Save Money on College Textbooks With These Hacks

Buying textbooks is the worst. Seriously, it even beats out dealing with awful roommates and sharing a bathroom. You shell out hundreds of dollars only to realize you have five books that weigh about 50 pounds each, and that you have to carry around all at the same time. But alas, as much as the process sucks, buying textbooks is a necessary evil in college.

I've been buying my textbooks since my freshman year of high school, (since textbooks weren't included in my private school tuition), so I've become a bit of a pro at saving. It only took me one year of getting swindled out of unnecessary money to know that there are plenty of ways to buy your books that don't involve the campus bookstore. Now don't get me wrong, college bookstores are great — they're conveniently located on campus, they make all your books are easy to find, and sometimes, they'll even find them all for you. The bad part about campus bookstores? They're totally overpriced.

Saving money will take a little extra digging on your part, so we've broken down the best ways to save money so you can spend less buying books and more on groceries (read: ramen and alcohol).

Use the Internet

Duh. You buy regular books on the Internet, so why stop there? Amazon, Half, and AbeBooks are great for cheap textbooks. All you need to know is the ISBN number (you can find that on Amazon) and the site does the rest of the work for you. Most of the books will be used, but they're typically in good condition and might even have all the important things already highlighted for you (score!). The only books these websites probably won't have are the editions written specifically for your school or class, and in that case, you're SOL and have to pay full price.

Buy an Older Edition

Textbooks are constantly being updated to new editions solely to rob us of our money. (And to update old information, but, um ... that's beside the point.) The changes are often so minute in new editions that professors will allow you to purchase an older one, if you just ask. Older editions are always sold cheaper than new ones, even in bookstores.

Before you go ahead and track down the original copy of the book from your grandma, check with your professor to make sure using an older edition is okay. If they allow it, they will probably give you a limit as to how far back you can go. But any little bit of savings helps.

Rent the Book

Your bookstore probably has the option of renting a textbook. If they don't, websites like Chegg are dedicated to this sort of thing. It might sound like a weird concept, but it's a great way to save money. Rented books are sold at a discounted price and are leased for the semester and then returned when the semester ends. Easy.

Buy Directly From a Student

The best place to get a cheap book is to ask someone who already has it. Many students don't bother selling books back to the bookstore because they know they'll make a total of five bucks. They will sell it to other students at a discounted price though — a great arrangement for both parties.

If you don't know anyone who's been in the class before, take to Facebook or your university's portal. Many portals have a "Classifieds" section for students to sell things, so check there first to see if anyone is selling your book. If not, be the annoying kid on Facebook making multiple statuses about all the things you would do just to get that Philosophy 101 book. Eventually, you'll get a response saying "I don't need you to do any of that stuff you said, but I can give you the book for cheap." And there's another win for the wallet.


Sharing is caring ... and a major money saver. Now, I don't suggest sharing with someone in the same exact class section as you. That could lead to possession issues and a major problem on open-book tests. But if you're in a course that has multiple sections that all use the same book, consider sharing with someone in a different section. This way, you can split the cost of the book. Just make sure you create a schedule with the other person so you always have the book when you need it. (Bonus points if it's that cute guy you've been meaning to get to know.)