This is the time of year when things get real for college students (and parents). Tuition is due, registration for classes is quickly approaching, and the book buying process will soon begin. With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 6 hacks to save money on college textbooks that will have you fully prepared to get the books you need at a price that fits better into your budget.

1. Check with your professor

This is by far the most recommended tip for saving money on college textbooks and with good reason. Speaking with your professor before purchasing could save you some serious coins. Sometimes professors will include a book in the syllabus but you may only use it once or twice throughout the course or it may just be used as a point of reference for other study materials. Here are a couple of the questions you may want to ask:

  • Is this book going to be a major part of my success in this course?
  • Is there an earlier version that may be just as effective which you recommend?
  • Is there a PDF version that I could access?
  • Do you have any extra copies that you loan out to students?

If you have a professor who is adamant about sticking to the exact list of books on the syllabus consider speaking with other students who have recently taken the course to get an idea of the level of need for the course materials.

2. Check with friends and other students who have recently taken the course

Speaking of past students, another money saving hack would be to talk to other students who have recently taken the course. They may still have their book. Ask if you can buy their copy at a bargain rate. Everyone wins, they will appreciate the extra cash and avoiding the hassle of shipping it to an online seller .And of course you will appreciate the money you save.


3. Rent your books

There are several companies that allow you to rent textbooks for a certain amount of time including Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and This is a great alternative to purchasing them at the full price because you’re able to rent the books during a specific timeframe at a fraction of the cost. These companies also offer free shipping both ways which is another money saving hack. Just remember that with this option there are limitations. For example, highlighting and writing notes in the textbook may be prohibited. If you absolutely need to write a lot inside of your book you may want to consider purchasing a used copy. It’s still cheaper than paying full price, but at least you have the option to do what you want with the textbook.

4. Visit the library

Check with your campus or local library to see if there’s a copy available. Sometimes they have an older edition or just a reference copy (meaning you can’t check it out), but if you can get your hands on free course materials that’s a plus. The only drawback with this option is that you have to keep renewing the material and you can’t write in the text. But, did I mention that this is a free option?! I think that’s worth the hassle!

5. Look for a PDF version online

This option doesn’t necessarily work for new textbooks, but classics are often easy to find online. Once you have a better understanding of what sections of the text are required for your studies , you can print out these sections only. Try searching the title of the book and entering PDF after it. I have found several free PDFs online using this strategy.

6. Shop around

If the above options don’t work and you’re forced to buy a new copy or another version of the textbook, shop around. While is may be convenient avoid purchasing the book from the campus bookstore at all costs because it is usually the most expensive option. Take advantage of comparison sites such as Textsurf and Bigwords.

While textbooks are an investment in your education, be mindful of how much you’re spending. Remember:

Refund checks and book advances aren’t free money, they’re loans against your future. Click To Tweet

Hang onto your receipts because certain college expenses are tax deductible. If you plan on using student loans to cover your various student expenses or if you have any questions, be sure to check out our FREE Ultimate Student Loan Guide.




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Created by nationally recognized millennial money expert Tonya Rapley, My Fab Finance is a leading financial education and lifestyle blog for millennials who want to become financially free and do more of what they love.