How to Save Money on College Textbooks

Going to college is not cheap. It’s not easy to pay almost $40,000 per year in tuition, and that may not even include room and board. If you’re going to one of these schools—and even if you’re not—it’s important to do what you can to save some money (college students are known as one of the poorest groups of people, so you’ll figure this out pretty quickly).

One of the ways that you can save a significant amount of cash is through being smart about buying textbooks.

Are Textbooks Necessary?

Almost every class you take will require that you have at least one textbook.

Some classes, like literature, philosophy, theology, and other social science classes may require several textbooks (it’s certainly not unheard of to have six or eight books for an English class). And even if those are small, less expensive books, it can still add up quickly.

Depending on your major and your semester schedule, you may find yourself paying several hundred dollars just for books for a semester.

Buy Used

One of the best things you can do to save some money on books is to buy used. Used textbooks are a whole lot cheaper than new ones, and are almost always in very good shape (students know that if they’re really hard on their textbooks, they’re less likely to be able to sell them).

Your campus bookstore is a great place to start looking for used books. While they might not be as cheap as you can find them on Amazon, Craiglist, or Facebook, they’ll definitely be cheaper than new.

Another benefit to going through your bookstore is that if you wait until the last minute (which you would never do, right?), you won’t have to wait for your book to ship.

When buying used textbooks, it’s important to start early. The sooner you can buy your books, the better price you’ll be able to find.

Sell Used

Selling your used textbooks can also help defer some of the cost. Almost all campus bookstores buy used textbooks—the only disadvantage to this is that you probably won’t get much. It’s better than nothing, but not by much. Again, the advantage of this is that it’s quick.

  • If you really need to get some cash, sell some of your books back (and try to do it soon, before the store stops buying back the books that you have).
  • If you have some more time and you’re willing to put in a little more effort, trying selling your books online or to friends that are saying the same classes.


The strategy that takes the most effort—but may result in the most savings—is trading textbooks.

Use Facebook or a campus resource to set up a book-trading system. If you have a book that someone else needs and they have a book that you need, just switch, and you’ll both save a lot of money. The books may not be worth the same amount, but that’s alright—you’re still saving a lot.

If there’s not a good place for you to do this on campus, help everyone out and see if you can work with a student group to get a program started.


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