Ways to Cut Costs on College Textbooks

By Julia Califano · August 03, 2023 · 4 minute read

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Ways to Cut Costs on College Textbooks

Despite increased use of ebooks, the average college student spends $1,226 on textbooks and supplies each year, according to the Education Data Initiative. Depending on your major, hard copy textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars each, and keeping up with the publisher’s latest edition can be a real hassle.

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can avoid the exorbitant textbook prices at the bookstore. Here’s what you need to know.

Tips to Spend Less on College Textbooks

These tips can help you keep up with your studies without breaking the bank.

1. Splitting the Cost with a Classmate

Consider splitting the cost of books with a classmate to cut down on textbook expenses. While it may seem inconvenient, it could pay off.

There are a few ways to make sharing a textbook work. Try alternating study days so you each have the time you need to get your work done. Or, alternate highlighter colors to keep your notes straight. And as an added bonus, you have a built-in study buddy.

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2. Buying Them Used

Sometimes university shops or off-campus stores have used books available. If shopping online, take a look at sites like ThriftBooks , eBay , or Amazon .

When purchasing used textbooks online, confirm that the buyer is reputable. Look at their reviews to get a sense of their business model.

When purchasing a used book, you may have the opportunity to select the condition of the book (for example Like New, Very Good, Good, and Acceptable). Make note that the book is the correct edition. The easiest way to confirm this is by using the ISBN to search.

3. Renting Instead of Buying

In some cases, you may not need a particular text book after the semester ends. In those instances, consider renting. Renting books can often be cheaper than buying them outright. Compare the cost to confirm.

4. Getting the E-book

Printing costs are one reason for expensive textbooks. But if you don’t need to have a physical copy, you could save yourself a bit of money.

Try the e-book version instead. You can read it anywhere — your computer, tablet, or phone.

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5. Finding a Book Swap

Some schools have clubs or organizations that run book swaps. This is where you turn in a book you’re not using to get one you need in return. While not all campuses and colleges have this available, it could be worth looking into.

6. Settling for an Older Version

Many textbooks have new versions released every year or every few years. Sometimes professors request you have the newest version available, but not always. Check with your professor to see if an older issue is acceptable for the course.

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7. Trying the Library

Some classes don’t rely on books as much as others. If you know that a class will be light on the required reading, head to the library. Be mindful that other students in the class might already have the same idea as you. In that case, it’s a gamble to see if you can take out a book that may not be available.

Some schools have reserve copies of textbooks in the library that you can borrow for a specific amount of time. This could mean you can get your assigned reading done without purchasing the book. But know that these library textbooks usually have some borrowing restrictions, and plan ahead if you intend to use the school’s version.

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8. Tapping into Student Loans

If you don’t have any other resources available, you can look into possibly using student loan money to help pay for college textbooks.

Student loans can generally be used to cover the cost of more than just tuition and fees but also cost of on-campus room and board and textbooks. If you have scholarships and grants, they can typically also go toward your textbooks.

If you have any type of student loan and can use them to make your textbook purchases, it could be a big help.

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The Takeaway

Depending on your class needs and personal preference, you may be able to significantly cut the cost of college textbooks by heading to the library or opting for an ebook, a textbook rental, or a used copy of the book.

In cases when cost savings measures aren’t enough, student loans may fill the gap. Private student loans may not offer the same benefits and protections that federal student loans have, like income-driven repayment plans or deferment, so they are generally considered only after all other options for financing — including federal student loans — have been exhausted.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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