Posted September 10, 2012 by

11 Textbook-Buying Tips for Cash-Strapped Students

Andrea Woroch

Andrea Woroch

The key to managing college expenses is planning ahead. Among the major costs cutting into  every student’s budget are textbooks. In fact, the College Board’s latest Trends In College Pricing report shows college students shell out up to $1,213 per year on books and supplies.

Reviewing your syllabus and speaking with the professor regarding required materials is a good first step, but there’s more to it than that. Study up on these textbook-buying tips to avoid going broke before the first day of class.

Check the Library
It doesn’t hurt to peruse the shelves of your local library, even if they don’t make it a habit of stocking textbooks. Search by author and title, but be conscious of which edition you pull as chapters and pages may not correspond with assigned readings.

Buy Online
There are tons of sites offering deals on textbooks and with so many offers, the hunt can get confusing. Simplify the search with a book finder website that will offer a price-comparison to help in locating the cheapest price on new and used books. Shop early for the best selection of popular books at low prices. Doing so will also help you avoid the cost of rush shipping, since you want these materials before you start class.

Students can save 50 percent or more off the retail price of a new textbook by renting. Plus, this is typically a cheaper alternative to purchasing used. Many bookstores have started offering rentals, but you may find it easier to rent from sites like Chegg which offer a wide supply and selection of editions, two-day shipping, and other perks like the “Homework Help” center.

Look for Coupons
There are sites that offer online coupons for discounts at textbook retailers, as well as rental sites like Chegg and CollegeBookRenter.  Every penny counts when it comes to these pricey essentials!

Deal Directly with Students
Though sites like eBay and Craigslist revolutionized the way consumers can shop and sell their stuff, there are better places for college kids to go when it comes to searching for textbooks. There is a new social-networking website that connects buyers and sellers of  textbooks for free. The user sets the sale price of the book allowing them to avoid the bookstore’s laughable buy-back offers.

Beware of Bundles
Federal regulations no longer allows publishers to combine textbooks with add-ons, such as CD-ROMs and workbooks. Speak with your professor or teaching assistant before buying a textbook bundle since you can likely do without for a much bigger savings.

Consider Past Editions
Non-traditional or past editions are usually significantly cheaper than the latest textbook version. There may be some slight changes, but many of these tend to be cosmetic or minor and won’t greatly impact use. Chat with your professor about the importance of purchasing the latest-and-greatest edition.

Splitting the cost of textbooks is a great way for college students to reduce their overall costs. Since this can get tricky come study time, make sure you share a textbook with someone in the same study group. Otherwise, figure out a workable system for giving each other access to the material for homework test prep.

Speak with the Professor
Some students donate their textbooks to the department after the semester, so ask your professor if any are available to borrow. If your professor is the author of the course book, he or she may have a few extra copies laying around to loan out to students for free or sell at a reduced cost.

Some schools now hold swap meets, where students can trade their old textbooks for ones they’ll need next year. Websites like and Bookmooch are other good options, where students located elsewhere may be looking to trade textbooks for other goods.

Download Dilemma
In these digital times, many students hope to download eTextbooks for instant access on their tablets and eReaders. Though prices are fair, consider the limitations of highlighting key passages and the inability to sell them afterwards for money back. However, if you prefer the accessibility among your many devices or hate lugging books around campus, this may be the wiser choice. Just remember to compare all the prices before making the final decision to download.

Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert who helps consumers live on less without radically changing their lifestyles. From smart spending tips to personal finance advice, Andrea transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers. She has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, Dr. OZ, MSNBC, CNN and many more. For more information, go to or follow her on Twitter for daily savings advice and tips.

Websites include in this piece include: – A website for textbooks – A price-comparison site dedicated to helping students locate the cheapest price on new and used books – A website that offers online coupons for discounts at textbook retailers

Chegg A textbook rental website – A new social-networking website that connects buyers and sellers of textbooks for free – A place where students located elsewhere may be looking to trade textbooks for other goods

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