College Student's Guide to Buying Textbooks Cheaply

If you're like me you're a poor college student with your entire future leveraged by student loans. The last thing that you need to do after paying between 16 and 40,000 dollars a year is to fork over another 180 dollars for a text book about statistics that you'll read once and then never use again. As a veteran of being incredibly frugal in buying textbooks I have developed a couple methods that will save you a lot of money, and can have you spending as little as 100 dollars per semester.

When I was a freshman in college, my fall semester I spent 490 dollars on text books. I got one calculus book, one history book, one psychology book, and one chemistry book. That was ridiculous to me. Somehow I only got 4 books and it cost 500 dollars. I knew that when I would need even more books for the next couple semesters and I can't afford to pay the premium prices for these books every semester.

A couple of things you need to know as a student;

  1. Most schools have a program through the bookstore that give you a booklist based on your course selection. However professors are all different and some of them won't ever use a book, and tests use material exclusively from powerpoints or lectures. Do not buy books until you have attended class and seen what the book usage is.
  2. Never buy new editions of text books unless your teacher states otherwise. Most professors will honestly admit that textbooks seldom change in substance from edition to edition. Often times the information is identical in the previous edition, with the chapters in different orders so the writers can call it NEW. Ask your professor, and if they give you the green light buy an old edition, it will cost about 80 percent less.
  3. Do not be intimidated with buying your books online, all of the services I'm recommending are incredibly reliable and quick. If you attend class and find out you really need your book in a couple days, don't break down and buy it from the bookstore where the prices are jacked up. Order the book online and pay for next day shipping, I guarantee the extra shipping cost will be covered by all the savings from buying online in the first place.

Sites I recommend


This is my number choice for buying textbooks and it saved me hundreds of dollars every year on textbooks. Amazon will often carry a discounted copy of new editions, and old editions for 90 percent off. When you find the book you need, check out the prices for used copies sold my Amazon users. These used copies are often in very good condition, and very cheap (13-25 dollars for a one-edition old paperback version of a 200 dollar text book). Look up all your books and take advantage of the discounts with used, paperback and international editions. Like I said earlier, the information is all the same in these books, with the exception of an exclusive few (anything technological will change from edition to edition, core classes seldom change) Incredibly reliable, great service, I got A's without breaking the bank on books thanks to this site.


This is the site that is the most non-traditional. Chegg is an online textbook rental service. It may scare off some people, but it is as simple as Netflix. You rent your text book from the service, often at 50% off, they mail the book to you and at the end of the semester, you send your book back to Chegg. The service works very well, and it provides the option to request additional time for the text books at small costs to you. This is best for those students looking for new editions, because it offers the best discount on new books of all websites.


My friend once said "If you need anything in the world you can find it on Craigslist". When you live in a college town, students will often be trying to sell their books to get back some money for the kings ransom they just paid for a Philosophy book. I recommend checking out Craiglist for the college area and you'll be sure to find tons of students looking to sell books after their exams. I f you can't find the book you need, just put up a wanted ad, and you should be able to get a few nibbles especially in December or may. In my experiences, students will sell books at about 40% retail price, just make sure you meet in safe, public areas, as with all exchanges on craigslist.

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