How to Actually Save Money on College Textbooks

Aug 14, 2020 | How To Save Money, Shopping Tips

The average college student can spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks alone every school year. We're here to break that expensive cycle! Here are the best ways to save money on college textbooks — and even possibly get some for free!

college student studying in the library, from Fun Cheap or Free

You just dropped money on tuition, housing, and fees, and now it's time to settle in and get ready for the school year! But wait — now there's even more money to be spent on books?! Ugh, what's a college student to do??

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Don't worry, we've got yo' back(pack)! We've tracked down all of the best ways to save money on college textbooks. And — hang onto to your hat — you can even score free college textbooks?! *Gasp* Get ready to party because you're gonna want to celebrate!


It really is possible to save some major buckaroos on those crazy-overpriced college textbooks! All it takes is a little work on your part to find the best deals. Remember the FACTs of saving? Always always try to find what you need for less money. Usually, you will! Try out the following ways to save money on college textbooks.


a group of college students studying together, from Fun Cheap or Free

Sometimes you just can't get away with finding your required textbook online as a free perk of signing up for the class. Here are some ways to save some dough on your next textbook:

  • Buy a Previous Edition – A textbook can be updated and revised multiple times after it's been published. Ask your professor if you can use a previous edition that would be cheaper than buying the latest and greatest. They should specify which previous edition you can go back to that will still be acceptable to use for the class. This will save you some money because the older editions will be cheaper than the newer ones.
  • DON'T Buy From the Campus Bookstore – This is definitely one of the biggest ways to save money on college textbooks! Those campus bookstores can benefit you in only one way – convenience. Don't pay for the convenience!
  • Split the Cost and Share – Have a friend or roommate who's taking the same class as you? Split the cost of the book with them and share it! Now, this could get tricky… You'll probably want to come up with a schedule for who has the book when. But then you can get together to study when you swap it out. Everybody needs a study buddy!
  • Buy the eBook Version – Unless you absolutely just have to have the physical book in hand, go for the eBook version! It'll be a lot cheaper. You'll be able to pull it up on your phone, tablet, or computer to read it. Plus, you can still highlight and take notes, but you don't have to worry about carrying around any heavy books. Your back will thank you later. 😉


  • Compare Prices Online – Instead of buying from the expensive bookstores, look around online to see where you can find your books the cheapest. Amazon is always a good place to start, and they offer a cheaper Prime Student membership that gets you all the benefits of Prime without the expensive price tag. BUT don't limit your search to there!
  • Find Out Which Books Are Actually Required – Sometimes a professor will add both required and optional textbooks to the class syllabus, but they may not necessarily specify between the two. Rather than purchasing them blindly, figure out which books are required and only buy those. You can always buy the optional books later if you think they would be beneficial. But let's be honest, you can usually get any additional help that you may need on the good ‘ole interwebs!
  • Check Your Financial Aid – Sometimes your financial aid scholarships and grants will actually cover the cost of textbooks! Check with your financial aid officer and see if they can help you figure out how to do this. Usually, tuition (and board, if you're living on campus) has to be paid in full, then they would allow any extra money to go towards books.


girl taking notes from a textbook, from Fun Cheap or Free

None of those other options work for you? That's okay! There are other ways to score textbooks that won't cost you all of your pizza budget:

  • Buy Used – Don't ever be told that you have to buy a new copy of a book! Used is the way to go and the name of the game in getting cheaper textbooks. Most books will be in really good condition after only a semester of use! If you don't like books with a lot of added highlighting and writing inside, thumb through the book before you buy.
  • Look on Facebook Marketplace – This is a great place to turn if you're hoping to find a used copy of a textbook! Facebook Marketplace makes it so easy to buy and sell textbooks, so keep that in mind when the semester ends and you won't need your book again! You can then take the money you make on selling books to buy other books you need for the semester.
  • Rent It – Yes, this is a thing! There are lots of websites that offer college textbook rentals, including Amazon. There may also be bookstores in town that will rent out books, so be sure to check those out as well. Most places will also give you the option to buy the book at the end of the semester if you decide you want to keep it.

Amazed at all of your options? Never again put all of your hopes and dreams in the hands of the campus bookstore! Save your dough and live your best college life. But you might not even have to pay for those books…


Whaaaaattttt??? Yes, it's possible to find free college textbooks! Just think of all the money you could put toward savings or paying off other debts if you were able to find even just a few books for free, if not all.

  • Use the Library – Check out your campus library to see if you can check out your textbook. Ask how long you can check out books for and how many times you can renew. If nothing else, you can always take pictures (or make copies) of each page to read when you get to that section. It may not be ideal, but it's totally worth it when money is tight!
  • Look Online – Once again, the internet is king when it comes to finding things you need! There are quite a few websites out there devoted to getting textbooks to college students for free in a legal manner. Check them out to see if you can find the books you need.
  • Book Swap – Do you have friends or know other people in your major who have taken the same courses as you? Trade books that you've bought and no longer need for books they no longer need. This is a great way to meet new people, make new friends, and get free college textbooks!

Whew, well there you have it! All the best ways to save money on college textbooks that your budget will thank you for. Do you have any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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Want more great money-saving ideas?

Now, go get yourself some good deals!


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