How to Save Gobs of Money on Textbooks


As a financial educator, one of my top goals is to help you save money. And saving money on the costly road to earning a college degree is something we all can use. Am I right? For those newly starting, as well as those returning to college, the Spring semester is upon us. And besides tuition costs, textbooks are one of the other big costs that students encounter. When I was a student (I graduated in 2016), I used a few strategies to save HUNDREDS on textbooks.

Way before the start of each semester, I’d log on to my school’s course site to see the required texts for my upcoming classes. After gathering ISBN numbers, I’d search for free/best deals in the following order:

Check the local library

On more than one occasion, I borrowed a costly textbook for FREE from the library for an entire semester. I once took an Art class and was able to renew the book several times throughout the entire semester with no problem. For a Latin American history class, I also borrowed a book. With this one, I was unable to renew it for the duration of the whole semester because someone put a hold on it. However, I kept it a bit longer, and opted to pay the late fees (making sure to review the assigned chapters ahead of schedule). With late fees ranging anywhere from 10 cents to 25 cents per day at libraries, even if a book is late by up to 9 weeks you can still pay FAR LESS than it  would cost to buy the same book new or used (compare costs to figure out if it’s worth it to pay the late fees).

Check the school bulletin board

Although I didn’t end up buying any books this way, I occasionally saw books being sold by other students on the bulletin board (physical or digital). So this could be a worthwhile option, if available.

Search sites for used books

My top choice for used books was always Amazon (where I’d also compare the new price). Chegg and are a couple of other textbooks sites (I’ve never used either). You can do a Google search to find other sites. With used textbooks, I always preferred clean unwritten-in ones and often found ‘like new’ books at huge discounts on Amazon. However, if a book was still really expensive despite being used, I occasionally bought a worn book regardless. For elective classes, this is a good way to go since you won’t need the book once the semester ends.

Search sites for rentals

Sometimes books actually cost less to rent versus buying them new OR used. So I would rent the book. Again, Amazon was my favorite choice (Prime delivery is super-fast and students also get a free trial and a discount for Prime membership). It was always a great feeling shipping the book back after using it for my course and paying just one low fee.

A final tip...

If you do end up spending way more than desired on a textbook that you bought, Amazon and other sites do offer a buy-back program. In some cases I sold back books. Even though I only got back a fraction of my original purchase price, it was still worthwhile getting back some of my investment for a book that I no longer needed.

What about you? How have you or someone you know saved money on textbooks? Kindly share the love and the knowledge by leaving a comment.  

About Yolanda Ransom

Yolanda Ransom is a financial educator, speaker and workshop trainer who teaches clients to confidently master their money so that they can achieve all of their financial dreams. She is the CEO of Yolanda Ransom Consulting and provides transformational financial literacy training. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and at her website