In the 2017-18 school year, the average tuition at public universities reached $9,970 for in-state students and $25,620 for out-of-state. If you’re planning to attend a private four-year university, you can expect an average tuition of $34,740 per year. With tuition numbers so high, many college students are scrambling to find ways to save money. One way you can cut costs in college is by finding cheap textbooks. Between 2002 and 2012 textbooks rose an average of 82% according to a study done by the Government Accountability Office.
Buy Used Textbooks
Before you resort to buying brand-new textbooks for any course, always check to see if you can find used textbooks.
Where to Buy Used Textbooks
Used textbooks are the perfect, money-saving alternative to new textbooks, as long as you get your money’s worth. (Saving $20 on a textbook doesn’t mean much if the book you receive is completely unusable.)
One of the best ways to find cheap textbooks is in person, where you can handle and see the used books for yourself. Many college towns have student bookstores that buy and sell textbooks, and there’s likely one on campus if you attend a major university.
Although buying in person has its benefits, you might be able to find the book you’re looking for at a lower price, or even in better condition, online. You won’t be able to handle or inspect the book yourself, though, so be careful which websites and sellers you use.
Best online resources for used textbooks:
Avoid Unnecessary Textbook Purchases
A little-known college secret is that you might not need every piece of material on your syllabus. You’ll likely receive a list of required materials before the term starts, along with the recommendation to stock up right away–but that isn’t always a good idea.
Identify Unnecessary Materials
Many professors pad their syllabuses with extra books or “recommended” textbooks that you won’t use, or only use once. If you’re trying to save money, there’s no reason to spend $80 on a book you won’t need to succeed in your course. If a book is listed as “recommended” or “suggested” rather than “required”, your best bet might be to avoid that purchase.
Wait to Buy Your Books
Another strategy used by college students to save money is waiting to buy their books. While going through the syllabus ahead of time can be helpful, many of the textbooks marked “required” there may still be unnecessary or redundant. By waiting until the semester has gotten under way, you can feel out which resources you really need.
Ask Past Students
Facebook got its start on college campuses for a reason. Universities act as great, in-person and online social networks, which you can use to save money and gain valuable intel. Join groups and ask around to find people who have taken the courses on your schedule. Ask them which textbooks they used, and which ones you won’t need. You may even be able to score cheap textbooks by buying theirs used.
While buying used books can save you money compared to buying new, renting or borrowing books can potentially save you even more. If you won’t need to take notes in a textbook required for class, renting is a great option.
Check Your Campus Library
Cheap textbooks are great, but free textbooks are even better. One way to rent the books you need, for free, is through your on-campus library. Search your campus library for your required books as early as possible, as they’ll likely go fast. If you’re lucky enough to find a book on your list, make sure to take good care of it and not damage it in any way, as you’ll need to return it in the same condition as you took it out.
Many of the same sites that sell used textbooks also allow students to rent the books they need for class. This works much the same as buying a book and then reselling it, but with a guarantee built in that the site will take the book back when you’re done with it. Just make sure to return the book in the same condition as you received it, and investigate late fees and shipping charges.
Top textbook rental resources:
Sell Your Used Textbooks
Another way you can save money on textbooks is by selling them when you’re done. Like with renting your books, this only applies to books which you won’t be marking up with notes. Selling your used textbooks requires you to keep the books in good condition throughout the term, which isn’t always possible.
If your campus bookstore deals in used books, this is a perfect first stop. The bookstore might not always offer the highest price for your textbooks, but the convenience of selling in person and avoiding the hassle and cost of shipping may even things out.
If you bought your books online, you can likely sell your used textbooks back to the site from which they were purchased. If you bought your textbooks new, and you’re interested in selling them when you’re done, you can likely get a great rate online. The same sites which sell used textbooks usually offer textbook buying services, as well.
A combination of selling your used books in person and online, using social networking to recoup some of your textbook money can be convenient and effective. When the term is coming to an end, post in your Facebook Group or Twitter that you’re selling your used textbooks for an affordable rate. You may even be able to trade for the books you’ll need next term.
In some cases, a physical textbook is your only option. However, if you won’t need to mark pages or take notes in your textbook, an online textbook might just do the trick.
Find Free and Cheap Textbooks Online
It might sound too good to be true, but in certain instances, you may be able to view and even print a textbook online, for free. If not, you should still be able to find affordable and printable versions of your textbook. Search for the textbooks you need on FlatWorld Knowledge.
Your books might not always be available for free or in a printable format, but you could still save by buying the eBook versions of your textbooks. Remember that eBooks aren’t always the cheaper alternative, however, and that they don’t always offer the opportunity to recoup your money when you’re done with your book. Most sites offer e-textbooks on a rental basis.
Resources for eBook textbooks:
Be Smart, Save Money
Many students reach college only to find out too late that they didn’t put away enough money for books. If you’re in college now and struggling to afford the textbooks required, or you’re applying to college and want to plan ahead, learning to save money with cheap textbooks can go a long way.
Additional Ways to Save Money in College
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
1 – The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
2 – $5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 04/26/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 – This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.