How to save money on college textbooks

Students can recoup some costs of college textbooks.

College students are not only shelling out more money for tuition each year, but textbook pricing also continues to rise. Each year students are spending more than $1,000. For the 2018-2019 academic year, students paid an average of $1,200 to $1,400 on books for their classes, according to College Board.

Students have several ways to save on college textbooks (though each option has its own pros and cons). Here are some tips to save some money.

Buy used books from campus bookstores or other students.

Check to see if your financial aid will pay for textbooks.

Determine if there is an electronic version of the textbooks. There are many free or low-cost ebooks online via Amazon, Google and Scribd.

Borrow or rent textbooks from other students or friends.

Check to see if your college or local library has a copy of the book.

Shop around. Some books for liberal arts degrees can be found at other bookstores, such as used ones.

Rent your textbooks. Search through both brick-and-mortar stores and online to see if your book can be rented through a retailer.

If you purchase your books, selling them afterward is one way to recoup some costs. Shop around and see which retailer can give you the highest amount. College bookstores are a good place to start but don’t forget about local stores and online booksellers as well as marketplaces such as Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay.

You can also sell your books to other classmates or friends via social media.


If you’re planning on reselling your book at the end of the semester to buy more books for your future classes, take care of the book during the semester. Ensure that the spine and pages are kept in pristine condition and do not have any water or other damage so you can receive the most value from a buyer.

Students who still need additional money because they did not receive enough funds from financial aid or federal student loans can seek out grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and private student loans. If you're interested in private student loans, use Credible to compare offers from multiple lenders at once and find the right loan for you.


There are scholarships based on your financial need while others award them based on your merits, such as academic achievement. A college or university’s financial aid office will also have many resources on where to apply for a scholarship or grant. The U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search toolfederal and state grant agencies, ethnic or religious organizations, foundations, local businesses, or civic or community groups are other options. Employers can sometimes provide scholarships to the children of their employees, too.

Experts recommend that students avoid using their student loans for other expenses such as textbooks, food or other necessities. In some circumstances it can be hard to avoid, especially if you’re waiting for a paycheck from a summer job or your employer to pay you for a new fall position on campus.

Using the money left over from your student loans that don't need to be used for tuition or fees can be a stopgap measure. Make sure you only spend what is needed. Stick to necessities such as textbooks, transportation, car repair, food, or a laptop. Any money you use to purchase items from your student loan accrues interest. Avoid spending the money on going out with your friends, entertainment, buying clothing, paying your credit card bill, or paying for your spring break.

If you have money left over from your student loan after paying for textbooks and other much-needed items, one option is to send that money as a payment to your federal or private student loan servicer. This strategy will help you lower the amount of money you borrowed, pay less interest, and have less student loan debt after graduation.


Credible’s online tool can help both students and parents shop around for private student loans and compare them to get the best interest rates and terms. The tool allows students to compare loan rates from multiple lenders at once without affecting their credit score.