How to Save Money on College Textbooks

Posted by Nailah Herbert in CollegeJuly 22, 2022(Last Updated July 29, 2022)5 min read
Key Takeaways
  • With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, many students will be looking to acquire their course materials from the campus bookstore.
  • Studies show that college students spent an average of $415 during the 2018-2019 school year, and this number continues to increase.
  • Below are eight different ways to save money on your college textbooks.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

With the beginning of the school year right around the corner, many students will be looking to acquire their course materials from the campus bookstore. On average, college students spent $415 during the 2018-2019 school year. However, as textbook costs have increased over the past couple of years, purchasing textbooks from the college bookstore doesn’t have to be your only option. Below are eight ways a college student can save money on textbooks for the upcoming school year. 

1. Use the Campus Library 


Most times, your college library will have your textbook on reserve. A reserved book will be removed from regular borrowing so that students can read it in the library for short periods (usually 3 hours at a time). Reserving your textbook is a good option because it’s free.

If the book you need is unavailable at the library, you can request that the library buy it and place it on reserve. 


A book on reserve is helpful only if a few class members use this option. If too many students request a reserved textbook, then it could lead to you without access when you need it. Also, you are limited to using the textbook during library hours. Therefore, this option is practical if you wish to read excerpts of the book at one time. 


2. Rent 

Another common technique many students use is textbook rentals. You can save up to 50% if you rent rather than buy a new book. Most students spend around $415 on textbooks. So saving half of that is around $200, which can be a decent amount of money, especially for a student.

However, with renting a textbook, there are a couple of things to remember. Firstly, to avoid fees at the end of the rental, you must keep the book in decent condition. Also, if you lose it or fail to return it by the date you agreed, you could be charged the full price of the textbook and additional fees. 


Therefore, if you think you may be unable to keep the textbook in the same condition you got it, then this option may not be for you. 


Recommended Read: Ten Financial Habits Every College Student Should Practice

3. Split the Cost with a Friend

If you and a friend are taking the same course, which requires you to purchase the textbook, then one possible solution is to split the cost of the textbook between the two of you. Whether you decide to purchase or rent the textbook, this method will reduce the money spent on textbooks for both of you. 

However, one significant con to this strategy is that you may not have enough time to review the course material before the class sessions if your friend decides to keep the textbook for more extended periods than agreed upon, gaining access to the necessary material before class can become difficult. 


Consequently, this method requires tons of discipline and means you must stick to a strict schedule for sharing the book. As a result, be sure you know that you and your classmates can fully commit to splitting the cost and the hours of sharing the textbook.

4. Buy Used 


Buying a used textbook can potentially save a college student hundreds of dollars. Upper-level students who have previously taken the course can be a great resource, and you can potentially purchase a textbook from them. In addition, as they may be trying to get rid of books quickly, they will be looking to sell at a lower price, benefiting first- and second-year students. 


used textbook

Image Credit: Elisabeth Lulov /


Amazon and Chegg are two of the most common websites that sell used textbooks online. However, Chegg has recently branched out to create Chegg Study, which provides homework help. As grades are an important aspect of post-secondary education, having access to homework help will make it easier for you to understand course concepts and perform better on assessments.


5. Discounted Websites


Sometimes, professors will provide a link to a website where you can purchase the required textbook. However, in some instances, these textbooks are overpriced and may lead to you overspending on the textbook. Therefore, use discount websites to find cheaper textbook options.


student on computer

Image Credit: Shopping King Louie /


Two common textbook websites that can help you to compare be used are Cheapest Textbooks and SlugBooks. In addition to purchasing textbooks at a lower price, these websites also allow you to check the different prices for renting. These sites are easy to use, and although it may take more time to review all your options, it’s time well spent.  

6. Buy an Older Edition


Professors urge students to buy the newest edition of their courses’ textbooks for some classes. However, as the newer ones are typically more expensive, purchasing them may not be the best financial option. However, one simple alternative to this issue is to buy an older textbook edition. The main benefit of this solution is that you can save money; the main downside is that the page numbers may not correlate with the readings assigned in the syllabus. 


Fortunately, the index section of the textbook will help you navigate through the textbook and help you find the section you are looking for. Other than this minor inconvenience, this approach has no other major disadvantages. 


Recommended Read: How To Save Money Using Your College ID

7. Buy the eBook Version


Buying an eBook is another way to save money when looking for your course materials. As the eBook does not require materials to be produced, the cost is typically lower than the physical version.


Furthermore, you can bookmark and add notes with most eReader applications. Therefore, this allows you to work well with the physical textbook at a lower price. 

8. Find Free PDFs of the Textbook

One rising popular option is searching for a free PDF (Portable Document Format) of the textbook you need. As tuition and fees continue to rise, many students have begun searching for the free version of the required course material. One common website used by students to access free PDFs is Project Gutenberg. 


This website allows students to search for any title they need for their classes. If Project Gutenberg does not have the PDF of the book you desire, do not get discouraged. There are websites similar to Project Gutenberg that is available for free usage.


woman working on computer

Image Credit: GaudiLab /

The Money Wrap-Up


Textbooks are a large sum of money and can potentially add to the burden of student loan debt. Saving money on the course materials will help reduce the amount of money students owe after graduation. Regardless of how much money is saved, every little bit counts toward obtaining a free education.

Main Image Credit: de_zla /

Was this content helpful?
Comments (0)

Sign In to leave a comment.

Download the CapWay App

Access more features to your Money Account

  • Money Goals
  • Request Money
  • Categorize Spending
  • Money Talk

The CapWay, Inc Debit Visa Card is issued by Metropolitan Commercial Bank (Member FDIC) pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. “Metropolitan Commercial Bank” and “Metropolitan” are registered trademarks of Metropolitan Commercial Bank ©2014.

1. For Money Account holders with a negative balance, the CapWay debit card will go into freeze until funds are deposited to bring account back to current. See terms and conditions

2. Sending or receiving money from other CapWay account holders will be instant. Transfers from other accounts could take up to 48 hours, depending on the financial institution.

3. Early access to funds requires direct deposit. Early payment is not guaranteed and is dependent on the timing of payer's submission of deposits. We generally post such deposits on the day they are received which may be up to 2 days earlier than the payer's scheduled payment date.

4. Money Goals allows account holders to save money towards financial goals created within the CapWay platform. Funds can be transferred from your Money Account or saved through the rounding up of your transactions from purchases.

5. CapWay offers financial content through Learn Money free of charge, but may include advertisements through affiliates. Phunds, CapWay's literacy program and session, is paid content or co-branded content.

© 2019-2022 CapWay Inc. All Rights Reserved.