I was going to faint.

I did a double-take at my checkout total and sure enough….$350 on textbooks?!

Being an avid bookworm in possession of a mini-library for a bedroom, books have always been a big part of my life.

But come on! $350?! For four books?! I did the math, (which I shouldn’t have) and realized that I was basically handing over the results of more than two weeks of working at my part time job.

I was not down with the prospect of repeating this money draining cycle every semester/quarter of my college career. Something had to change!

If you have yet to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks that you’re going to have to begrudgingly read then there’s still hope for you! It took me a couple of semesters before I finally stumbled across the best money-saving options.

In-Store Saving Options

  1. Get USED books. Often times there will be two stacks of books on the shelf, the brand new books and the used books. The used books are WAY cheaper, as long as you find a used book in semi-good condition, you can still sell it back to the book store at the end of the year.
  2. Rent books.  Some student book stores give you the option to rent your books. The rent price will definitely be lower than the price of purchase but if you’re renting you’ll need to make an extra effort to take care of your book.
  3. Sell your books back to the student store. The only problem with this option is that your book isn’t guaranteed to be purchased back. Sometimes the professors teaching the course you’re in are switching textbooks. In this case, hold on to your textbooks and try to sell it back another semester/quarter.

On Campus Options

  1. Library Reserve. Sometimes your professor will leave one or two copies of the required textbooks on reserve in the library. If they do, you have the option of getting your reading done in the library for free. The only difficulty with this option is that there’s a chance that your classmates are also attempting to get their reading done for free. Textbooks on reserve are definitely an option but I wouldn’t bank on it.

Online Options

  1. is a website where you can rent your books for cheap. I get all of my books from because not only is it cheap but the books come within two days and the shipping is free. At the end of the semester you print out a pre-paid shipping label and drop it off at UPS.
  2. is pretty self-explanatory; you can order your books for basically half the price of what you can get it for at your school bookstore.
  3. Sometimes even if a website is offering the required textbook for cheaper than the retail price at your student store, it’s still too expensive for comfort. Most professors require the most recent edition of a textbook for their class. Say the required textbook is an 8th edition, look and see if the 6th or 7th edition is being offered for a significantly cheaper price. Most editions aren’t drastically different so for the most part you should be safe with a little older edition.


  1. Talk to your friends who have already taken the class. If you know someone who has already taken the course, see if they still have the book. They’ll probably let you buy it for cheap.
  2. Share. See if any of your friends are planning on taking the same class as you are, if so, chip in and buy the book together. You can set up a reading schedule and take turns with the book; this is also an incentive to study more often.

Believe me, there are so many cheaper options out there for you. College is a wallet drainer already and classes are stressful enough without having to worry about spending hundreds of dollars on textbooks. Try out some of these options and find out which one you like the best.

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Bryanna Maty

Bryanna Maty

Bryanna Maty is a Senior at the University of California, Davis. After graduating in June she hopes to find or invent a career that will utilize her love for writing, spending money and making people laugh. In her spare time you can find her crafting things off of Pinterest, swimming, line-dancing or watching re-runs of “Friends.”