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5 Quick Tips to Save Money on Textbooks

Updated on September 10, 2016

Prices for college textbooks can be down right ridiculous, especially since they are a required purchase. However, there are a handful of tricks to avoiding the MSRP and even the bookstore altogether.

1. Don't Buy. Rent!

First and foremost, the best choice is to rent your required textbooks each quarter/semester. This way, you don't get stuck with a huge, unwanted library of books that you'll never open again. Also, the option of renting is usually significantly cheaper. Sometimes buying a used book is even cheaper so keep that in mind but most of the time, renting is the way to go. Obviously, your on-campus bookstore can offer your books as rentals but they aren't always cheapest which leads us to tip number two.

2. Compare Sites

The cheapest place to get textbooks tends to be internet rental sites. There are many sites that offer used textbooks and textbook rentals and the prices often vary. Of course, checking every site for the best deal is a pain which is why I highly recommend you use slugbooks. This online tool compares every site on one simple page. Just enter the ISBN provided by your required textbook list and presto! An easy to read comparison of your textbook's prices.

Unfortunately, sometimes you will get hit with the dreaded "access code bundle" requirement. This is where you are required to purchase the book and a special access code for online features that can only be used once and therefore can't be rented or resold. Fear not though as all hope is not lost!

An example of a search on slugbooks
An example of a search on slugbooks

3. Ask Your Professor

I've come to realize that just because the access code is listed as required, doesn't mean the professor plans on using it. When you check your book list and find a bundle on there, email your professor and ask if the access code will be used for graded work. If not, you can rent the book without the access code and save a fortune. Sometimes though, the required book is a special custom edition, written by the professor himself, or not available for rent anywhere! Even these have workarounds.

4. Buy From The Last Class

Custom editions and professor written textbooks are the bane of a broke student's existence. However, to combat the cost, try to find students that have already taken the class the semester before and buy their book off them. This works most of the time and the added bonus is that you can sell the book to a student about to take the class the semester after you!

A note about custom editions: Sometimes these are simply abridged versions of the original textbook. Look at the book sitting on the bookstore shelf and if its just an abridged version, simply rent the full, original edition and only read the parts discussed... or just don't read the book at all. That seems to work for the typical student.

5. Reselling Your Investment

When all else fails and you have no other option than to buy a new book, look into selling it after the semester/quarter is over. Try listing it on amazon or ebay or take it to the bookstore and see if they have a buyback program. You won't get back the money you spent in full but at least it will alleviate the total amount spent in the long run.

Popular Rental Site Comparisons

Rental Site
Account Requirement
Simple and easy
No free shipping option
Offers deals upfront
free shipping harder to obtain
Campus Book Rentals
Lately been cheapest
Customer service quality varies
Amazon Rentals
Amazon Prime/Gift cards
Price varies based on location
These are the most popular sites. Bookrenter is not included as they have been teaming up with Chegg lately making the two basically the same.

Bonus Tip: E-Books

Nowadays, if you have a tablet or Kindle or laptop, you can find the textbook you need in a digital version. If you don't need the physical book for your study style, see if a digital version is offered as the price can be much cheaper. Plus, you won't have to carry your books around!

Hopefully, these few tips will help all you college students save your few precious dollars for more important things and not have to shell out your life savings every time the next book list gets posted.

© 2016 Josiah Forsett


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