Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Textbooks the Affordable Way

As if paying for tuition did not cost enough, now you have to think about how you are going to get your textbooks for the semester.   Most campuses are going to try to convince you to purchase or rent all of your books from their bookstore.  They will claim to have the cheapest prices, but I can almost guarantee you that you can find your books for cheaper from somewhere else.  

I know everybody has their own theory on buying or not buying textbooks, so I want to be up front and share that everything in this post is just what has worked for me best throughout the past four and a half years. I've tried many different methods: buying books 100% new from the campus store, waiting to see if I actually need a book until I get the syllabus, renting books, using e-books, etc. I've found it best to order books about three weeks before heading to campus and having them shipped to your home.  Yes, you run the risk of not needing the book. However, in my experiences it's been easier to sell the book I didn't need rather than fall behind in a class that I didn't have a book for. 

First you will need to head over to your campus bookstore website and find the tab that says textbooks. Using your course schedule, enter in the information for your course abbreviation, class number, and section number. For example, if I was taking History 101 it would appear as HIS 101-03. The course abbreviation would be HIS, the course number would be 101, and the section would be 03.  You will have to do this for every class. After doing so, it will give you a list of the books that you need. 

Each book will have a price and a number with the letters ISBN in front. These ISBN numbers are important because they are going to help you find the book for cheaper elsewhere. 

Open a new tab on your computer and go to Once you get to this site, you will need to copy and paste the ISBN number for the first book you need into the search bar. After doing so, the search will pull up the cheapest version of the book to rent and buy from multiple companies. I suggest choosing the cheapest company. 

Once you choose a company, read the description to make sure the used book you are purchasing isn't too used. I look for phrases like "gently used" and "like new". At this point, you have the option to rent or buy a book. I suggest buying all books that are related to your major.  Books for general ed classes should be rented because you will not need them once you've passed the class. 

Select the book you want and add it to your cart. This is when you will return back to and go through the same process for the rest of your books.  This process takes a little bit more time, but it ends up saving you lots of money. 

After you have purchased all of your books, you want to make a spreadsheet to keep track of all of your books. It's important to track your spending, when each book arrives, and if you rented it you'll need to know when to return it. See my sample below.


Other Tips:
+ If you are taking an online class, then I suggest purchasing an e-book. It will help you do keyword searches to seek out certain information.  

+ If you purchase an ebook, then you will want to have some sort of tablet. It makes it easier to navigate. 

+Renting books from Chegg has given me the best experiences. This company allows you to write in the books as much as you need to, and if you decide to keep the book rather than return it they give it to you at a discounted price. 

+If you have friends in a class, try to split the cost of the books by sharing them. 

+Before purchasing the books, see if you can borrow or purchase them from a friend who has already taken the class.

+Order your books three weeks before classes start to make sure you have them in time. 

Best of luck! 
If you have any questions, feel free to email me. 



  1. Hi this post was so helpful! I should be getting my college schedule any day now and should know which books I need to get. But I have a question are there ever any you recommend buying instead of renting, like books for your major, etc.?

    Ashley //

    1. I'd definitely say buy the books for your major. I'm fifth year education major, and I still reference books from my first semester. If you end up buying them and not needing them, then you can sell them to younger students in your major!

  2. Great tips! Textbooks ate up way too much of my college budget sadly

  3. These tips are awesome! I'm a rising senior in high school so I'll definitely be saving this for next summer- already dreading having to buy textbooks haha!


  4. I'm in the process of doing this now so it couldn't have come at a better time! Thanks!

    Greta |

  5. Very helpful post, books can et so expensive!!

  6. Great tips!! Textbooks are so ridiculously expensive and it makes no sense! I saved some money buying online.

    La Belle Sirene 

  7. I found renting them was always best for me, I never wanted to waist time at the end of the semester re-selling them.

  8. I wish I had your adorable spreadsheet before I graduated in the spring haha! Textbooks are SO expensive so this is great info! :)

  9. Great tips! I also bought my books from my upperclassmen friends that had taken the class before me!


  10. Wow, so helpful! I wish I knew all of this when I was in college. Ugh, I wasted so much money on textbooks!

  11. Honestly I got thru most of college without buying textbooks! It's crazy!

  12. Wow what great tips! I spent so much money on text books when I went to college and when I got my masters. Wish I had your guide back then!

    xoxo, Candice

  13. I always rented in school! They are so expensive if you purchase them! Great tips!

  14. So helpful! I love the spreadsheet idea, I usually relied on emails too much to remind me when they were due!

    Kayla |