5 Strategies to Save on College Textbooks

By Nayra Mendoza on January 15, 2017

It doesn’t require much time or energy to save on college textbooks. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to save money so I will be monitoring how often I go out, shop less, and spend less on books this semester.

Albeit my final semester will be consisting of only two classes, I have had all the practice on how to get cheap deals on books. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks this semester — or ever.


The LAST thing you want to do, unless you absolutely have to, is to buy a brand-new edition of a textbook that you will probably never find a use for later. As a point of reference, I wish I hadn’t been such an overly enthusiastic freshman and gone straight to my university’s bookstore for my textbooks. I don’t particularly agree that you can find the best deals there.

Avoid a deep hole in your bank account by doing a bit of calculating – ew, math, eh, whatever. Here are five great strategies to help you save on college textbooks:

Be ready to lose.


And by that, I simply mean “plan ahead.” While this is not the best strategy for obvious reasons, I have a strong reason to believe you will freak out less if you project a higher risk compared to unexpectedly hitting triple digits at checkout. As someone that likes to plan ahead, overestimating how much buying books will cost is a great way to avoid ending up short.

If I set a budget of $300 for book expenses, the total of my books may be $200. In essence, I saved $100. (Disclaimer: I use a lot of reverse psychology in my life to reason with my choices and make decisions. This may not help, or ease, everyone.)

Get your books after your first day.

I understand that some professors are harsh on you from the get-go and expect you to have your books on the first day of class. However, most first days are for professors to explicitly explain their rules and expectations to dismiss the “I didn’t know” excuse later. Every semester, I’ve always had at least one professor say “Actually, we won’t be using that book. Just get this one instead.”

While my classmates are quietly grumbling about how they already ordered their books and will now have to return and replace them, I am subtly ordering the correct book on my laptop as my professor keeps talking about the syllabus.

Share with a classmate.

If you can find a classmate that is willing to split the cost of a textbook with you, I recommend this strategy as an alternative to paying full price for a certain expensive book. It also helps if said classmate is willing to learn as much as you are. You’re discussing ideas about your readings so learning the material is easier to do.

I have probably learned the most about my classes by sharing a book with a friend. Ergo, I have also made many great friends by suggesting this idea to the stranger sitting next to me on the first day, so …


Rent before you buy.

The option to borrow a book for a certain time for a lower price has saved my life time and time again since I started college. I can truly say I have saved a great amount of money every semester for the past four years by renting my books from this site. I highly recommend Uloop’s price-checking perk that tracks seller sites Chegg and Amazon to find the best deals.

Compared to purchasing the book, renting could help you save up to 90% off! You can find pretty much any book your professor requests by searching through the database, you’re allowed to highlight, and then return them when you’re done. You can also buy the book if you choose to keep it later. PLUS a 3-week satisfaction guarantee (2 weeks for e-books)!? Amazing.



Amazon has loads of sellers that are ready to sell an old textbook for a cheap price so long as they get rid of it. While the condition of the book is not guaranteed, I have never bought a book from Amazon in horrendous condition. I’d say the reward (saving money) is greater than the risk (getting a so-overused-it-is-now-illegible textbook).

Buy the e-book.

I own multiple devices and use apps that allow me to access a book on a screen instead of hauling a 6-pound textbook, or several, around for the day. For someone that has had four classes in one day, I appreciate my Kindle a lot more now. E-books on Amazon are generally cheaper than the physical book, and with Amazon Student, I get even better deals sometimes.

PDFs can be accessed as well. Instead of printing out 20 pages of an article your professor suggested as homework, you could open it on your phone or laptop. You’d be using less paper, making this the most environmentally-friendly strategy to save on your textbooks, too. Let’s easily save trees, people.


There are lots of ways to save money on textbooks. I’m sure there are sites on the world wide web that have full books for free download. I believe there is some copyright infringement there …? But, hey. To each their own.

Feel free to send me your tips on how to save on college textbooks by Tweeting me, @nayraymendoza, or by simply commenting below. (I promise I read them.)

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