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Ways to Cut Costs on College Textbooks

September 24, 2021 · 3 minute read

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Ways to Cut Costs on College Textbooks

According to the College Board, the average student spends more than $1,200 on just textbooks and supplies each year. Depending on your major, textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars each, and keeping up with the publisher’s latest edition can be a real hassle.

There are a few ways you can avoid the exorbitant textbook prices at the bookstore.

Tips to Spend Less on College Textbooks

These tips will help stay ready for class, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 may cover the cost of more than just tuition and fees. They can also cover the cost of on-campus room and board and textbooks. If you have scholarships and grants, they can also go toward your textbooks.

Recommended: Using Student Loans for Housing and Living Expenses

If you have student loans and can use them to make your textbook purchases, it could be a good idea to do so.

The Takeaway

Depending on your class needs and personal preference, head to the library, or opt for an e-book, textbook rental, or used copy to spend less on textbooks.

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.

SoFi offers borrowers the choice of four different repayment plans. Borrowers who lose their job through no fault of their own may qualify for Unemployment Protection which allows them to pause payments on their loan.

Learn more about private student loans available with 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.

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