Best Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

Best Ways to Save Money on College Textbooks

It’s that time of year again. The kids are getting ready to head back to college and you’re crunching numbers. Not only are tuition costs completely out of control, but textbook costs are more expensive than ever.

Each year, I take the time to shop around for used books and typically save at least 25%. Some years, I do better than other years. For example, I saved about $85 on my youngest daughter’s books this year. I had to buy one book new because of access codes and could only find it through her school bookstore at the tune of $140.  Yep, you read that right. $140 for one electronic book. Craziness. I think I’m writing the wrong type of books.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tips for saving money on textbooks.

Tips to Save Money on College Textbooks

I take some very specific steps to save money on college textbooks.

  1. I start by visiting the school website. I start an Excel sheet that lists the class and then the books required for that class. I also include the following info: ISBN, book title, edition, author, cost used and cost to rent from the school’s bookstore.
  2. I then go to sites like and Amazon and I punch in the ISBN and do a comparison. At this point, I really don’t want to rent from anyone other than the school unless tKhe savings is amazing. I’ve been swindled too many times on this. I will rent from Amazon because their process is clear cut.
  3. I don’t always just go with the cheapest price. You have to be careful. Make sure it is the right edition. If there are access codes, you’re better off buying from the school or new.
  4. I then compare total price, including shipping, with the price I can get it from the school for. Sometimes, if a novel for a lit class is inexpensive, it is actually cheaper to get from the school and pick up there because you save shipping. If I can save at least $2 with shipping and everything, I order elsewhere. It’s easier to have the books shipped to your home instead of making the kiddos pick them up anyway.
  5. Sell your old textbooks. I list mine on Amazon. I get the best prices there. Just make sure you ship them out right away and that you’re honest about condition (note highlighting, wear and tear, etc.) and you’ll get good feedback.

Some schools offer the option to purchase electronic copies. Unfortunately, the prices on those aren’t usually much better than the print copies. My kids like print copies better for studying, evening though they have tablets and Kindles.