"Hacking" College Costs: 8 ways to minimize extreme textbook costs

“Hacking” College Costs is our new weekly series. We’re giving you an insider look into how much college really costs, and how to prepare well. Written by real college students who’ve seen it all, these posts will help you stay financially healthy during and after college.


Why textbooks?

Textbooks are an essential part of succeeding in college. While they are a necessity, they also cause a lot of strain and stress because of their extreme costs. Professors usually advise students to purchase their required books from school bookstores, but many students don’t know that there are cheaper options that give you the same books — at a better price!

The average college student spends more than $1,250 a year on books and materials.

Source: Collegeboard

As the price of textbooks has more than doubled over the past ten years, it’s safe to say that students are now using different resources to minimize the extreme costs of textbooks. In this post, we’ll analyze the different options available to refrain from spending too much money on textbooks.

Below are options that you can choose from to help you avoid possible sticker shock while shopping for required textbooks throughout your college experience:

1. Create an Amazon Prime Account for Students

Amazon provides a 6-month free trial for college students (with benefits such as free two-day shipping). You can create an Amazon Prime Student account by clicking here and filling out the required information. While you do have to pay after your free trial, there is a steep discount and definitely worth the time and effort.

2. Find someone who has already taken the classes you need and doesn’t need the textbook

If you have a friend or know someone who has already taken the same class, you’re in luck. Compared to bookstores, other college students are more likely to sell you used textbooks for a better deal. In some cases, they might even provide you with their notes. This is especially common if your program has required courses that all students need to take.  

3. Find a Facebook page for students in your major and/or selling textbooks

Facebook might seem outdated, but it’s actually one of the most efficient and easiest ways to connect  with different people in your major. By searching Facebook for students in your major, you have a great opportunity to potentially purchase textbooks for a cheaper cost! Click here for an example of a public Facebook page that helps students get textbooks for a better cost.

4. Always compare prices from different sites


Depicted above are two identical textbooks with the same author and edition, but at two different prices. This is why it’s crucial to research and find the best price for the books you need to be successful in your classes. By looking at prices on Amazon.com, Textbooks.com, BetterWorldBooks.com, CampusBooksRentals.com, and AllBookstores.com, you’ll be able to compare and contrast the different prices that each offers, including shipping and handling prices. One way to avoid this exhausting task of individually comparing the prices of the above websites is to have StudentRateTextbooks.com, SlugBooks.com, and TheBookRocket.com do it for you!

5. See if you qualify for a financial aid textbook voucher at your school

Students who receive financial aid and are expected to have funds remaining after all of their school costs are covered, can use the remaining balance to rent or purchase the needed books using a book voucher.

6. See if you can get the same textbook as a PDF file instead of a paperback book

If you prefer not to go out on a limb and interact with people, searching online for digital versions of textbooks often works as well too.

7. Borrow your textbook from your college library

Some textbooks are actually available in your college library! However, libraries usually only stock a limited number of the same books, so be sure to check with your librarian as early as possible.

8. Ask your professor if you can purchase a different edition rather than the required one

In many cases, the previous edition of a textbook is cheaper than the latest one, but the only downsides to this are possibly not having all of the information you need and not having the same exact pages as the newer edition. Below is an example of the two:

As you can see from the screenshots above, different editions have huge price differences. One reason for this is that many professors are required to make it mandatory for their students to purchase the newer edition every time a new one is published. As stated earlier, be sure to check with your professor in case there is important information in the newest edition that you’ll need in class.

It’s Worth the Effort…

All in all, minimizing textbook costs has the potential to be lengthy and excessive, but your wallet will definitely thank you in the long run! By doing research, taking notes on what you find, and exploring your options, we can almost 100% guarantee that you will find the cheapest textbook that fits your classes!

Good Luck! - Team BestFit